How Brands Can Achieve a Customer-Centric Digital Transformation

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In today’s digital age, the pressure is on for brands to provide the latest technology to keep up with the developing expectations of their customers.

Take IKEA’s IKEA Place app, for example, which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to help users preview IKEA furniture in their homes. The app is said to be 98% accurate in scale, so users never have to worry about bringing a tape measure furniture shopping again.

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As consumers increasingly shop, learn, communicate and entertain themselves on a digital level, it leaves brands with few options other than to adopt new technologies or risk becoming obsolete. But as this shift rapidly occurs, some brands may feel pressured and adopt technology that is neither valuable or adequate for their customers, or avoid joining the digital transformation wave at all.

Brands must put their customers at the center of their digital transformations for them to be successful -- they can’t be innovative for the sake of being innovative. Amazon, for example, brought a whole new meaning to the words “self-checkout” with its cashier-less Amazon Go stores, but at first, it made customers feel uncomfortable. In the end, listening to their customers throughout every step of the journey made the transformation more seamless as time went on.

As Amazon prepares to open new stores in San Francisco and Chicago, the company must continue this strategic process, and other brands must do the same when driving transformation within their own businesses. Here’s how they can get started:

How to Achieve a Customer-Centric Digital Transformation

Every transformation requires strategy.

As brands adopt technology like AR, mobile payments and beyond, consumers begin seeing these advancements as the norm. The idea that one company has the capacity to provide seamless and efficient technology is enough to create the expectation that every company is capable.

But digital transformation isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses. Before rushing to implement the next new and flashy technology, brands must develop a well-thought-out strategy that keeps the end customer top of mind. This strategy shouldn’t require a dramatic shift within an organization, either -- instead, brands need to take time to properly integrate digital into an existing strategy or risk wasting time and resources implementing tech consumers won’t utilize.

Take retail giant Walmart, for example, which recently rolled back its Scan and Go program. Scan and Go was Walmart’s version of a cashier-less checkout that allowed customers to scan products while shopping and pay their bill via a special mobile app. Despite its innovative and convenient concept, Walmart decided to drop the program due to lack of customer use.

Although Walmart’s Scan and Go was likely a rapid response to Amazon’s cashier-less stores, the elimination of the technology isn’t necessarily a loss for Walmart. Digital transformation is an ongoing journey of testing and learning, not a single destination. Walmart can take this opportunity to strategize and determine what its customers see as necessary in terms of technology.

Keep customers at the forefront.

No matter what kind of technology a company is hoping to implement, its customers must be at the forefront of its strategy. Consumers will no longer wait for companies to “get it,” and companies that fail to understand their customers’ expectations quickly enough will face Digital Darwinism: a phenomenon that says technology and society will begin evolving faster than a brand’s ability to adapt.

The businesses that equip themselves with the tools to keep up with advancements but also factor in customer feedback will survive. Without Voice of Customer (VoC) technology, brands often wrongfully assume their customers’ expectations.

By using unique voice of customer solutions, brands can capture customer feedback and interactions, transform them into role-specific insights, and develop customer experience improvements. Once aligned with customers’ expectations, brands will then see that today’s consumers remain loyal to the companies that are also providing positive and memorable experiences. The best companies provide these memorable experience by creating genuine connections, identifying new markets and steadily increasing their digital literacy.

Take Southwest Airlines, for example, which has spent nearly five decades building a reputation on superior customer experience. Unlike many other airlines, Southwest offers a variety of perks including free checked bags and no flight change fees, but the airline was once known for being slow to adopt new technology. In the name of its customers, the airline invested $500 million in a new and improved reservation system in 2017. The new system came equipped with new capabilities that were once exclusive to competitor airlines.

Southwest’s dedication to the customer experience hardly goes unnoticed, though. The company has had 45 consecutive years of profitability and can count on its customers to stay loyal to its brand, even in the aftermaths of unfortunate tragedies.

As brands like Walmart and Southwest continue to make inevitable digital transformations, they’ll benefit the most when they follow a strategic, customer-centric approach. Digital transformation is not about disturbing current efforts or practicing innovation for the sake of being novel.

To properly drive a successful digital transformation, a brand must delve deep into their customers’ insights to see where time and resources will be best invested. Only then will they conquer digital Darwinism.

To learn more, read about customer journey thinking next.

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