Have you noticed? Everybody is talking about Digital transformation these days: And to be honest, it may be on the verge of turning into an annoying buzzword. However, being a buzzword isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It reflects how many people acknowledge its relevance, considering the drastically changing demands in our digitized world. It alerts us to the fact that change and adaptation are necessary to keep up.
Digital transformation isn’t just a single, isolated activity. It’s not that you just have to offer a mobile-optimized website or use Pinterest as a new touchpoint and suddenly have done some digital transforming. Digital transformation revitalizes the entire business model. It affects not only operational procedures, but the product itself, as well as whom the product is targeting, and how. Every facet of business is exposed in such a transformation.
Transformation today is necessitated by a combination of three factors:
- Changing consumer demands and behavior
- Improved technology becomes widely available
- Innovative competition forces you to keep up
Any combination of these drivers can send shockwaves through the market. As a business, your job is to scout the best ways to confront and adapt to change before ever reaching that tipping point that may affect your business negatively.
Make transformation a strategic topic
Not to be a downer, but your business has already failed if it has reached the point where it is already “too late,” and can only save itself by completely overhauling its model. Transformation need not, and should not, happen overnight. In fact, it should be built into the design; the goal is to constantly evolve, because starting from scratch in an emergency situation is expensive, risky, and tedious.
This is why digital transformation should be on the long-term strategic roadmap of every business – if your business is systematically evolving, you will react to the climate before you ever reach that dreaded point. It should be a constant process of watching the market; growing and adapting, or better yet, leading it, so that you are the one dictating change for others to keep up with. Successful companies see changing demands as opportunities to pounce on, instead of letting it ruin them.
The current expectations of the average shopper are changing more quickly than before due to the technological boom. Businesses are forced to come up with ways to conform to these new expectations if they want to survive.
To name a few, shoppers now expect:
- Instant service. That means not waiting in line or on hold to get the information they want.
- Mind-reading. They want you to remember what they’ve recently purchased, so you can give them a personalized recommendation based on their proven interests for their next purchase.
- Social alignment. They want to be sure that given the same options, any informed person would probably make a similar purchase decision. They want to know which items are most popular, and why, through public and pinned review mechanisms.
- Data, data, and more data. Even though they will probably only skim through all that data at best, the fact that the information is available subconsciously ensures that you have nothing to hide.
- Mobile accessibility. An app and a mobile website that allows them to log in, compare products, earn rewards, and share purchase decisions through social media is now practically the norm for brands and retailers.
What are the businesses that succeed in integrating digital?
Businesses who are keeping up with digital integration and increased expectations are the ones who are succeeding in today’s market. Of course, there is no “one-size-fits all” method to adhere to, so on one hand, transformation can be tailored to suit your business to avoid becoming synonymous with every other competitor out there. On the other hand, let us consider several leading success stories and the methods that have worked for them.
The drug store adopted a mobile app that allows customers to have a personal account that tracks their purchases, which then makes individual recommendations or offers deals based on that history. It remembers past medications the customer has ordered, can pinpoint the closest store in the area, and even has a promotional rewards system.
This is a “mobile first” strategy that was developed by a team of digital experts who were newcomers to the Walgreens brand. Their fresh perspective identified their core issue, which was that the retailer was focusing its online strategy more on desktop users. Soon, the mobile-friendly user experience truly took off, and Walgreens has been benefiting ever since.
- Mobile first strategy: desktop and mobile need completely different infrastructures and maintenance. The added cost of maintaining two different platforms has been well worth the investment, as now they are one of the most recognized drug stores in the USA.
- Personalized shopping experience
- New team members offer fresh perspective on old, assumed processes
Tesco pioneered many aspects of digital transformation for top retailers and has set benchmarks for many others to follow. In fact, Tesco’s former CIO, Mike McNamara, who was one of the digital experts who helped transform the brand, has just been hired by Target in the same role in hopes of attaining similar success under his leadership. Tesco’s IT and supply chain cloud channel might not have been so successful without this man, and we might not know Tesco as the e-commerce leader that it is today.
What began as a local grocery store is now the world’s third largest global retailer. Thanks to installing a private cloud-based platform, Tesco has digitalized the process of internal purchase practices and decision making. Finding and approving a new supplier just became 66% easier for this giant, meaning the resources formally tied up in lengthy logistical talks can now be invested elsewhere.
