The term ‘digital transformation’ can mean different things to different organizations. At the most basic level, oftentimes we might consider digital transformation to be a move of processes, operations and tools from a traditionally offline environment to a digital one.

Yet digital transformation can be anything from setting up a mobile app, site or processes – to re-formatting and digitally enabling an entire enterprise.

When we think about a digital transformation with data specifically, it’s digital enablement and enhancement across a business, delivering value through greater understanding, alignment and actioning of digital and offline data, that we mean (and will discuss throughout this page).

For that reason, a digital data transformation is not limited to traditionally offline brands. In fact, as it works to bring fragmented data points and platforms together across an organization’s wider ecosystem – on and offline – a digital data transformation creates a clear overview of how to enhance and expand and see greater value – even for brands who are already online.

So why consider the shift?

Today, we live in a world where everyone, from brands to consumers, engages across increasingly fragmented channels and platforms. In-store, on mobile, social media – as marketers we have ever-expanding options to connect with consumers, and access to greater volumes of consumer data than ever before. The goal for all brands is to understand how to align all that growing data in real-time, across all sources and platforms – to know how to use it to inform and transform. With the right planning, platform integration and data strategy, that’s exactly what a digital transformation with data delivers.

From highlighting how and where to move to drive exceptional, relevant customer experiences, to knowing how to streamline internal operations, or adjust product – that data holds the key to growth. 

Defining Digital Transformation For Your Organization

A true digital transformation with data will work to implement and refine the right, unified tools, data strategy, data management, process and analytics to enable that accurate data insight – aligning and refining on and offline data to support intelligently informed decision-making across the business.

Of course, as every organization will have different goals, priorities and ambitions, no two processes will be the same –  as l each organization will have different starting points and technologies in place for a digital transformation.

The information below will outline key considerations, common objectives, benefits, and use cases for implementing a digital transformation with data across a business. 

 

2 / Creating a Coherent Plan for Digital Transformation

What Does a Digital Transformation Strategy Look Like? What Should it Consider?

Before planning what digital transformation looks like for your brand, it’s important to consider your goals and understand why a transformation strategy is the right approach. 

At its core, a digital transformation is dependent on technology and data to:

  1. Create insights and data points that will measurably improve the customer experience with the intent of increasing sales, loyalty and brand advocacy.
  2. Enable and unlock intelligence across an organization to highlight how and where you can take time and cost out of the process, with the intent of reducing waste and lowering the cost of doing business. 

Because of this, there’s no point developing a digital transformation plan that only considers transformation in silos. For example – a transformation that only introduces digital technology, without consideration of data strategy and data integrations (or vice versa) will not deliver results.

Instead a successful digital transformation strategy considers and combines multiple elements – such as a data strategy, and a tech enablement plan – all while accounting for overarching structural, business and marketing goals – such as improving customer experience.

It may sound complex. But really, digital transformation is a process designed to combine, clarify and integrate processes, data and technology into an informative, actionable layer across the business.

So, what should you consider to drive effective digital transformation for your brand? Let’s break it down.

First, Consider: What Are Your Organization’s Goals?

What’s driving the need for digital transformation in your organization? What do you want to achieve from it, and across which areas of the business? 

Because of its seemingly wide scope, digital transformation objectives may feel almost infinite! Yet some common use cases may be to:

  • Drive Greater Value and Insight From MarTech: While many organizations may already have the data they need to inform strategy, it’s hard to derive value when that data is locked up in siloed technology platforms. A digital transformation might work to integrate all that insight, provide greater data clarity and inform successful action across multiple business areas. 
  • Digitizing the Data Environment: At a first level, a digital transformation could, simply, be working to digitize a brand’s data environment – for example, moving from on-premise to the cloud.
  • Solve Fragmentation to Transform the Customer Experience: Today’s digital consumers expect seamless brand experiences that recognize them as individuals, however they choose to engage. But with an exponentially growing number of ways to engage with a brand, customer journeys are increasingly fragmented. Digital transformation helps address this as it drives change and delivers transformational, data-driven marketing that unlocks insight by unifying fragmented customer data across touchpoints, applications and platforms. 

Digital transformation can deliver change and impact for all organizations. From offline brands who are just starting their digital journey, through to brands who are already online but who want to learn more about their online, anonymous customers – and understand the potential to find customers more intelligently through data.

