Brent Lupton

Making the most of digital transformation

Without looking at the overall holistic impact of digital on a business including impact to culture, internal processes and staff; when it comes to digital adoption, we risk swapping one shiny thing for another shiny thing. Brands can’t truly transform without understanding what their brand goals are.

Gone are the days of the 9 to 5 brand; through the advancements of digital platforms and the addition of new channels, brands are now accessible by consumers 24/7. This has fed the realisation that customers expect fast, accurate and relevant content and services – and while this may raise stress levels for brands, the great news is that we are at a point now where the technology and data is allowing brands to deliver the experience and outcomes customers are seeking, whoever and wherever they are.

This realisation that customers can and are accessing digital brand assets anytime and anywhere through mobile devices and ubiquitous broadband has forced brands into a innovate or detonate mindset. It’s created a fear factor around the premise that if you don’t keep up, you’re going to quickly fall behind in the market, especially when disruptive digital centric brands like UBER and Airbnb can easily take control of a particular vertical without even owning any tangible assets.

It’s this urgency that we’ve seen coupled with agencies pushing platform technology projects and talking up the digital transformation imperative that has created a risky ‘digital before business strategy’ mentality. At the end of the day, digital is a channel that sits within an overarching business transformation program. We need to understand the cultural and organisational impacts that digital transformation can have on a business first. In short, digital needs to be a part of a broader, pre-defined strategy.

There are a lot of positives from digital adoption, but this sense of urgency we keep seeing to jump on board the digital bandwagon has seen brands slip into the trap of digital replacement rather than proper digital transformation. Without looking at the overall holistic impact of digital on a business including impact to culture, internal processes and staff; all we end up doing is swapping one shiny thing for another shiny thing. Brands can’t truly transform without understanding what their endgame is.

The other danger that can arise from utilising digital without a predefined, holistic business transformation strategy is that we use this technology to create ‘fluffy’ moments that bring no real value to the user. Sometimes you need to strip away the fluff and get back to putting the customers needs and wants first.

As a child, the corner store was an important part of the community. They were convenient, accessible and the owner knew you by name. Having returned often, it got to the point that they knew what you wanted and delivered products with great customer service.

In our current age of digital technology, we have the power to replicate that experience at scale – growing our customer base far beyond the size of any corner store while still keeping that same sense of familiarity and dedicated customer service that your customers are after. They’re not after a fluffy, utopian experience that ultimately serves to gratify brand image – they’re after a service that fulfills their needs and fulfills the expected outcome with great customer service. For them, that is the ultimate experience.

So just how do we make sure we don’t fall into these same traps? By first recognising the void between where we are and where we want to be, and creating a strategy that implements digital as the tool to catapult us across this void.

To create this strategy, gap analysis is a critical step in transforming a brand. Understanding the current state of your brand’s people, processes and technology, as well as the desired future landscape will allow you to ascertain what the gap looks like in between the two states, and develop a roadmap for getting from point A to point B. One of the best ways to understand the current landscape is by performing a SWOT analysis.

By performing a SWOT, we can find where the opportunities lie for digital, and work towards introducing new and exciting touch points. Looking beyond how customers use technology to what they expect out of engaging with your brand through digital channels is critical. This will not only impact how your brand’s future tech landscape will look like, but will open your eyes to how customers might be serviced through non-digital channels and whether an omnichannel strategy should be part of your brand transformation.

For store owners this means asking yourself, ‘what does the customer experience look like in store?’ “Are they using digital devices in-store?” “Are customers on my website while they are on the phone to us?” Understanding all of these touch points and mapping the expected experience is a critical step to determining the direction of business transformation and how this can shape future tech investment in ways that benefit internal people and processes as well as the end consumer.

Ultimately, it’s important for us to remember that customers are seeking your brand out to meet a need, and to meet that need quickly with the right outcome. The immediate brand priority should always be to meet the expectations of the customer – the fluffy stuff can come later. For me, it’s about about circling back to that that corner store experience; meet my expectations with great customer service and i’m always going to walk away a happy and loyal customer – and this sentiment is always going to translate to digital.

The great news is that in the last 18 months, technology has reached such a great convergence point that we can deliver the experience and outcome customers are seeking no matter where they are, no matter what they are doing. We’ve got the technology to deliver that sentiment, that true sense of personalisation that customers are looking for, so long as we keep our business transformation goals in clear view.