It is without doubt that the advancement in mobile and real time technologies are changing the way users engage with brands. As an example, one only needs to look at the stratospheric growth of Uber - the taxi company that is revolutionising transport across the globe for millions of customers - to see how mobile-first solutions are changing the way we live, work and play.
Uber’s timing and the quality of the offering gave them a great opportunity, enabling them to disrupt a whole billion dollar industry. Crucially theirs was a digital-native business, so once they struck out to dominate the taxi ride business with a slick mobile product, almost everyone else around them was instantly playing catch up.
For more traditional businesses - think of your bank, a supermarket or a hotel chain - whilst they're not necessarily playing catch up like Uber’s last century competitors, many naturally face a race to evolve in order to successfully satisfy their customers needs. This is digital transformation.
Those who do invest in digital transformation, through the better use of technology and the tweaking - or even re-writing - of their business plans to more effectively connect with customers throughout their journey, will prosper. Those who don’t face a grim future - something Brian Solis describes as “digital Darwinism” - by being gobbled up by those organisations who are more “digital-customer” focused.
Solis often uses Blockbusters vs Netflix or Borders vs Amazon to emphasise this point, and both stories accurately highlight the importance of digital transformation. Famously, Blockbuster had the opportunity to acquire Netflix in the movie streaming company’s early days, but passed. Soon after they passed out, their strategy for digital transformation had been pitiful.
Now of course, if using disruptive technology to improve customer experiences was easy, everybody would be doing it: Blockbusters and Borders could still be going strong, so too in the UK - Comet, Jessops and HMV may have found a way to prosper.
Digital transformation isn’t a magic wand but increasingly it is vital to the process of evolving and improving customer experiences in the connected age. Having worked with British Airways for nearly fifteen years as a preferred digital supplier, we have experienced this journey and adoption - and there are a number of necessary points everyone involved needs to consider.
1. Ask “why”
Grace Hopper famously said: “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’”. We believe in the power of this statement so much we’ve written it on the wall of our office and her point is as valid today as when she was pioneering computer programming in the 1940s.
Put simply, brands must continually question their decisions and assumptions, while consistently looking for new digital opportunities to make experiences and products better and their processes more efficient.
2. Put on your customer hat
How many times have you interacted with technology and asked “why doesn’t it just… work?” If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing your answer would be “a lot”!
Think like a customer. Ask yourself what the pain points are with your product, process or service. Is your UX seamless? Does it work the way a customer would love it to in this digital age? If not, why not? And perhaps more pertinently, if not, when will it?
3. Innovation: nurture over nature
We aren’t born innovative. People develop ideas based on their experiences. A customer or client or employee who’s never coded a day in their life might be able to tell you how your digital product fails to deliver just as well as one of your trusted development team.
Listen to every potentially valuable opinion possible. You’ll be pleased you did.
4. Innovation isn't always a result of technology
Very often change comes from people - employees, clients or customers - who are passionate about doing something in a better way tomorrow than they are doing it today. And often they don’t have to cost a fortune.
Witness Kate Grainger’s inspirational story of generating a steep change in the quality of patient care in the NHS through a very simple process of nurses introducing themselves to patients via #hellomynameis.
5. Develop a culture that rewards people who think
‘Fail and fail fast’ is a benchmark for innovation. Experimentation enables achievement and the people who have the courage of their convictions to try new things should be welcomed to the very core of your organisation. Identify and empower your change agents, as Alan Trefler of Pega says.
6. Find a way forward
The very word ‘transformation’ suggests a difficult process, and digital transformation can be just that. Systems, processes, methods and even goals may need to change. But those in need of digital transformation must start somewhere and those already on the journey must have the courage to complete it.
Brian Solis advises businesses to re-imagine their companies if they launched digitally today. He asks those businesses what would be different and crucially, what their customers would value.
Do you know what your customers would value from the digital native version of your business? And if so, how can you achieve the change required to become that organisation?
Digital transformation shouldn’t be seen as a choice. It should be considered as something your business must address, irrelevant of size. In addition, in very much the same way dieticians consider healthy eating as a way of life and not a temporary process or fix, digital transformation isn’t a one-off project. Instead, it’s something that when integrated within your business strategies, can completely revolutionise your organisation and bring you to the forefront of your industry - and help you to stay there.