Digital has pervaded every aspect of our lives, right from our social interaction, shopping and purchase behavior and lifestyle habits to the way we work. Smartphones and the internet have managed to penetrate into areas so geographically disconnected they may be lacking in motorable roads or even clean drinking water. This complete overhaul in the way businesses work due to the effect of today’s advanced technologies such as mobile, cloud, social and Big Data analytics is called digital transformation.
Notably, this trend of digital transformation is not new at all. Technological innovations such as excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint files, word processing and email fundamentally changed the way we work and communicate a couple of decades back. However, the magnitude of transformation being undertaken in the present setting is considerably bigger and far more significant. Let us have a look at some of the ways digital has revolutionized our business approach:
1. Mobile-Enabled New Business Scenarios
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, 44% of the respondents opined that mobile is a critical part of their overall infrastructure today. Organizations across industries are taking several steps to change the way their employees work, including equipping them with smartphones and tablets, developing mobile-specific applications for the customers, employees and partners and making the necessary changes in the internal IT infrastructure to facilitate a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment. As smartphones are becoming more ubiquitous, mobiles are at the forefront of innovation and top-line revenue growth. For example, Delta Air Lines began equipping its entire team of flight attendants with mobile devices back in 2013, and as a result has seen an increase in revenue from in-flight purchases, a rise in the number of high-value seats sold and new sources of income and is now looking at radically transforming the whole customer experience.
2. Instant Communication
Instant messaging platforms are now asserting their dominance in the world of mobile applications. A survey conducted by The Economist, a weekly newspaper based in London, about 25% of all the downloaded apps are discarded after a single use, with only instant messaging differing from this trend. Today, Facebook messenger has more than 900 million global users. In a few years, messaging apps like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp etc. is projected to have over 3.6 billion users, which is roughly half of our world’s population. Companies are wasting no time in using this behavioral trend to their advantage. Corporate hospital chains like Apollo Hospitals and Fortis Hospitals have now integrated WhatsApp functionality tool within their websites and mobile sites. A person wanting to book an appointment can simply click on the WhatsApp contact icon, and start chatting they would normally do with any other person. Thus, in an informal way, bereft of any form-filling or other frivolous activities, they can book an appointment by just chatting with the customer care representative at the other end. This has radically improved the customer experience and resulted in more leads and conversions.
3. Cloud Computing Propelling Business Agility
Over half (53%) of the respondents who participated in a study by Harvard Business Review attributed the main benefit of adopting cloud computing to its aspect of providing flexibility on an as-needed basis. Cloud-based solutions have dramatically improved performance levels hitherto thought to be unreachable and made companies agile, and responsive enough to meet customer expectations. Cloud computing makes it possible for companies to engage in real-time analytics and help them become more competitive and proactive in their approach.
Of course, there are fears about security issues and privacy concerns which are limiting the adoption of cloud by businesses. Which is why, many companies are considering hybrid cloud solutions, which is a mix of cloud and traditional way of business and avoiding total dependency on cloud solutions. Nevertheless, cloud computing has enabled greater cost efficiencies and scalability features.
4. Impact on E-Commerce
Digital transformation has led to significantly safer online transactions and super-fast checkouts in the world of e-commerce. As a result of data integration and shopping algorithms, retailers on online shopping platforms are now providing suggestions to their customers by making use of the data from services and products used by each shopper. This makes for high accuracy in terms of the relevancy to the customer.
5. Reimagining Core Business Processes By Social Transformation
A Harvard Business Review report revealed that fifty-one percent of the respondents were of the opinion that effective communication with customers was the biggest benefit to using social channels, followed closely by employee collaboration (37%) and customer service (35%). Social networks not only help listen more carefully to customers and understand their sentiment about products, brands and organizations better, but also play a role in recruiting, HR management and internal collaboration. A leading online brand for questions and answers, Ask.com deployed a CRM application to improve their customer support experience and their internal operations, and integrate their mobile social media listening capabilities. This has resulted in their ability to manage support tickets generated through social media and other platforms, without being connected to a laptop or an office.
6. Emphasis On Transparency
In the present times, customers want to know about the companies with whom they interact and from whom they make their purchases. This is a fine opportunity for brands to cultivate and build loyalty by being transparent and thus reflecting upon the company values and ethics. This is especially true in the case of food products and related industries. Label Insight conducted a study to understand the consumer demand for product transparency. They found that only 12% of the consumers trust companies with respect to packaging and 67% believe it is the brand’s responsibility to provide this information. The effort it takes for the companies can be really rewarding, as the same survey shows that an overwhelming 94% of consumers tend to stick to the company that is transparent, and 73% would be willing to pay more for a product they perceive is transparent in its dealings and approach.
7. Innovation Through Big Data
Today, organizations are capable of processing and analyzing massive amounts of data to generate real-time business insights. The quantum of data is only set to increase with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), for example wearable devices computing, connected vehicles and smart cities. Integrating more and more data can help streamline the decision making process too. Companies are also using this to develop new products and services. Let us look at a real-world example of an organization using big data in its quest for innovation. Auckland Transport, New Zealand’s public transport agency analyzes a huge amount of operational data related to aspects like bus ridership, to identify the most popular and profitable routes, find out which routes can be expanded and to improve the customer experience. It also plans to analyze images and information to understand the pattern of traffic congestion and also deliver personalized alerts to their passengers letting them know if their bus is delayed or if there is an increased traffic on their route to work.
A major obstacle to harnessing the full potential of big data is the difficulty in interpretation and integration, and lack of skilled data analysts. Companies are hiring skilled contractors, or working with consulting firms, or even working with data scientists at local universities to address this problem.
8. Humanizing The Brands
Social media marketing is an art. Not only does it form the nucleus of any company’s marketing strategy, but also it is instrumental in helping customers trust and understand the company they’re buying from. Few organizations portray this as expertly as Apple. In fact, on September 12, 2018, as Apple revealed its latest iPhones, millions of people around the world would already be supporting its latest offerings even before they hit the market. Apple achieves this by live-streaming the events to their legions of fans around the world, making them feel they’re a part of the brand’s journey and thus ensuring a committed and an attentive audience.
9. Content Shock
Marketers today are constantly finding out ways to get their message and brand noticed by people, in view of the gargantuan quantities of content being distributed via social media and messaging apps. Every minute, about 29 million messages are exchanged through WhatsApp. To tackle this content overload effectively, Rolex has been relying on its creativity and marketing message to stand apart from the herd by creating high-quality and appealing product images and adopting a minimalist approach in its photos, videos and editorial work. It thus projects itself as a premium-class offering and uses this perception to appeal to its customers.
10. Endorsing Through Influencers
The old way of hiring celebrities to endorse their products and services is slowly becoming passé. Now, even ordinary people with no credentials other than a large group of followers on social media can also be equally effective, if not more. Many micro-influencers – those with less than 100,000 followers – have more influence and higher engagement rates than many famous personalities. Case in point: Coca-Cola has resorted to hiring influencers as hosts on its own YouTube channel, Coke TV and created a level of interaction between the brand and the audience far beyond the standard product placement.
These revolutionary ways of transforming business via digital need to be complemented by appropriate organizational changes in the mind-set of the management and operating cultures. That is when true transformation can occur.