Of course, your unique company priorities, goals and objectives will inform the components and process of digital transformation. But with the right support to deliver transformation into the business, the results will be clearer insights and intelligence across the organization, highlighting exactly where and how to reduce cost, resource and waste from process – while enhancing marketing strategy, customer experience (and so sales, loyalty, brand advocacy and more).

What Does A Typical Digital Transformation Involve?

With such a broad spectrum for definition, ‘digital transformation’ has become a term used almost to the point of meaninglessness – applied by brands and vendors alike to describe any change or improvement involving digital technology. 

However, considered more holistically – especially across marketing and advertising – digital transformation should be considered as the planned evolution of data strategy and organization. Essentially, a digital transformation is a review of how brands organize their structures and staff to take advantage of hyperfast, sophisticated technology that can do more, better.

For this reason, a truly effective digital transformation involves more than the adoption of a new digital tool or two. It should be a fusion of sophisticated technology, that firstly; collects and orchestrates data, secondly; uses that data intelligently to inform the organization who collects it, and thirdly; combines technology and data insight to deliver superior, data-driven customer brand experiences.

Because of this, key areas to consider for true digital transformation include:

  • Data strategy
  • Data management, data unification and integration
  • Privacy
  • MarTech enablement , integration and optimization
  • And of course – customer experience

Should You Consider A Digital Transformation Partnership?

To achieve best results and ROI from a digital transformation, a holistic and strategic approach, that accounts for each of the above elements is what will drive success. In fact, a fragmented ecosystem, that fails to consider these points together (or only considers these areas in silos, such as new tech implementation without an effective data strategy) tends to result in underwhelming or ineffective transformation for the business.

For this reason, and because of the scale of digital transformation initiatives, many organizations consult with an expert data partner who can review, consult, optimize or implement the right elements of data-driven digital transformation at the right times.

3 / Considering the Right Goals for Organizational Data

Why Digital Transformation Now? What Objectives Are Driving Transformation?

What objectives are driving the demand for digital transformation with data today? 

If we consider the past 20-30 years, there has been an incredible amount of technological change that impacts our everyday lives. From the advent of the internet, mobile and more, transformative, evolving technology has not only changed our lives as consumers – but it is driving change from brands.

As a result, those who prioritize digital transformation are the ones who stand out; whether they’re an already-online business who need a transformation initiative to engage markets they have not previously targeted – or a traditionally offline brand who recognizes that a negative digital brand experience can be damaging for CX, loyalty, reputation and more. 

At the most basic level it’s this recognition of the need to change – a change in technologies, a change in business mindset and culture, that drives effective transformation. Understanding the opportunities that leveraging data insight can bring – to streamline, inform and integrate activity across all areas of the business – the drivers behind digital transformation are clear.

What Common Challenges Do Organizations Face that Digital Transformation Solves?

We know that the scope for digital transformation can be vast. However, common challenges that organizations may look to solve with digital transformation may be to:

Solve data fragmentation, and manage siloed data

Effective, modern customer experiences are spread across a wide variety of engagement points, platforms and channels. Customers expect brands to keep up! The onus is on the brand to recognize customers as individuals across their chosen touchpoints at any time, with the right, resonant messaging, despite paths to purchase being increasingly fragmented – the same person may visit a store, your website, engage via social channels or a newsletter, then finally purchase through an ad on a third party site – and expect a consistent experience throughout. 

Digital transformation can help to address that data fragmentation for brands and transform the customer experience – by providing the data infrastructure, strategy and technology to help brands unify, organize, orchestrate and curate their data.

Tie together on and offline data, and digitize

Most brands today – across verticals – are aware of the need to align their on and offline data, and to digitize the data environment they have – to make use of real-time capabilities, solve fragmentation and more. An initial digital transformation goal may simply be enabling the right data infrastructure and processes to move data to a digital environment – for example, moving from on-premise to the cloud.

Drive value and insight from data and MarTech

Having the right marketing technology stack – and fueling that with accurate, unsiloed, real-time data to drive informed action, is another key challenge driving digital transformation.

Increasing digitization has created more choice for consumers than ever before, and created growing volumes, velocity, variety and veracity of data. To address that vast data influx, the average organization works to manage and integrate a wide range of  MarTech platforms and applications at any one time (for Enterprise, the average can be as many as 91!). The challenge here is to ensure the right technology is in place, integrated, optimized and aligned to unlock value and not create silos. After all, even if you have the right tech and the right data, it’s hard to derive value if that data is locked up in siloed platforms!

