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Analysts continue to express confidence in a recession on the horizon, prompting business leaders to prepare for another period of market upheaval. Modern brands are well acquainted with economic uncertainty, but their standard response strategies are evolving. While budget cuts remain a pragmatic step toward crisis-proofing business operations, forward-thinking brands are investing in technology to maintain stability and promote long-term growth. In the coming months, these brands will turn to their CIOs to make crucial decisions about which technologies to invest in and the best ways to implement them.

Determining a solution's potential to drive brand value can be a singular challenge in a volatile market. With economic factors impacting a range of essential business processes, organizational needs are likely to increase and become more complex. Responding to the shifting priorities of individual departments can strain the organization's resources. But when CIOs adopt a broadly people-centric approach to decision making, they can shape an organization-wide atmosphere of cohesion and productivity to carry the company through economic upheaval.

Nurturing innovation through cloud consolidation

In an effort to scale back spending, a growing number of companies are seeking to reduce or eliminate their real estate footprints. There are compelling financial benefits to these decisions, with one report estimating that a shift to remote work can result in annual savings of $10,600 per employee. But the resulting abrupt change in work environment can significantly impact employees' routines and inhibit their access to essential applications, files, and contacts. To prevent employee satisfaction and productivity from declining, CIOs need to buttress shifts toward remote work by prioritizing tech that supports organizational agility.

Investments in serverless architecture and other cloud-based technology are expected to remain high among brands pursuing digitization in 2023. When employees are empowered with tools that facilitate uninterrupted access to company resources, it's easier for them to pursue innovative projects and execute high-value tasks. This can have notable impacts on a brand's bottom line; after the 2009 financial crisis, brands that had maintained their innovative drive emerged performing 30% above the market average.

Leveraging innovation in any economy also relies on strong security protocols. By shifting operations to the cloud, CIOs can implement unified and trackable applications across the organization, and provide a more secure environment for consumer and company data. As successful brands are acutely aware, data security is both a financial imperative and a requisite for rolling out products and services consumers trust.

Adapting the customer journey with optimized analytics

A 2022 survey by Morgan Stanley named analytics and data warehouses as top priorities for CIOs preparing for a recession. Even in an ideal economy, access to relevant data and effective analytics tools is essential; heavily insight-driven businesses are 2.8 times more likely to report year-over-year growth in the double digits. By prioritizing the development of infrastructure that facilitates secure data collection and comprehensive analytics, CIOs can position their brands to better understand and connect with customers in the new financial climate.

During an economic downturn, when consumers are more discerning and companies are less willing to take financial risks, the ability to make precise, data-backed decisions about the customer experience becomes even more crucial. Already, 78% of consumers have noted a lack of sensitivity by advertisers to the way their priorities have shifted with the economy.

To avoid this brand perception and keep sales and marketing teams attuned to changing consumer sentiments takes high-quality, relevant data. Sales and marketing teams with a clear understanding of evolving customer pain points can provide more realistic and appropriate solutions. Combined with the lower advertising costs and decreased competition traditionally associated with a recession, this conscientious messaging can be a powerful tool for maximizing marketing ROIs.

Enhancing EX and CX through automation

Hiring and vendor contracting freezes can put a severe strain on employees. The task of maintaining productivity with decreased resources often contributes to workplace dissatisfaction. While some level of attrition may be inevitable, studies show that when companies prioritize talent retention in all climates, they outperform their competitors in the market. In fact, brands actively working to ensure employee satisfaction could see a 23% increase in profitability.

Automation provides organizations with the tools they need to engage and retain employees, even while asking them to "do more with less." Despite early reservations about the impacts of AI on employee morale, automation has been shown to reduce workplace stress, which is particularly important during times of strain. By investing in automation for routine tasks, CIOs can support employees in a scaled-back workplace, while creating opportunities for them to focus on value-driving projects.

Automation is also highly appealing to customers. In recent years, consumers have demonstrated a clear preference for the convenience and flexibility afforded by self-service platforms. Increasing the availability of AI technologies, like chatbots and smart suggestions, empowers consumers to access effective solutions on their own terms. When resources are generally limited, this effective and self-driven experience can have a significant impact on customer loyalty.

Weighing the people-centric impacts of technological investments

There is increasing value in placing people at the center of business operations. Companies that support employees and their efforts to pursue meaningful work typically observe higher retention rates, lower attrition costs, and better engagement metrics. They are also more likely to appeal to consumers, with research indicating a clear link between engaged employees and quality customer experiences. The impacts of CX on revenue are well established, with many consumers willing to reward brands that take the time to anticipate their needs and offer personalized solutions.

Now more than ever, IT leaders have a role to play in shaping the experiences of all people who interact with their brands. In preparing for a recession or any challenging time for a brand, it is important for CIOs to consider the ways their tech investments will simplify and enrich the lives of people who support the brand in any capacity. This is key for driving customer and employee loyalty, two crucial keys to a brand's success in any economy.

Zoho offers a suite of intelligent enterprise business software, including an award-winning CRM suite, the industry's only comprehensive analytics and BI platform, and a powerful low-code development ecosystem.