Digital transformation is now an absolute necessity for consumers and corporations — and the rate of adoption is accelerating. But the ever-present challenge is that “digital” can mean so many things in terms of interdependent technologies, data use, and processes that it is difficult to know how to invest, and in what order to implement.
In the case of digital, there are several built-in challenges:
- Digital structures and platforms are by definition virtual and behind the scenes rather than as visible as traditional structures like a store or a credit card.
- There are multiple digital ways to deliver the same experience to the customer.
- Customers want to be able to move across digital delivery channels at will.
The Structure of the Solution
Digital transformation requires marketers to keep three very separate and often competing taxonomies in mind:
- Customer experience
- Channels through which that experience is delivered
- Infrastructure behind that experience to ensure that it makes sense and evolves to address the market, in real or near-real time
That requires a very methodical process for thinking through the problem that can also keep pace with an accelerating marketplace. There has to be a complex systems approach to anticipate real time interactions across multiple solutions once the systems are set in motion. The reward is the ability to solve diverse problems for diverse stakeholders in a very fast and efficient manner.
Solving for the Digital Customer Experience
The solution here will sound deceptively simple: Think about how you would want to interact with a customer when you can’t be face-to-face.
For a bank, that customer experience could be a digital loan self-service app that also enables credit card-linked reward offers. For an entertainment company, that could be a way to deliver the feeling of an audience laughing or gasping at a film in a virtual event. For a retailer, that could be a virtual consultation with a running shoe expert for a fitting. There is no one best digital customer experience.
Each application can be addressed with multiple digital solutions and invariably, the right solution for your business will involve coordinating multiple technologies. When picking the right solution, set your priorities by considering which option will move the needle most and solve for core customer pain points.
Solving for Digital Channels
The first complication here is that each digital channel comes with multiple alternatives within it – does your mobile strategy need to focus on text, push notifications, in-app display or mobile web optimization? Are you creating your own app or leveraging an existing popular app? The marketer faces channel opportunities within opportunities.
Digital enables dialogue, co-creation and service issue resolution. Most customers gain awareness in one channel, research options in another, close the purchase in yet another and raise service issues in still another. Being able to work in multiple channels is no use whatsoever if you have not set those channels up to recognize the same customer when they move across each.
- Start by identifying the most pressing customer problems
- Assume your customers are multi-channel and plan for coordinated handoffs across each
- Build in flexibility to scale when the adoption curve shifts
The steps require interdisciplinary integration and enterprise wide coordination. Mobile expertise cannot be siloed from social media expertise, which cannot be siloed from the data analytics of how customers are behaving in the channels.
Solving for the Infrastructure
Many loyalty programs implement without building out reporting and triggered capabilities because the priority was on delivering the customer experience to market. The business case for adding those capabilities after the fact is never strong, because the initial launch gets the credit.
However, with digital transformation, the data is what enables the customer experience.
Not implementing fully dynamic data-reporting infrastructure and the ability to apply that data in real time means you are not delivering the experience. It is essential to develop the infrastructure on the same timing and with the same financial investment calculation.
This is where a siloed approach between customer delivery and IT becomes especially problematic. You have to look at the spaces in between and enable handoffs for digital transformation to work.
Do not let what you want to be with digital transformation get in the way of identifying what you should do to win in the marketplace. Start from the experience you want to deliver to your customers and internal stakeholders, then develop a data infrastructure across channels that evolves at the speed of the market. Digital is not one solution; it requires selection, interdisciplinary coordination and integration of multiple solutions. Digital is a means to an end – or more properly, not an end at all, but an ever-resilient and adaptive future.