A digital transformation can provide the MarTech support, strategy and unification across applications to integrate data, enable data clarity and inform action across the business. 

Managing, enabling and activating the data

Data management and strategy are also core challenges for many brands looking to undertake digital transformation. Knowing how to enable, activate and implement the right data, in the right places, at scale and in real time, is complex. To drive best value from their investment, many brands choose a digital data transformation partner who can analyze and advise on how best to optimize their data ecosystem and give experienced insight into the best tools and platforms a particular brand may need (for example, is a DMP or CDP really the best platform, or will a unified data data layer drive more effective results?)

How Can You Support Transformation and Build the Business Case?

Sometimes the greatest challenge with transformation is simply having the understanding and expertise to know where and how to act. It’s not enough to simply implement a new technology and hope for the best. Brands need to get to grips with data, tools, silos and understand how, where and why to adopt a digital transformation. 

They must also secure organizational buy-in and address barriers to organizational change. A move into the digital world can be a significant change to a business, especially if they are not already digital. People and organizations are the biggest challenge!

That’s where a supporting transformation partner can make all the difference; to provide a roadmap to effective data management, MarTech integration and ROI across the business. A well-planned and implemented digital transformation initiative will power a brand’s efforts to make customer experiences more personal, relevant, measurable and impactful. A solid data strategy with the right 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data in the right places provides the fuel to make it work, the intelligence to get it right and the data trail to measure the impact.

How do I know if I need a digital transformation?

Even if your organization is experiencing one or more of the challenges above, it can be hard to assess if a full digital transformation is the answer.

After all, digital transformation can mean so many things. For one brand, it may be about launching ecommerce or a mobile app. For some it could be about improving the web experience. For others, it will be about tech enabling or digitizing key business and operational processes to reduce time and cost. You may simply know that that you have a need to review and improve your data ecosystem to see greater value – the reality is that all of these things are in fact digital data transformation. 

“Although they may embrace the notion to improve CX, many companies continue to struggle to create a broad, all-encompassing strategy to embrace customers who move across digital and physical channels in journeys that are difficult to keep up with. 50% of companies are not actively digitizing their businesses with a formal strategy. In order to execute upon a formal strategy, organizations must have buy-in from all parts of the business, and that means IT priorities that are aligned with the goal of customer experience optimization.” – Adobe

4 / How Digital Transformation is a Solution to Data Fragmentation

The need to solve fragmentation and remove data silos is a key driver behind transformation initiatives. So how does digital transformation address that?

How Digital Transformation Solves Fragmentation

Facing fragmented customer engagement platforms and channels, and with fragmented marketing and data technology in place; it’s no surprise that data silos and fragmentation present a substantial challenge. 

At its core, effective transformation is about data. Whether digital or not, the goal is to implement the right strategy, technology and infrastructure to get more from data, add value to it, and use it better.

As a result, successful digital transformation leverages the best practices and digital technologies to solve fragmentation, on and offline, via a holistic approach, considering: 

Data strategy

A defined data strategy is instrumental to solving fragmentation – enabling a brand to align, validate, activate – and connect their data to unlock seamless people-based marketing. A successful data strategy brings together data, technology, analytics, strategy and delivery services for greater reach, revenue and return.

A defined data strategy works as a roadmap to connect all your data – on and offline, and defines the steps needed for advance omnichannel marketing and seamless customer engagement.

A data strategy isn’t developed by one person in a silo. In any organization, there are numerous stakeholders with questions and needs who deserve input… Your company’s overall objectives and the needs of the people who “run the ship” should form the basis of your data strategy. When you formulate strategy first, the types of tools and data you need become clear.

Data management, data unification and integration

A core way to break down data silos and solve fragmentation across on and offline is with a unified data layer (UDL)

In fact, the data layer is typically the place where most digital transformations fall apart. It is therefore critically important to build a solid data strategy and foundation as part of your digital transformation plan. 

Implemented in conjunction with a data strategy, a UDL is an open, trusted data framework that creates an omnichannel view of customers and connects MarTech and adtech ecosystems. 

Identity resolution

Recognizing a unique individual across any and all marketing channels is key to tackling fragmentation and delivering a seamless customer experience.

