In the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, digital transformation is a necessity now more than ever. According to an April 2020 OpsRamp survey, 61% of respondents plan to accelerate spending on digital transformation to support the forced transition to remote work and fully digital customer interactions.
In recent years, however, few have made meaningful progress. In an April 2019 McKinsey survey of 1,733 executives, only 14% agreed that their digital transformation efforts produced consistent performance improvements. Most transformation efforts deliver underwhelming results (or fail outright) because companies make a lot of the same mistakes. They underestimate the scale of transformation or the level of disruption involved. As a result, they fail to adequately train employees or create the kind of value-driven change they’re seeking.
What can that change look like? Consider Coca-Cola. Already globally popular, Coke created a digital-first loyalty program in 2015 that delivered targeted content and offers based on customer data. As a result, the soda maker saw even higher retention and more revenue from upsells. Here we see a legacy brand using technology to rewrite its relationship with consumers—exactly what digital transformation intends to do.
If you think that sounds ambitious, you’re right. But companies need to be ambitious during the pandemic or they risk ceding market share, competitive advantage, and precious customer data to everyone else in their industries. In a transform-or-die scenario, companies can’t wait to change—or overestimate their progress. Instead, they need to be honest, and they need to get active. Start here:
1. Leverage data to the customer’s benefit.
Make use of your data ASAP, or else it could slow to a trickle, hindering digital transformation when it should be helping. A Deloitte survey found that 79% of respondents are willing to share personal data if it benefits them. That’s both good and bad news. The good: Companies can start collecting lots more data as long as they are transparent about it and communicate the consumer benefits. The bad: This means they have to figure out how to use more data while keeping customer benefits top of mind.
Diane Keng, CEO and co-founder of Breinify, an AI-as-a-service platform for predictive personalization, explains how timing is key for utilizing data to a customer’s benefit. “It’s all about experiences that fit the moment. Having data is one thing; activating them in a smart way that generates customer delight is another,” Keng advises. “Acknowledging that an individual’s preferences are time-sensitive is the first step to delivering delight.” Ensure that your team is taking the data you have on hand and using it to create in-the-moment value for your customers before adding more data sets to the mix.
2. Tech-train your team.
According to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2018,” more than half of the U.S. workforce will require significantly reskilling by 2022—including many employees who already consider themselves tech-savvy. Tamara Rosin, managing editor at WalkMe, describes what happens when business leaders undertake digital transformation and blithely assume employees will be adept with new technology: “You choose cutting-edge technology to make it happen, then dive into implementation. But then, few employees actually use the technology, and the ones that do stick to a small range of elementary features.”
On the flip side, a lot of new tech that employees are using just hasn’t been approved by IT (and for good reason). To address these issues and make your team more comfortable with the ever-changing digital transformation journey, use multiple training formats. Incorporate a mentoring or coaching program into your workplace, pay for online courses, and develop small e-learning units. Above all, create a culture that supports reskilling and prioritizes learning. In digital transformation, the human is just as important as the technology, so don’t invest in advancements of one without the other.
3. Enhance the customer experience.
Today’s customers expect every experience to be delightful and every touchpoint to be seamless. Meeting those standards takes an equal emphasis on new tools and time-honored customer service principles. Companies need to excel on both fronts, improving the customer experience wherever possible. For some, that means finding ways tech can personalize the customer experience. The Vita Mojo restaurant chain, for example, lets customers order through an app and customize every single aspect of their dishes. When customers provide information about their taste preferences and fitness goals, they can receive meals tailored to their personal needs—and Vita Mojo amasses a treasure trove of valuable customer info.
This is just one way that digital transformation can serve a company’s interests and the customer’s interests at the same time. Disney took a similar tack when it created the MyMagic+ app. For users, it makes navigating Disney parks easier, allowing them to keep track of their plans, see wait times at attractions, and locate nearby activities. For Disney, the app becomes a rich source of customer and traffic data. Disney can then use that data to improve other aspects of the customer experience.
Just as your personal life may have virtualized into Zoom family calls and DoorDash dinner orders, your business is also thrust into the digital demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Survivor businesses will be the ones that accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. Virtual parties won’t last too far into the future, but your digital transformation efforts certainly will.