What is ‘Digital Transformation’ thinking?

Digital Transformation at mixing digital

Digital Transformation is all the range. Yesterday I attended the Mixing Digital ʻCreating the ultimate customer journeyʼ event in Manchester. In a packed room full of marketeer and retailers I once again find myself stuck in something of a time-warp.

I remember writing a piece from the Retail Summit 2010 asking ʻwhy has nothing changed in the last ten yearsʼ – well, same feeling again today, Iʼm afraid – at least for the most part. So much for Digital Transformation!

You know what, I am starting to hate writing these pieces, because there is so little new to say. Well, in actual fact – as always in this industry – there is plenty of new stuff to talk about, itʼs just that few organisations have properly adopted all the stuff thatʼs been in the market now for fifteen years or more!

Not to take anything away form the excellent speakers, or the event itself which was extremely well organised and well run – but do we really need to be told, in 2014 that we should be segmenting and personalising email? Or that having decent search filters and looking a the search analytics would be quite a good idea? Apparently we do, because the audience seemed, in the most party to be happily scribbling notes and paying full attention. Again, to be fair to the audience too, I suspect that little of this was ʻnewsʼ – probably more of a reminder – maybe even a frustrating one – of how unsophisticated most organisations still are when it comes to things like data mining, personalisation, segmentation, marketing automation and on, and on.

I have to admit I had an earlier engagement, so unfortunately missed the always excellent Dave Chaffey. I can only hope (or assume) that at Dave took care of the Digital Transformation and ʻfuture gazingʼ aspect of the morningʼs session, because the rest was fairly nitty-gritty, hands-on stuff. By no means redundant – because no one is really doing it well – but certainly a reiteration of ideas that most of us whoʼve been in the game a while already know and maybe even got a bit bored of banging on about.

What seemed to be missing, to me, was the fact that, what most of these business need is a properly integrated approach to all of their marketing communications, across all channels. We seemed to be talking mainly about tips and tweaks, as opposed to long overdue quantum leaps in fundamental approach.

So, what a delight it was, towards the close of the afternoon, to sit back and listen to Owen Pringle from Amnesty International give us a bit of ʻbig pictureʼ stuff and maybe a glimpse of where this whole thing is really heading. Top down, bottom up, inside out ʻDigital Transformationʼ, nothing less.

Hallelujah.

Iʼm not sure what everyone else thought, but every word resonated with my own particular, long held views of the likely evolution of the  ʻCustomer Journeyʼ and ʻRetail Experienceʼ.

What most retailers need right now isnʼt some trick, or technology bolt-on that will uplift CTR or reduce CPA or increase ROI, although all of these are of course very helpful – in the short term.

Itʼs just that a new search engine algorithm or an email plug-in isnʼt going to fix matters. The problem facing retailers today is MUCH bigger and goes MUCH deeper.

Check out the statistics for retail failures over the last five years and it becomes very apparent that something fundamental is wrong. So much for Digital Transformation in retail!

It is about technology – kind of. But, today, everything in business is impacted by technology in some way. Really, what we have seen over the last ten years is a wholesale socioeconomic shift in consumer behaviour – brought about by the proliferation of technology – which has fundamentally altered the landscape within which these businesses operate.

Whatʼs necessary – and what I believe is inevitable – is this process of complete digital transformation – of the BUSINESS. In fact, the very word ʻdigitalʼ may be inappropriate here – perhaps even redundant and very possibly misleading. This is organisational change, plain and simple. This is evolve or become extinct. Itʼs about re-thinking the fundamental value proposition and rebuilding the business plan – and therefore the physical business – from the ground up. (And that’s not just me saying this – check out this link to hear what CapGemini have to say on the matter!) 

Owen referred to this process as ʻdemocratising digitalʼ within the organisation. I like that description. Digital shouldn’t be ʻa departmentʼ. Digital shouldn’t be a skill-set.

ʻDigital Transformation Thinkingʼ is really nothing more than having an appropriate understanding of the realities of doing business in the modern world. Itʼs the fabric of reality. Itʼs how people communicate, learn, shop, share, think, become influenced, make decisions. Itʼs just good old fashioned ʻconsumer behaviour at the end of the day.

One final thought – and thanks again to Owen for bringing this clip to our attention. Here is the CCO of Burberry, Christopher Bailey, introducing the launch of their new digitally-integrated flagship store at 121 Regent St.

Retailers take note! Definitely a taste of things to come!

Organisations need to stop thinking in therms of ‘the rest of the business vs ‘digital’ and realise that, as Nicholas Negroponte said ‘This is just the beginning‘…

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