Maybe you’ve heard it peppered into a business call or around the office. It’s certainly one of the buzziest of buzzwords at the moment, but it’s much more than a snappy term. Transformation, by its very definition, means great and dramatic change. In fact, Transformation — specifically Digital Transformation — can spark a complete rethink of who, what, when, where, why and how a brand presents itself. You could say it requires a complete “reimagining,” but we’ll come back to that. For now, let’s talk about this idea of “being digital.” What does that mean?
“Being digital means being closely attuned to how customer decision journeys are evolving in the broadest sense — this involves the simplification of channels and portfolio by understanding customer needs and behaviours and keeping this insight at the center of everything the business does. Digital transformation requires a cultural change that involves a shift in leadership thinking to continually challenging the status quo, encouraging innovation (experiment often and get comfortable with failure), and the introduction of new business models. Targeted outcomes of a successful digital transformation include less human intervention — a seamless personalised experience at any time anywhere via preferred communication channels — and one-click-one-touch access to what the customer wants, when they want it, how they want it, wherever they are.”
The shift that Ure speaks of is key to your own Digital Transformation. He mentions “cultural change,” and it is just that: a change in delivery, a change in approach, a change in strategy. Because, in this great brand reimagining, this change, this Digital Transformation, offers something truly invaluable: relevance. (And, in branding, that’s the fountain of youth.)
Now, to better understand and appreciate the importance of Digital Transformation, we must first define exactly what it is. And, to do that, we have to hop into a time machine and take a little bit of a jaunt. Our first stop will be the mid-nineties, when the World Wide Web was still somewhat a mystery. The web, or “the net,” as it was bandied about then, seemed to appear almost overnight and was viewed as some sort of electric wonderland of unlimited information and knowledge… and everybody wanted to surf it (there were a lot of metaphors flying around, just go with it).
Between the home PC upswell and a never-ending tsunami — okay, now the surfing makes sense — of CD-ROMs showing up in magazines and mailboxes across the country, the world was suddenly able to connect to the internet. And not long after, this led to brands scrambling to be part of their journey. Remember the dotcom boom? This is when it happened… and this is the first substantial moment of Digital Transformation.
Okay, back in the time machine, as we head to a few years later, when another, albeit unwelcome, moment of Digital Transformation would arise, substantially disrupting the landscape on a global scale. The “Y2K bug” put the modern world into overdrive as we worked to ensure that our records, files, statements, nay, our very existence wouldn’t entirely disappear once the clock struck midnight, December 31, 1999. To combat this much-maligned threat, hardware was replaced, software was updated, and staff were added and trained, all ready for that dreaded moment. And while the actual impact of Y2K was minimal, the cost of preparedness in the US is estimated at $300 billion (at that time.)
It would seem at this point, after the turn of the century, a general sense of digital awareness would be top of mind. After all, businesses were online, and the global mainframe didn’t collapse from Y2K. People could find information, purchase items, plan trips, interact with each other… what more could there be?
One more thing.
Those three words were made famous by Steve Jobs during his keynote speeches. He would start to step away, as though he were leaving, then, like Columbo (but sporting a black turtleneck instead of a rumpled trenchcoat), he would utter those words, and step back to reveal something special. Our time machine heads to 2007, when one more thing, one very big thing, was announced: the iPhone.
While the iPhone certainly wasn’t the first mobile phone with internet accessibility, the ease of navigation changed everything. Suddenly, a phone wasn’t just a phone anymore. And, just as suddenly, the customers had the ability to search for, find, and purchase whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, simply by reaching into their pockets.
It was at this time when it was the customers who went through a major moment of Digital Transformation, and they’ve never looked back. It was, “the age of the customer.”
2015 was the turning point, according to a Forrester report published that year, when customers were more mobile, consumed more reviews, and bought more online than ever before. Furthermore, according to that report: