“Digital transformation” seems to be the biggest buzzword today, but it’s more than just a passing trend. Digital is everywhere now – from the phones in our hands to the Echo device in your kitchen, living room and in other areas of a “connected home.” It’s moved way beyond the office cubicle and is beginning to permeate every aspect of our lives. Your alarm system, your thermostat and even your car can be controlled with your phone. You can ask Google to turn your lights on or play your favorite podcast for you.What’s happened as a result of this slow but steady disruption is that consumers now expect to be able to do everything on a screen – preferably without talking to a human. Thought provoking questions are answered, Prescriptions are refilled, Pizzas are ordered, Ubers called, and money transferred – all with little more than a tap on the phone screen.
More and more frequently, this is how consumers engage and transact. And yet, businesses seem the last to know about this massive shift: Almost 90 percent of respondents to a 2015 global survey of managers and executives by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte anticipate that their industries will experience digital disruption to a great or moderate extent, but only 44 percent say their organizations are adequately prepared. If your business isn’t available to consumers digitally, your customers are increasingly likely to look elsewhere. It’s likely that you’ll have no business in less than five years. The path to purchase for consumers is shorter than ever in the digital age, and if your product or service isn’t available on their phone or laptop the minute that customer is ready to buy, you’re probably out of the running.
So now you know why digital transformation is important, but what is it, exactly?Marketing thought leader Greg Verdino defines it this way: “Digital transformation closes the gap between what digital customers already expect and what analog businesses actually deliver.”That means that digital transformation is going to look different for every business. For some businesses, like larger consumer banks, that gap is smaller every day. For others, the gap has barely narrowed over the past decade. John Doucette of Magenic discusses consumer expectations in a recent article: “In an always-on world, that may mean they want 24/7 access to your goods and services, wherever they are. Technology is driving the customer interaction not the business product and services. Digital transformation is the result of that shift, moving technology to the forefront.”
The roadmap and the results will be unique to each organization. What’s important to remember is that now more than ever, the customer and her needs must come first. Whatever your digital transformation journey looks like, it should be designed around simplifying how your customers interact with your brand.With that in mind, there are several components to digital transformation, and these typically include:
- Brand building in a digital world
- Customer experience and pre-emptive service
- Operational agility
- Culture and leadership
- Workforce enablement
- Digital technology integration
Again, transformation will look different for every business, as will the priorities for that transformation. For the sake of this article, let’s focus on customer experience, particularly as it relates to the path to purchase.
Digital Transformation and the Path to Purchase
Think about how consumers interact with your business today. Do they call to make reservations at your restaurant, or do they use OpenTable? Come into your bank to make deposits and withdrawals or is the experience 100% mobile? Do they come into your store to buy unique items? Do they book ahead for hair appointments, massages or manicures? How much of this interaction can shift to the digital world?For many consumers, the first interaction with any business is digital.
Between 2014 and 2015, Google Searches with “near me” in the text grew 130 percent – and that number continues to grow. Mobile users are relying on their devices to help them find nearby business that meet their immediate needs. It’s in your best interest to ensure that your business shows up on those searches. Smaller businesses should be on top of buying local ads so that their products and services appear during these “near me” searches. Larger businesses with multiple locations should also have a strategy to address these across the country – in search results and beyond.
Similarly, when consumers are in a shopping mindset, it’s important that your business makes an early appearance to be added to the consideration set. In the era of programmatic advertising, marketers can tell when consumers are researching for larger purchases by their online behavior. Those are the moments when it’s critical for your business’s messages to appear. A customer researching home renovations will read articles and watch videos online, sending off clear signals that they’re in the market. A savvy contracting firm will know they need to show their persuasive ads to these consumers.
How much of your competition is already engaging their audience – your audience – online at these early decision points, and how much catching up do you need to do?
For smaller purchases, like pizzas and pedicures, a local search ad may be enough to capture more sales – especially if customers are able to place orders or book services online or via an app. For more considered purchases, businesses need to really think about the best way to engage and inform customers all along the path to purchase. It’s important to understand how consumers make their decisions in your vertical and provide them the information they need to choose your business over the competition. Do your customers use Yelp to check your ratings before they shop? The decision to buy a high-end refrigerator is very different from the decision to choose a particular vacation spot, even if the price point is the same. Get to know your audience of potential buyers, understand whether their decisions are practical or emotional, and give them what they need to arrive at the right choice.Understanding your customers is the key to the best outcomes in digital transformation. Marketing is only the beginning.
Of course, meeting your customers online via relevant, helpful advertising is only the first step in the digital transformation. It can’t end there. For most businesses, digital transformation has to carry through the entire customer experience. The goal of your transformation should be to meet your customer’s needs at every touchpoint, and provide them with the relevant, high quality service and response levels they expect.
Whether customers engage online, offline, or a combination of ways, your business needs to anticipate their actions and provide them with an expected, relevant, and seamless experience across every interaction. Very few businesses successfully accomplish that today. We’re at the point now where shifting your business to digital is as imperative as having a website was 20 years ago.
“There is a tendency to see digital technology as an opportunity or choice. However, the mounting pressures of a rapidly-shifting business landscape are turning digital from a choice into an imperative. The longer a business waits, the more marginalized it will become.”- John Hagel, co-chairman, Centre for the Edge at Deloitte, as quoted in Silicon Republic
Marketing is only a piece of any company’s digital transformation, but it’s a critical piece since it’s usually the first touchpoint a customer experiences with your company. So, don’t wait. Be the standout. Start putting your customers first and design your digital transformation with their success at the forefront. Your business’s success is sure to follow.