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Digital transformation

Make your digital transformation user-focused

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You may have heard the saying, “nothing endures but change.” This adage—often translated as “the only constant is change” or a variation on that theme—is attributed to Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher (535-475 BC). Heraclitus believed that everything is always in flux and in the process of becoming something else.

This philosophy applies to business as well. Your business has goals. You make a plan to reach those goals. Along the way you monitor and tweak processes and procedures to achieve goals faster and more efficiently. And after the goals are reached, you’re not done. You immediately look for ways to improve for next time. Businesses need to be fluid and agile enough to keep up with technological changes.

This is why you might be hearing a lot of buzz around digital transformation. A large portion of your customer base has grown up with smartphones and tablets “glued” to their hands. And they spend a significant amount of time online every day. Understanding how this tech-savvy customer base interacts with their mobile devices can help you to transform your business model to meet their expectations.

What is digital transformation?

One thing that COVID-19 has taught us is that to survive, companies need to figure out how to transform how they do business. You may have seen it in action with some of your favorite restaurants. Instead of shutting down because customers couldn’t enter the building to eat, they transformed to exclusively taking mobile or online orders and offered curbside pickup or home delivery.

Basically, digital transformation is implementing technology (such as a mobile food ordering app) to change how you do business. 

Digital transformation is not just about applying technology to your business model. It’s about completely changing your business strategy, processes and procedures, and maybe even your corporate culture. It’s about creating new business models based on new and emerging technologies rather than simply applying technology to your existing business model. 

Why is user-focused digital transformation important?

Why should you look at digital transformation through your customers’ eyes? Let’s take a look at the 1996 Telecommunications Act and the FCC’s push to make millions of analog televisions obsolete. 

Essentially, the act included a mandate that all analog TV signals were to be switched to digital by December 31, 2006. Had this happened, millions of perfectly good TVs wouldn’t have been able to receive a broadcast signal on January 1, 2007. It was an unusual planned obsolescence. 

The first digital TV signals were available for testing in November 1998. But at that time, digital TV was still an emerging technology and a basic, “inexpensive”  digital TV set came with a $5,000 to $8,000 price tag. With the high cost of upgrading and very little digital programming, consumers could not see any reason to rush out and adopt this new technology. So the transition date was pushed back to June 2009. And millions of consumers still weren’t ready for it. 

In contrast, let’s quickly look at a small online bookstore that opened for business in 1995. With a focus on consumers, Amazon soon went from selling books to selling music, movies, toys, and electronics. By making customers the center of its business, Amazon was able to steadily offer a wider variety of products at lower prices. And on their way to becoming the largest online retailer, they changed the way other companies think about doing business online.

Creating a user-focused digital transformation strategy

Without customers, you won’t have a business that can sustain itself. So it’s important to focus on what your customers want, need, and expect so that they continue to give you money for your products and services.

What if the FCC had been a private business trying to force everybody to upgrade and adopt a new technology? They would have failed miserably. Now if there had been plenty of digital programming and more digital TVs at a lower price, customers would have been demanding that the FCC make the transformation to digital happen faster.

Always think of the customer experience

As you plan your digital transformation strategy, keep your customers in mind. Recognize that they are almost always connected, are very comfortable with technology, and understand what their handheld devices can do for them. Think of ways to connect with them digitally first. Companies that employ digital-first strategies are 64% more likely to achieve business goals than their competitors. 

You have much more power and flexibility when you understand your customers and create experiences that meet their needs and expectations. 

Personalize the customer experience

Believe it or not, customers like their interactions with your business to be more personal. Like being a regular at a local restaurant where all the employees know your name, consumers like it when their online experience is personalized. One example of this using collected data to make purchasing suggestions.

In fact, 75% of customers are more likely to buy from a company that knows their name, stores their purchase history, and makes suggestions based on previous purchases.

Reimagine the customer journey 

To understand the need for businesses to reimagine the customer journey, let’s look at the music industry.

In the old days, you had to physically enter a store to purchase a CD by the artists you wanted to listen to. Then you had to drive home and place it in a CD player to listen to it (unless you were lucky enough to have a CD player in your car). There was no sampling the music before buying. It was packaged and shrink wrapped. So as you listened for the first time, you hoped that you would like more songs than just the hit you heard on the radio.

Today’s music consumer expects to hear not just a sample but a full song instantly on a variety of mobile devices. Ad-supported and subscription-based streaming music services let you add the song to your “favorites” so you can listen to it whenever and wherever you want. Or, you have the option of purchasing a digital copy that you can download and listen to whenever you want to. All of this gives the consumer more options and a much better interactive experience.

Consider your own customer journey and the ways it may need to be adapted. 

Create an agile IT environment

Today’s business is conducted in the cloud. If you haven’t adopted a cloud strategy yet, you need to do it now. Cloud technology is critical to your digital transformation strategy because it:

  • Gives you more flexibility/agility: You can upscale or downscale services automatically to keep up with constantly changing customer demands.
  • Is more efficient: Development teams can get new apps and services to market more quickly without worrying about underlying infrastructure. Frequent updates and releases keep customers happy.
  • Is secure: The cloud is maintained off-premises and security patches and updates are applied more often with no disruption in service.
  • Saves you money: You don’t have to worry about expensive equipment upgrades and can spend more time concentrating on customer needs.

Provide a seamless multi-channel experience

Technology has enhanced the way people shop. No longer do you have to wander up and down every aisle of a store to find an orange peeler. As you are walking around, you can open the store’s app and find out if they carry orange peelers, if there are any in stock, and on which aisle they can be located.

If they don’t have orange peelers in stock, you can find out if the store on the other side of town has any. Or, you can order one and have it delivered or pick it up when it comes in. If the store doesn’t carry what you want, you can use the app and social media to leave feedback, ask questions, get support, and make suggestions. 

These different interactions with various channels makes it easier for you to develop a more personalized profile for your customers so you can create a personalized customer experience that will keep them coming back for more.

We live in a fast-paced, digitally-connected world. A user-focused digital transformation can help you to keep up with rapid changes in customer buying habits and patterns. Creating a pleasant customer experience will build consumer trust as you offer products and services that meet expectations and solve customer problems. Showing customers that you understand them will keep them happy and keep them coming back for more.

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