Businesses are always evolving.

But the ones leading true innovation today — that’s innovation that goes beyond simply being a word tossed around — are taking a whole-of-business approach.

They’re rethinking the customer experience, reimagining their internal culture and realigning business processes to innovate.

And to do this, they’re placing data at their core. They’re using it to learn, inform and ultimately, transform, with the customer always front and centre.

If we look at the customer experience specifically, businesses striving for intelligent innovation need to consider three imperatives to drive success.

Understand your customers

Today, customers expect to be understood. Not as a segment of the market, but as individuals.

And you can’t rise to this challenge without data.

Unfortunately, too many businesses are still only using data to analyse their past performance.

Intelligent innovation today requires businesses to look forward with their data, with deeper levels of analysis, made possible by artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help businesses know exactly what a customer wants, as quickly as possible.

Customers expect businesses to adapt to their changing circumstances. But this can’t be done without understanding the end users at a nuanced level.

Just look at the last two years during COVID. Businesses that were able to move online, create blended models such as click-and-collect, and reimagining and re-engineering their core processes, quickly thrived.

Businesses that are gleaming insights into customer behaviour are able to understand, respond and ultimately innovate to align to their demands.

Create hyper-personalised experiences

By understanding your customers, businesses are in a better position to create hyper-personalised services, which helps to innovate the customer experience and with it, keep them engaged.

Retail and customer service are areas where this is especially useful.

A selection of products curated for an individual customer based on their personal preferences and purchase history wins hands down over a generic series of products a customer needs to sift through.

JB Hi-Fi is a great example. It used Google Cloud’s Recommendations AI to introduce a personalised online experience in line with the expert experience delivered to customers in-store.

In customer service, pre-empting an issue a customer is likely to be experiencing and quickly directing them to help leaves a better impression than expecting them to speak to half a dozen service representatives before they are even close to solving the problem.

Likewise, using data to personalise experiences has proved effective for media businesses.

In fact, a 2020 study conducted by PwC found 31% of respondents said easy, personalised content recommendations would encourage them to stay with a streaming service.

But anyone selling content will benefit from serving customers exactly what they want.

Businesses that innovate at speed to create these hyper-personalised experiences will go a long way towards winning the innovation race and at the same time, the hearts and minds of customers.

Build the right team

Understanding your customer and creating hyper-personalised experiences are underpinned by having the right technology and talent.

And for most organisations, it’s rarely the technology which gets in the way.

It’s actually about having the right mindset and team who are aligned on the same vision and have the skills to make it happen.

That’s where things get tricky.

Many simplify the skills challenge by saying there's a serious tech skills shortage, and it’s holding companies, and innovation back.

Good talent however is available in the market and being able to critically assess why great talent won’t work for your company is the right question to ask.

Being able to attract and retain people with the right skills will be the real key for your success.

Choosing to embrace hybrid and remote teams can help here by creating a far greater talent pool.

But they do require new ways of thinking about the workforce.

While leaders have become used to working with fully-remote teams, or fully in-office teams, the concept of a hybrid workforce — employees perhaps spending a few days together each month to collaborate on important projects — is relatively new.

But with the right collaboration tools and mindset, the approach can help address some of these hiring woes.

Creating these teams is the bedrock for innovation, which in 2022 is as much about having the right people in place, as it is about utilising tech.

Brave leaders will thrive

Innovation is high on the agenda for businesses. If it’s not, it should be.

Today, achieving innovation starts with using data to truly understand your customer, acting on this information to create hyper-personalised experiences and products, and having the right team to execute on it.

It’s not always guaranteed to be a quick or easy road, but brave leaders that preserve and go all-in on innovation will win customers and thrive.

Matt Pancino is Director, Customer Cloud Strategy for Asia Pacific, Google Cloud.

This content has been written by a topic area expert and is not a sponsored post or advertisement.