Cutting Through The BS - Why The Digital Transformation Narrative Lets Businesses Down

02 Jul, 2021

In an industry that’s littered with buzzwords, perhaps the marketers favourite of current is “Digital Transformation”.  Despite the exorbitant use of this term, it appears to be as though there is no clear definition on what “Digital Transformation” actually means for marketing, says Damien Bennett, Global Director, Product Strategy + Growth at Incubeta.

 Read one article and it will tell you that it is all about people, read another and it will tell you it’s about technology.  If I was a CEO or CMO I'd be very confused, and I would struggle to know where to start.

Here’s the truth, the people that talk about digital transformation the most are salespeople.  To give them their credit, it’s a super-smart sales tool - it creates urgency and rather than selling one specific service it enables you to sell a whole multitude of services.  The problem is that digital transformation suggests that businesses require a fundamental change to everything that they do, and most don’t.  A good proportion of so-called “transformation projects” fail for this reason, because they end up disrupting areas that already worked well.

As a somewhat cynical digital marketer, I have become increasingly perturbed by the advice that is given to businesses by agencies, media-owners, consultancies and technology-vendors.  These companies are pushing businesses in the wrong direction, and the result is often that things are left in a worse state than they were in before.

I am in no way arguing that digital is not important to the future growth of most companies, of course it is.  But digital should be used to amplify what is already great about the business - it shouldn’t be about “digital transformation” , it should be about “digital augmentation”.

With this in mind businesses need to focus on the areas that will actually move the needle on their business performance.  Rather than trying to transform everything, they should focus on specific areas that will enable them to achieve material growth.  In other words it is better to do a few things really well than a lot of things badly.

All businesses are different but there are a few digital strategies that I have seen be almost universally successful for the businesses that we work with.  The first of these is to use the opportunities presented by digital to upgrade creative assets.  Too many businesses still think of their creative in traditional terms, this means they end up with static assets that miss all of the opportunities for interactivity that digital provides.  In our tests we see interactive assets perform 10 times better than their static counterparts.

The second strategy of successful businesses is to integrate their business data with their marketing.  This means, for example, that marketing activity can be automatically adjusted based on current stock levels (why put investment behind a product that is going to sell out anyway?), price competitiveness or availability.  Integrating your business data into your marketing strategy makes spending far more efficient, it enables businesses to invest in the areas that need it the most.

Finally, the most successful businesses that we work with have a clear and accurate understanding of what’s working and what isn’t.  Whilst digital marketing has become more measurable, many businesses still only have a basic understanding of performance - knowing the total sales figure driven by initiatives but not much else.  The problem with this is that the total sales figure only tells you a small part of the story.  For example, for most businesses the value of acquiring a customer for the first time is much greater than driving sales from returning customers.  At a minimum businesses should put pressure on their reporting to tell them not only how many sales they drove, but who these sales were from, how they were made and what product was purchased.  Better measurement drives better decision making and, in my experience, those that have a more informed view drive significantly better results.

The opportunities that exist will of course vary massively by company.  But business leaders would be wise to cut through some of the BS in the digital transformation narrative and focus on the digital strategies that are actually going to make a difference for their business.

Want to learn more? Damien Bennett will be taking to the ‘Brand Innovation’ stage on Day 1 of this year's MAD//Fest London to talk all about digital strategies that make a difference.

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