A digital transformation that considers identity resolution, identity management, matching and  management, enables brands to master identity across their MarTech and adtech ecosystems. That means they can bring fragmented data together to accurately identify, recognize and connect with consumers – at any time, across any channel or location and deliver exceptional experiences.

MarTech enablement, integration, optimization, and implementation

When it comes to fragmentation, siloed marketing technology presents a substantial challenge. Digital transformations work to unlock the true ROI of marketing technologies, to review and integrate marketing technology tools and partnerships, to prevent siloed platforms, identify wasted media spend, and determine best places to re-invest for improved marketing

 

Keep in mind that tools or platforms don’t automatically make an effective digital data strategy. Just because you have potential transformative tech in the business, doesn’t mean it will automatically deliver results! To unlock results and remove platform fragmentation, you need a holistic transformation view to identify where the right tech is needed, fed with the right unified unsiloed data and dovetailed with a clear data strategy.

Privacy consideration/ ethics

Resolving fragmentation requires multiple considerations, from customer journey mapping, to data privacy and governance. Effective transformations must also optimize and account for governance, legislation, data privacy and more.

Removing Organizational Silos

Data silos are a result of multiple fragmented channels, and multiple MarTech applications and integrations within a business. A considered, holistic digital transformation initiative can remove silos to unlock benefits across the business, increasing ROI and transforming data strategy to provide a unified insight for intelligent action across the business – and seamless customer experience.

However, even the best planned digital transformation initiatives can stall in the face of organizational silos. While digital transformation and enhancing customer experience are priorities for most organizations, the stakeholder (most likely in the marketing or IT teams) will rarely have control over all of the areas of the business needed to drive true impact. As a result, it’s tempting for CMOs/CIOs to focus on quick or short wins, rather than driving for a long-term plan, and effective transformation across the whole business. 

A transformation partner can help build the business case and push for a true rather than siloed transformation – across the wider organization. 

“Aside from lacking a formal strategy, there are many other barriers to digital transformation: overcoming organizational silos, the complexity of legacy applications, and caution about the security of sensitive data are only a few.

When facing this level of complexity, businesses must rely on partners that are experts in each area, who can plan and execute the integration of applications, digitize workflows, and give a long-term plan to gain digital maturity.”

5 / Matching Digital and Offline Data

So where does data sit within digital transformation?

A key objective of digital transformation is to solve the challenge of siloed data, and tie together online and offline. 

Put simply, data is the fuel that powers transformation. Well-managed, unsiloed customer data, that has been enriched and activated, is an asset that can drive change across an enterprise. Transforming how data is collected, orchestrated, activated and ultimately used for measurement, is another central objective of digital transformation.

Forming a structured data strategy and assessing if any existing data strategies are still fit for purpose is key. Considerations to take into account are:

  •  What data do you have
  • What data are you collecting
  • How do you use that data?
  • What does the data tell you about your customers (and your customer experience!)
  • What data are you missing (based on what you don’t know, because the data isn’t good enough)
  • And lastly, what data do you want, that you don’t already have?

Once an organisation is able to answer this – or acknowledge that they are unable to address these points – they will be better prepared to start a digital transformation initiative. 

Getting online and offline right at the data layer is the best way to prevent digital transformation initiatives from stalling. Only once the data is unified, integrated, orchestrated and activated on and offline, can organizations unlock clear insight and maximize their transformation investment.

Digital and Offline Attribution

Attribution is of course a core element when considering on and offline. Frequently, you have offline attribution modelling and online in terms of digital channels. Here it’s important that attribution is enabled across the digital/online and the offline landscape. 

A digital transformation initiative should lead to, or enable, better attribution modelling across both environments.

6 / How Customer Expectations are Driving Digital Transformation

Customer Experience or Digital Transformation?

As consumers move into ever-digital spaces, and adopt increasingly varied channels and technologies, they expect the brands they engage with to keep up! 

Brand who are active on the right channels, at the right times and who can recognize individual consumer needs – then engage accordingly – will be those who win out, deliver the best customer experience and secure loyalty.

Yet to achieve that seamless customer experience that meets customer expectations, organizations must first have the infrastructure in place to support it.

This means that while improving customer experience is often high on the strategic agenda; digital transformation and technology evolution must be prioritized first. Without having the right unified data in place, or removing fragmentations and silos from martech, it’s incredibly hard to deliver on customer expectations and create a seamless customer experience.

