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Digital Transformation: Why and How Companies are Investing in New Business Models to Lead Digital Customer Experiences

Brian Solis

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“Digital transformation” isn’t a trendy moniker to signify an increase in technology investment. It’s a renewed focus on the customer and the human side of business.

In Altimeter Group’s latest research, we uncovered that digital transformation is a re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models with a pointed purpose: to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle. Understanding the digital customer experience (DCX) is one of the primary catalysts for businesses placing substantial investment in digital transformation.

But, why does it matter? What makes digital transformation so important NOW? Social, mobile, real-time, and other disruptive technologies are aligning like never before to necessitate big changes within organizations, forcing them to adapt in order to maintain relevancy. Digital transformation is significant because it is finally driving real change within businesses; they’re developing new models, team structures, and customer-centered philosophies along the way.

For the better part of the last year, my colleague Brian Solis and I researched the current state of digital transformation efforts among best-in-class organizations. We spoke with 20 ecosystem contributors to understand what digital transformation is, what its benefits are, what catalysts drive it, and what challenges lie ahead. We looked for insights into how companies are transforming from the inside out in order to formulate best practices amidst a time of crucial change. We found:

Social Business Alone Isn’t Enough

Social business helps executives flatten traditional hierarchies by empowering employees to connect, communicate, and collaborate across traditional boundaries. But, without a vision for how to compete in connected markets and how to create value for a digital customer, social alone doesn’t cut it. When leadership recognizes that existing business models, systems and processes are ill-equipped to respond without big changes, digital transformation is inevitable.

Brands are Out of Touch with Digital Customer Behaviors and Expectations

Altimeter Group found that brands are out of touch with their digital customers. Even though companies are boosting technology budgets, they’re doing so based on assumptions and not from data or research into the new customer journey. More so, brands don’t yet have the infrastructure to support next-generation marketing efforts. But, there is hope! We also learned that brands are creating a sense of urgency by using insights stemming from the new DCX as the catalyst for internal digital transformation.

Digital Transformation Puts People at the Center

Every business says they’re customer-centric, but Altimeter learned that leading companies put people at the center of change. They start with studying the data (digital footprints and preferences) plus behavior to learn where to prioritize technology, resources, and investments. The case for urgency is made in updating an antiquated customer journey to a more accurate, adaptive, optimized DCX.

Digital Transformation Success Lies in the Reaction of Three Key Elements

During our research, we uncovered three core elements that contribute to successful beginnings and growth of digital transformation efforts. By making significant investments in technology and new business models, companies like Starbucks, Nestle, Intuit, and Sephora are getting in front of digital transformation—rather than stuck reacting to it.

The Three Elements of Digital Transformation

  • Element #1: Vision and Leadership. Digital transformation is an emergent movement and not yet recognized as a formal priority or effort by most businesses. This requires those leading or attempting to get a digital transformation program in motion to make the business case. But, the business case needs more than evidence or anecdotes; it needs a story and a vision for what it looks like and what it delivers.
  • Element #2: Digital Customer Experience. Digital customer experience begins with research, not guesswork, to study personas, behaviors, and expectations throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle. Once armed with information, digital transformation takes shape by specifically aligning people, processes, and technologies against goals and milestones to map a new and effective journey for digital customers.
  • Element #3: The Digital Transformation Team. In many cases, we learned that organizations form special teams to bring people together to start talking and put change into motion. These teams go by many names: digital circles, Centers of Excellence (CoE), rapid innovation teams, digital acceleration teams, and more.

The path toward digital transformation is not prescribed. Every business subscribes to this movement as one that is long-term, without an end in sight. No companies we interviewed claimed to have “figured this out,” nor does any organization believe it has successfully undergone digital transformation. However, one thing is clear: a sense of urgency for change must come from within. A change agent needs to make the case to show that digital customers are already moving on due to a lack of focus on DCX. Only then can organizations begin the process of re-aligning and re-inventing current processes, infrastructures, and teams in order to bring about a more connected customer experience.

Additional Resources

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