Prepare Your Brand for a Digital Transformation to Adapt, Survive and Thrive

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  • 1/22/2018

    Digital transformation is something that most organizations have been plodding through. Some know that they are on this journey while others are falling into it, but digital transformation doesn’t have to be by accident or happenstance. The trend that is worth paying attention to, especially for middle-market organizations, is the growth-enabling transformation that can be a planned and coordinated undertaking.

    Digital transformation is the act of evolving existing communications, promotion, systems and processes to be ready to deliver on the expectations and possibilities of a modern organization.

    There is an enormous difference that we have seen between organizations that “do digital” versus ones that “are digital.” This transformative process isn’t just updating your website, turning on e-commerce or evolving your CRM. These are one-off efforts that will help an organization, but if left as projects, don’t truly help to transform organizations to compete more effectively in today’s marketplace. In fact, even working on how the whole marketing tech connects (CMS, CRM, e-commerce, automation, email, etc.) is not enough to really transform anymore. We have observed that the key to truly rising above your competition is the planning and integration of efforts throughout a multiyear journey of transformation.

    Why do we Need to Digitally Transform?

    According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the U.S. economy operates at only 18% of its digital potential and the sort of productivity gains that digital technologies should be enabling are not showing up in the broader economy. This means that transformation for most companies is still at an early stage, but the potential is enormous. The need to bridge this gap and digitally transform comes down to one word, change. Can you change fast enough to stay competitive with those who are evolving to keep and gain market share, keep new competition at bay, cut costs, find efficiencies and most importantly meet customer expectations?

    To help clients plan their digital transformation, we ask questions based on the following factors:

    Some level of self-service is just expected today. Are you enabling customers, channel partners and employees to take care of repetitive and mundane tasks themselves without involving more of your resources?

    Mobile has enabled so much, including real-time interactions in the field at the point of activity. How does your organization take advantage of being there at the point-of-sale, the point-of-research or the point-of-data collection?

    The ability to collect and now integrate data across the enterprise has opened many new possibilities including real-time review, alerts of activity, deeper customer knowledge and transparency in your processes and interactions. How are you supplying this data to both internal and external audiences for a better and intelligent experience?

    We are a research culture now based on ease of asking questions to Google, Bing, Siri and Alexa. Most customers would not label themselves as researchers, but that’s what we’re all doing by asking questions, reading articles and watching videos on something that we’re considering doing or buying. Only 29% of people want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product, while 62% will consult a search engine, so how does this play into your lead generation efforts?

    When these questions are answered, digital transformation can enable several important factors for business:

    • The collection and dissemination of more and better data to lead to faster decision-making and better insights.
    • The enablement of cost-cutting measures such as customer self-service and lower customer acquisition costs.
    • Better coordination within the organization through the integration of data, systems and processes across departments that is beneficial internally and to the customer.
    • Sales growth opportunities through new channels and models, as well as new market possibilities.

    How do we Digitally Transform?

    Transformation starts with strategy as it is not a project that you can approve. It is also not about a specific technology right out of the gate. When an organization does that, then you are letting yourself be bound by the technology’s limits rather than your vision and your organizational goals. A transformation strategy will address where the organization and your customers are heading and how you can serve them more effectively as the digital landscape continues to evolve.

    As the strategy is formulated and the tactical end of building a transformation roadmap starts, you can begin to gather data and bring together an internal, cross-functional team to think about what is needed and what is possible. This conscious planning allows for roadmaps to be developed, which have many positive aspects including:

    • Breaking up the known and unknown transformation journey into manageable stages.
    • Allowing for executive buy-in to plans.
    • Smoothing out expenditures over time and allowing for better long-range budgeting of resources.
    • Distributing and assigning ownership within the organization for specific change of management activities.
    • Allowing time for the human element to evolve into this new reality.

    Many customers cannot tell you exactly what they expect until they see it somewhere else. Therefore, it is useful to watch trends evolve in other industries, especially consumer trends which allow you to be better equipped to apply them to your needs. For example, Amazon introduced many consumers to suggestive selling and now want to see it in their professional lives too.

    Finally, a digital transformation plan needs a budget in order to happen. According to a 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review, despite this shift in recognition of the importance of digital, the average investment in emerging technologies (as a percent of total technology spending) grew just 1% over the last decade. Planning based on a strong strategy will allow for better insight into the required investments your organization will need to make over the course of the journey.

    Digital Transformation is Business Transformation

    In the big picture, the only thing that matters with a transformation are the outcomes. The name of the software, the types of systems and amount of custom mobile apps does not really mean much without the business outcomes that they provide. Articulating these outcomes in your planning is critical to guide your overall strategy.

    This is a period of time where many organizations are trying to evaluate how they can evolve how they do business. For instance, many organizations that never went direct to consumer, are now recognizing the need to work through this conundrum. Many middle-market manufacturers have never had to go direct to the end consumer because of their distribution channels. That’s changing as search, e-commerce, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba and many others are eating into these decades-old models.

    A digital transformation may be a business transformation for many organizations since the tools and channels they evolve into also typically mean that they are conducting business differently.

    Laggards Beware

    As transformation planning becomes more of a trend, and then an accepted practice, plans will be executed faster and with better outcomes than the ad hoc nature up to this point. Digital Darwinism will now be in effect. This will have more competitive consequences the longer your organization takes to get started. The good news is that as soon as planning starts, you are positioning your organization to do whatever it takes to keep up with your consumer. As society changes media, education, research and buying habits, you will be there ready to adapt.

    Digital Transformation is an article featured in our 2018 Trends publication. Download your free copy here

    Additionally, if you are interested in learning more, listen to our corresponding thunder::cast episode.

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