The impact of effective digital transformation on the customer experience are wide reaching. A considered initiative, supported by the right data and infrastructure can:

  • Remove friction from the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle to improve customer satisfaction and drive brand preference.
  • Make it easier for consumers to buy from, and interact with a brand, resulting in increased brand transactions, average order value and increased ROI.
  • Enable an organization to synchronize and personalize the customer experience in rea-ltime, across touchpoints. And as a result, foster brand affinity and drive sales.
  • Unlock customer experience at the data layer; optimizing the data, tech stack and insight needed to drive action and results at scale. 

Managing Organizational Expectations

Of course it’s not only customers’ expectations of a brand that need to be considered. It’s worth noting that to be effective, a digital transformation must manage the expectations of the organization itself. People and the organization can be the biggest blockers to transformation success!

Securing buy-in and accountability from the wider team is crucial, so to drive success long-term:

  • Align objectives within business silos to enable people to see the value. 
  • Make the wider team responsible for aligned metrics. When everybody is reviewed using the same criteria you develop a culture of cooperation.

Many organizations have short attention spans, and will be looking for quick wins from a transformation initiative. However, as the wider reaching benefits to customer experience may take time to deliver measurable impact, make sure everyone across the business understands the roadmap to transformation – from objectives, to drivers, to goals and crucially, timescales. 

Different job roles may have different controls over how to enhance customer experience. Web teams and designers will have a different approach than the marketing team, or the operations team. But enabling that cooperation culture – as well as understanding which tools and data can help you to get there, is key. 

Getting transformation right requires the business to have the financial strength and executive sponsorship to keep investing through the timescale required for transformation to delivery. If the business is struggling financially, this will be one of the first strategies to be cut.

Digital Transformation Use Cases in Action

As we’ve outlined, there are substantial, organization-wide benefits to implementing a digital transformation. 

But what use cases are pushing for change? 

Across industries and verticals, common drivers behind a digital transformation are to improve.

  • Data quality and completeness – to turn data into insights
  • Identity management and privacy – to put the customer at the core
  • Targeting and segmentation – to reach the right audiences in the right places
  • Organizational process and tech – for faster, streamlined, more intelligent action
  • Personalization – to deliver greater customer experience across the right touchpoints

Digital Transformation in Retail

So how can a digital transformation work in practice for a specific industry? Let’s see how digital transformation can impact retail.

Retail is a particularly fast-changing industry. We’ve all heard about the ‘retail apocalypse’;  that digital is taking over, and brick and mortar stores are dead. But in reality, we know high street retail is not going away. Instead, the role of the store in the buyer journey is changing, evolving – and increasingly fragmenting across channels and touchpoints. 

There are also multiple new technologies enabling innovation and change in retail. From VR to AR, forward thinking retail brands are the ones who can stay ahead of the curve.

As a result, many retail brands are aware of the importance of digital transformation, stating:

“We’re traditionally offline, but know we need to transform online to access those audiences and deliver a better customer experience”

Or,

“We’re online, but know we need to improve and streamline our digital presence.”

Of course, every transformation initiative is different. No two brands are the same. But, some common elements of a digital transformation for a retail organisation might include:

  • Omnichannel Customer Identity: Knowing who the customer is wherever and whenever they engage with your brand.
  • Omnichannel Customer Experience: Making it easier for the customer at every stage of the buyer journey including researching, shopping, buying, receiving, using and returning products.
  • Real-Time Personalization: Making each interaction with the brand contextually relevant and personally meaningful.
  • Multitouch Attribution: Identifying which engagement points, content, offers, and interactions are most impactful to the customer experience.
  • New customer acquisition: Effectively and efficiently acquiring profitable new customers who become loyal to the brand.
  • Existing customer loyalty and retention: Engaging with customers in ways that keep them coming back for repeat purchases, build loyalty, and generate increased margins.

In line with the unique remit of each digital transformation initiative, KPIs and goals will also differ. Common goals and aspects are likely to generate more conversions, greater ROI, seamless CX, and a greater customer experience. 

While the scale of a digital transformation may seem overwhelming, it’s important to keep in mind that starting the process is the most important step. True transformation is a constant process of continuous improvement – with the right support, data insight and infrastructure in place, you’ll be able to keep pace and deliver!

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