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Digital transformation: The 5 steps to success – by Nader Bitar

In Covid-19 times, businesses need to monitor, adapt and experiment online, but always remain authentic, says Nader Bitar, Deputy GM, MMPWW

Nader Bitar, Deputy GM, MMPWW

We love to use jargon in our industry, don’t we? Most of the time it’s just the habitual way we choose to communicate, but this is particularly true when it comes to ‘digital transformation’. Alongside ‘programmatic’, this term divides people like no other. Some companies will have pivoted early and made changes quickly, while others will have lagged behind upgrading their infrastructure and reskilling their teams. I don’t need to tell you how badly they will be functioning right now.

You see there’s talking about transformation and then there’s having transformation forced upon you. Hello Covid-19. Companies who have so far been oblivious or ambivalent about the need to adapt digitally have found themselves in unfamiliar territory as the rest of the world adapts to life in lockdown.

Transitioning to a digital-first enterprise isn’t usually done overnight, yet that’s what businesses have faced in the wake of this global pandemic. Most will have wanted to make the leap earlier, but lack of knowledge, fear of risk, or a significant talent gap will have hindered progress. However, in a post Covid-19 world, everyone is going to need to adapt. No excuses. No exceptions. Because, make no mistake, it’s getting harder out there. Budgets are getting cut, investments put on hold to save money. If businesses are making any changes, then they are looking internally first.

A regional survey released by the IAB confirms this kind of thinking – at least in the short term. Figures indicate an immediate downturn, as 48 per cent of respondents have already seen up to 30 per cent budget cuts for the month of April, however those surveyed also expected audience and programmatic targeting to increase, up 52 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.  Interestingly, data collated from GlobalWebIndex indicated that consumers don’t actually want brands to stop advertising , with nearly four in 10 US respondents agreeing with this sentiment.

Of course there are challenges right now, but there are also opportunities and companies should take advantage of this massive pivot to online amidst self-isolation. A crisis has a way of bringing out the best and worst in us, but economically speaking, this is a fight for survival and by securing your company’s digital future, you’re already halfway there.


Here’s the 5 Basic Steps To Digital Transformation…

  1. Actually Define Digital Transformation: This will mean something different to everyone, but now is the time to identify what this actually means for your business. It’s more than just knowing the strengths and weaknesses of MS Teams, Zoom and Skype for your online meeting; this is about asking businesses to assess and rethink their offering with a digital-first mindset. Agility will be key. Resilience too, because everything has been accelerated with Covid-19’s impact, and there is little time to stand still. Companies should be asking how they can serve and create value for the end consumer in a digital capacity right now.
  2. Follow Your Audience: If they’re on social media, then go there. The consumer mood is constantly shifting inline with daily developments, but overwhelmingly, they are looking to their favored brands to provide some escapism and normality. Advertising has taken a kicking in the past for being mass market and irrelevant, but with the advancement of programmatic and so many data points at our disposal, hyper-personalization is not only possible, but expected at this point. E-commerce is going to boom even more as the world stays inside and shops online. There’s always an opportunity if you are smart and bold enough to look for it.
  3. Spend Wisely, Not Frugally: “’Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful” – Warren Buffett. I like this quote because when times are tough, the easy option is to retreat, cut back or stop spending altogether. However, nothing lasts forever and when things return to some level of normality, this drought of communication with your consumers will be remembered. Something is better than nothing. Honesty is better than silence. Invest your time and money where your message can be heard best, and remember: every brand and budget is different, so do what’s right for you, not your competitors.
  4. Get Creative: Forget ‘business as usual’ – now is the time to unleash every creative instinct you’ve ever had. Create a quiz, utilize Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) in your advertising, or personalize and tailor using new and innovative formats. Some brands have been quick to adopt new messaging, like Nike with their “Play inside, play for the world” challenge, whilst Honda worked to promote the #StayHome directive with a new advert written, directed and edited entirely at home. And let’s not forget IKEA turning its famous catalogue into a workbook for bored children – amusing and practical. Your communication needs to stand out from the noise, so think value, not volume.
  5. Leverage What Works, But Monitor The Trends: According to data from App Annie, people on Android are spending 20% more time on apps in Q1 2020 compared to Q4 2019, with TikTok holding its spot at the top of the lockdown chart. The increased focus on video has also led Facebook and Instagram to upgrade their features to capitalize on user needs. You should review new platforms that are gaining traction, but consider if they make sense for your brand and what you want to communicate. IGTV Live has seen a boost in recent weeks, but that doesn’t automatically justify your presence there. Monitor, adapt and experiment, but always remain authentic.