Recently I was discussing the role of digital with a luxury brand and how the development of digital capabilities would marry with their business objectives.   To support the discussion I’d sketched out a few ideas on the need to ensure that digital development aligns with business goals and objectives.  The rules of business haven’t changed (unless I’m well out of the loop here).  You make money by selling products and services to customers for less than the cost it takes to produce them.  Where “digital” comes in is that the what and the how of this simple statement are fundamentally altered by what many are calling disruption; selling new things in new ways.  In pursuit of disruption it can be easy to lose sight of some the really simple  ways that digital capabilities can improve things; something a friend calls “better basics”.  I’d argue that if you can’t get the importance of better basics then you won’t get the disruption right.  But that’s for another day.

When I was a young marketing graduate we were drummed with the concept of the customer buying process; the steps the customer went through prior to, during and after the acquisition of your product.  Now a whole range of these processes exist.  Some are tailored to business markets where the standard thinking is that the process is more “logical”.  Some are tailored to products and services where the process is more “emotional” .

Somewhere within the trial and evaluation boxes a purchase has occurred.  A point I would make is that this is a simple or even simplistic model.  There is a whole degree of complexity around this process especially bearing in mind that customers don’t look at the world like this and many of these models were put together in an age where physical products were dominant.  The model also exists within the context of a highly competitive world where customers are “aware” of vast numbers of potential answers to their need, where they express an “interest” in so much more. Nonetheless your company’s digital assets need to play a role in this process; and they do whether you are conscious of it or not.  Everything about modern marketing and sales should be to ease, to facilitate the process of getting your prospect from point a to point e in the most seamless and effortless way possible.  Digital enables this. How?

Inspiration

Firstly your web and app content, presentation and styling need to (or will) be consistent aligned with your brand, your values and the products and services you are trying to sell.  They will fit in with the context (time & place) and offer visual and textual clues on how your services are consumed and how they satisfy the need (unconscious or conscious) expressed by your prospective customers.  This is most easily demonstrated in the travel sector.  What do holiday companies show you?  Beaches, swimming pools, good food and relaxation.  It’s pretty easy to understand the inspiration that is being evoked in this example.  Superfluous and meaningless content won’t just be ignored; it will detract from the message you are trying to convey

Information

Simple right?  Maybe but information needs to be available at the right point.  Pricing information, availability or stock information, legal information etc. etc.  It doesn’t always need to sit alongside inspiration and the two can make strange bedfellows at time.  Likewise, once you have a contact channel with customers (via an email address for instance) you have a channel ro push/pull information or content notifications and understand the response

Easy & effortless

This one’s a real biggy and it’s here that digital makes the goal of a frictionless process so much closer.  If it’s a process, a sign up, a transaction or whatever you can enable it whenever and whereever you want.  It’s here that digital really wins out.  A shop in your customer’s pocket.  Open 24 hours a day.  Impulse purchases, contextual purchase, distress purchases; digital does it all.

Relevance

The concept of the frictionless purpose sits alongside the concept of relevance.  This is about data (and lots of it).  If I, the company, know who you are, where you are, what you are doing then I’m in a position to offer you a degree of personalisation and tailoring of service that should be just right.  Digital is about mobility, proximity and content. The power of digital is that it offers you a degree of granularity on understanding whether something is working or not that would have been unheard of a few years ago

Digital basics

Now you may be thinking at this point that this is all digital 101 stuff; seen and heard before.  This is where the better basics idea comes in.  You simply won’t be able to make the most of the opportunities set out above if you haven’t got the basics in place.  Close but nowhere near close enough to win the disruption medal.  Doing this simple stuff requires the organisation to have and act upon capabilities that in many cases will not be in place.  If you miss these components it’s easy to miss the target. They all work together and feed off each other.

  • Content strategy – knowing what you want to publish, where and why
  • Data strategy – having a view on how your customer data flows through the organisation
  • Analytics capability – heatmapping, tagging – ensuring you have the mechanics and wiring in place to make data driven marketing decisions
  • Empowered and responsive decision making – having the people able to make quick decisions and act upon them
  • Automated marketing decisioning – building automated rule sets for marketing that allow customers to engage with your digital ecosystem
  • UX/UI capabilities – being able to understand your customer journeys and a psychological and systematic level; and being able to change them
  • Search engine marketing – understanding how to get your shop window on the side street rather than a side street
  • Adaptive and agile methods – being able to develop and deply improvements effectively
  • Continuous deployment
  • Integration architecture – having an architecture that allows you to work seamlessly with 3rd parties, legacy systems
  • Robust infrastructure – keeping your shop open in all hours and all weathers

I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed from the list but all of this (and more) is what digital transformation is about – yes the technology but also the ability and capability of people to make the most of the data available to them but also to act at the speed the market demands.