- Put the right person in the leadership role. This person should be no less than a qualified digital expert, but must also be creative, innovative, and able to effectively bring ideas to life.
- Cloud technology speeds up decision making processes, without leaving stakeholders feeling snubbed.
Nordstrom has focused its digital strategy into social media above all else. Easily the cheapest route to get started on digital transformation, social media popularity allows the business to spread brand-awareness and therefore attract new customers quickly.
What a business decides to share and post online can have an effect on purchasing decisions of 78% of shoppers , and as a fashion retailer, Nordstrom is wise to reach out to the over one-third of female millennials whose clothes purchasing decisions are influenced by social media.
Nordstrom’s Pinterest page alone attracts 4.5 million hits per day. Not only does this bring in new shoppers, but has the added bonus of showing in-store staff which items to highlight on mannequins and window displays. Popular pins can advise the marketing team which products to feature and promote, and trending designers may agree to design exclusive items to reap some of the benefits of the store’s online popularity.
The increased profits mean that more revenue can be invested in transforming further. Currently the store is taking the direction of hiring personal shoppers in store and over cloud-apps to further personalize the customer journey.
- Social media is the cheapest strategy for digital presence
- A visionary photographer is needed to create attractive images of each piece so that the customer will want to share it on personal networks
- A strong public relations and quality management team is needed to ensure that the brand reputation isn’t hurt by impulsive posts or negative, unanswered user reviews
- Digital transformation isn’t over with the first success. It is crucial to constantly set aside profits to re-invest in transformation to remain relevant and current, especially in an industry as fast-paced as fashion
What are the challenges?
These examples make digital transformation appear easy and straightforward, but in reality, many companies struggle to transform.
In a recent survey, 53% of respondents felt that digital transformation did not align with their personal priorities. Staff within the organization may feel threatened that a robot will take over their job, and that is not an illegitimate concern. It is essential to have a clear value communication internally and to create valuable positions for talented employees, so they do not try to hinder the project in their own self-interest.
Similarly, 52% were intimidated by the thought of working with digital technologies that they are not familiar with.
Many businesses also fear the risk of making large changes and would rather keep the status quo. As long as your company turns a profit, you may not feel obliged to make a fundamental shift in the organizational structure, because if it isn’t broke, why fix it?
You may believe you can “wait out” the turbulence and resume business as usual once the market settles – or at least, adopt the final strategy that has been observably successful. However, especially in the current climate, it seems that change is the new norm. If the market ever does settle, it will probably be past your tipping point. Ostensibly, it is more dangerous to your business to stay stagnant than to take what was formerly viewed as a risk.
Of course, I’m not saying that digital transformation is an easy process. It requires a shift in the global attitude of your business and a full re-organization of priorities, tasks and talent. However, it is necessary.
Remaining stagnant and refusing to adapt in a changing market is NOT a successful strategy.
Here are a couple solid (and admittedly, ironic) strategies to follow if you DON’T want to succeed with your business’ digital transformation
- Give every department full, feudalistic independence from each other. Designing and managing their respective touch points and adhering to their own standards and metrics won’t waste any resources or cause any disputes about overlapping responsibilities. It’s all the same company anyway, right?
- Do not share results and learning beyond individual teams – colleagues from other departments face completely different challenges and goals and won’t care about your problems or successes.
- Concentrate on your department’s priorities only – a holistic view of enterprise goals will only distract you.
- Listen mainly to what your colleagues think and don’t let customer and market demands control you. You know what’s best and have been running business successfully in the past after all.
- Choose whether to focus on social media or mobile-first strategies, as you can’t possibly do both at the same time.
- Be afraid to fail. Risks never pay off!
- Don’t consider integrating digital technologies that may change the customer experience substantially. People don’t like change and whoever buys from you should adapt to you, not the other way round. That’s what makes you different.
Take A Step Back To Move Forward
Take a step back to try to understand where your business sits on a global scale from prehistoric to fully digitized companies, and then set the goal of where you would like to be.
Assess the customer experience, the infrastructure, the organizational processes, and which points you consider to currently be the weakest of your business. It may be useful to monitor what your competitors are doing, but ideally, you should aim to forge your own path if the right minds are put to the job.
Remember that you are not just trying to improve ongoing processes, but that it might be necessary to start some areas from scratch. Build a roadmap of milestone goals and set a reasonable budget, because without resources, you will be likely to fall flat. Digital transformation is an investment for the future of your business, which you cannot afford to risk by fearing change.