We have all heard the hype surrounding technological advancements in AI, VR, and robotics. These are just a few of the emerging forces that are drastically changing B2C and B2B operations. Digital eminence is a business need. However, these new technologies have also brought an array of challenges. With increasing concern over protecting personal information, trustworthiness is becoming critical with respect to online commerce.

Along with this, the digitization of physical assets is blurring industry lines and barriers, making digital commerce critical for long-term success. Based on Gartner’s 2016 CEO survey, 59 percent of respondents believe digital will have a substantial impact on profitability, being a key factor contributing to revenue growth. However, traditional commerce models are limited. Outperforming companies have taken a broader approach by expanding overseas and venturing into vertical markets.

IoT has brought a surge of structured and unstructured data to light. But with so much sensitive information floating around, companies have to be cognizant of security threats that are arising. Privacy issues can erode consumers’ trust and cause them to turn away.

Trust is a must

According to Gartner’s Penny Gillespie, “By 2020, companies that are digitally trustworthy will generate 20% more online profit than those that are not.” This means business leaders must weave safeguards within their corporate strategy in order to build a sense of trustworthiness with consumers.

Will building trustworthiness pay off? The answer is: absolutely. Companies that can get customers to trust their digital stores will positively influence customer behavior and grow revenue.

Since trustworthiness directly impacts customer behavior, it also directly affects corporate performance. Take a look at the results from the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer study: “68% of the respondents choose to buy products or services from trusted companies, and 48% refused to buy products or services from distrusted companies.” Trust has become the deciding factor when customers are making a purchase decision.

We all know that strong brand awareness can drive shopper traffic, but to maintain a stellar reputation, companies must provide a flawless shopping experience. One bad interaction can result in a formerly loyal customer turning to a competitor.

Transparency is key

Along with maintaining trust, companies must also look out for increased competition in the digital market. With over 1 billion websites, there are now several available buying options in almost any situation. This has caused consumers to spend more time researching, browsing, and evaluating sellers.

With so much information available for consumption, consumers expect to quickly and easily find what they are looking for. In addition to being discoverable, product content must be continuously updated and accurate. Label Insight found that “94% of consumers would be more loyal if their brand practiced transparency, and 39% would be willing to switch to a new brand that offered full transparency.”

In the past, being transparent was not as much of an issue since the majority of commerce took place in physical buildings. Brick-and-mortar stores were the backbone to a company’s success. In those days, companies were evaluated on aesthetics such as store ambiance or the friendliness of associates. However, these physical entities have been replaced by intelligent chatbots and virtual agents. Today, companies are being judged on how easy it is to do business with — both online and via mobile devices. Physical stores have been cannibalized by ecommerce sites. Shoppers now base their opinions on how well companies can provide a seamless shopping experience across all channels and touchpoints.

Companies that demonstrate digital trustworthiness will not only grow revenue, but also spend less acquiring new customers. Companies that fail to do so will miss out on potential selling opportunities and end up paying more to grow their customer base.

Consistency pays off

Consumers look at companies from a holistic view, so there is no longer a distinction between departments. If a company falls short in one area, it will compromise the brand as a whole. On the other hand, maintain a sense of consistency and expect to grow your market share.

Take Uber and Airbnb as an example. These companies have been able to establish brand value and gain trust by being completely transparent and accountable. They have reaped the benefits of positive ratings and reviews. Social media has allowed a universal sharing of experiences that can either help a company build reputation or degrade the brand.

So what can companies do to build trustworthiness? They can start by ensuring that online content is transparent and accurate, digital navigation is responsive and intuitive, and the digital store is always open and available. Take this even further by embedding capabilities such as chat services and machine learning to gain a competitive advantage.

Conversational commerce promotes insights

Along with trustworthiness, companies must also make sure they are easy to do business with. Based on another analysis by Gartner’s Gene Alvarez, “By 2020, 25% of leading online sellers will have enabled first-generation ‘commerce that comes to you’ capabilities.” What does this mean? Companies must weave conversational and visual capabilities into their customer interactions.

Enable virtual personal assistants to make decisions for customers. Bot-driven customer service is no longer just a trend, it will become a part of an immersive customer experience. Agents will become a source of delight, not frustration, providing a type of commerce that “comes to you” (Predicts 2017: Enhance the TSP Customer Experience).

Today, personalization means using customer information to better understand customers on a more individual level. Companies must invest in technologies that will identify and create unique buyer personas so they can anticipate their needs and improve customer service. Other innovations, such as alternative payment and fulfillment models, 3D printing, robots, and drones, are also adding to this transformation.

This will become the foundation of becoming a successful digital business. Some companies have already implemented cloud technologies and developed mobile strategies, and are now leveraging social channels to improve relationships with customers. Add IoT to the equation and you have a conglomerate of disruptive forces that are transforming the digital marketplace.

Cognitive learning is the future

Soon, we will live in a world where consumers have the option to interact with a voice-enabled bot to place an order. Instead of going to a company’s website, they can simply tell Alexa to order their favorite t-shirt. Pair this with cognitive learning capabilities and you can even predict the next purchase.

Imagine having the ability to send a customer an automated text message alerting them when it’s time for a repurchase. This kind of intelligence and personalization will set companies apart from competitors and ultimately provide the personalized experiences customers now expect.

Overall, analysts are recommending that companies focus on a few key practices: Adopt a customer-centric business model where all decisions are based on customer insight, not gut feelings; exploit new channels that support cognitive learning systems to stay ahead; take advantage of digital innovations; and focus on building trust and advocacy. By doing so, companies can go from being a market player to being the market leader.