I wonder at what point we’ll be able to just use the word ‘transformation’ without the ‘digital’ preface? After all, how many innovations are analogue-driven at this point? Maybe it’s us. Maybe, even though we talk the talk when it comes to a digital-first mindset, in reality, we’re still struggling with the follow-through. Or, even worse, going in headfirst without any real thought of strategy.
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Digital transformation is more than just updating technology and processes; it needs to secure the longevity of the business. Few CEOs are ignorant of this. In 2019, Accenture surveyed 1,350 senior executives across a range of industries and found that between 2016 and 2018, these companies had spent over $100bn scaling digital innovations to drive new experiences. It’s an impressive investment, only marred by the fact that 78 per cent then struggled to reach expected earnings as a result.
The learning here? Digital transformation is hard to get right. There is a stark difference between understanding what needs to be done and actually delivering something that meets advertiser KPIs, exceeds consumer expectations and, most crucially, doesn’t infringe on anyone’s privacy.
There are brands that have succeeded well in this area. Hasbro, the toy and game manufacturer, now combines video, social and digital storytelling to better understand and anticipate its consumers’ needs. Microsoft, once lagging behind more innovative competitors like Apple and Amazon, pivoted to create a more forward-focused cloud business, building relationships with other technology companies and earning a $1 trillion market cap
as a result.
Then you have Nike, a company that uses design and brand to digitally connect its products to a community of people. Over the past few years, it has doubled down on data analytics, updated its e-commerce strategy and created stronger digital marketing campaigns, helping its direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales account for an estimated 33.1 per cent of revenues in 2020.
It’s true that not everyone has the resources that the big guys do (Hasbro increased its ad spend by 1,100 per cent) but in terms of what they did and how they went about it, there are lessons to be learned here.
Firstly, we need to recognise the importance of data. It is still underserved in this market. Data fatigue is also very real, especially now it has punctured the consumer consciousness, causing people to ‘opt out’ at every turn. Thank you, Apple. Beyond the cookie conversation, there is so much more to say and do with data. It’s not static. It is constantly evolving. It needs to be managed and optimised for it to perform at its best. Every business should be data-fluent to compete at scale.
Secondly, let’s enhance the experiences we offer. Technology is the cornerstone of most things today; however, we still need to understand the value of this beyond using it as a quick pathway to virality or sales. McDonald’s is often overlooked when we talk about transformation, but it was quick to recognise that an increase in the competition meant a change in tactics was required.
Its investments in personalisation tech startup Dynamic Yield (AI-powered technology for real-time personalisation of menus for drive-thru) and conversational AI startup Apprente (helps to power mobile ordering) shows how it has put consumer experience high on the agenda. It’s paid off too. In 2020 McDonald’s was the most valuable fast food brand in the world.
Lastly, consider brand affinity over sales as the first priority. I browse my phone multiple times a day looking for engaging content. I’m looking for a brand that can weave a compelling narrative into its offering; one that makes me want to invest my time (already at a premium) into finding out more. Making a connection is powerful. Emotions resonate. Storytelling is an important part of the marketer’s toolkit.
TikTok recently published research by a neuro analytics firm that looked at emotional response measurement on its platform. It suggested that TikTok ads are more likely to drive purchase response based on key triggers, and when compared against all other video-based media, it came out on top for higher-detail memory. Immersive experience. Personalised content. The joy of discovery. It’s so much better than the hard sell.
It’s easy to get caught up with the idea of transformation. It sounds good. It’s exciting leading your team into the unknown, forging the next stage of company growth together. It’s terrifying too. But everything starts and ends with purpose; why we want to change. Market conditions can only dictate so much; mindset is what will ultimately decide if you fail or succeed. To me, experience is the first word in marketing today. Data a close second. Our job is to make sure we deliver both to ensure value and ROI where it matters most.