Drive to be digitally competitive is top of mind, some fear falling behind

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As companies in APEC look to the near future they have their sights set firmly on becoming more competitive and relevant in a digitally-integrated world. This drive is reflected throughout the findings of the survey even as they must navigate both political upheaval and an unstable international trade environment.

The business areas where they are looking to invest suggest CEOs are all too aware of rising consumer demands for fast, convenient and, frankly, more friendly services. Faster growth in the internet economy underpins the urgency. This is giving rise to a new crop of rapidly-growing start-ups. Close to a fifth of all respondents believe their organisations are falling behind competitors in their digital customer interactions.

In PwC’s recent Global Consumer Insights Survey more than 40% of respondents said they would pay extra for same-day delivery while consumers also said they felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience and complained that there was a serious disconnect between what consumers expect and what companies deliver. Often, these heightened expectations are being shaped by a new generation of always-connected social media savvy consumers who are making purchasing decisions based on their access to digital information and speed of response by companies through the platforms and channels where those digital natives choose to shop.

Not surprisingly then, APEC CEOs are prioritising investments over the next two years in digital customer interactions (this was the number one priority for Consumer, Technology and Financial Services CEOs), developing a digital workforce and improving their overall digital operations.

Digital trailblazers increasing investments

It’s clear that the majority of companies grasp the need to be digitally prepared. Half already believe they are keeping up with competitors when it comes to meeting core measures of digital capabilities, from managing data risks to skills development in their workforces. However, simply matching the competition won’t be enough in the future. Even as firms understand the need to dramatically improve their digital competency, many risk being left behind by a small subset of leading firms who consider themselves ‘highly competitive’ across a range of measures of digital capabilities.

These firms stand out in a few ways. In an age where automation will make or break many sectors, these firms (the majority of whom have a turnover of US$1 billion plus) already show real confidence in making use of artificial intelligence (AI) - 59% of these digital leaders assess their organisation’s performance over the last two years in building (AI) in products as ‘highly competitive’ compared to just 15% of the total respondents. Given that 33% of all respondents say they are yet to any make use of AI technology, the lead these digital trailblazers are taking could be a game changer. Smaller firms will need to find ways to compete as demand for talent to develop AI-driven product grows.

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