WTF is Digital Transformation?

Blog | 31 Aug, 2017

Modern technology has turned traditional marketing on its head. Unsure how to keep up, organizations everywhere are asking: how does a brand survive in the age of the customer? The answer is digital transformation. But what exactly does that mean?

Katie Cowie from Accenture, joined Jellyfish’s A View on Programmatic event in NYC to explain.

What is Digital Transformation?

The term digital transformation is a bit misleading. It’s not actually digital at all. It’s the response to digital. More specifically, it’s the response to the unbelievable volume of consumption that digital has created. 

Digital Transformation requires organizations to change how they:

  • Identify, source, and manage talent
  • Choose and integrate systems and technology
  • Create and market products

In short, it's changing everything a company has ever known how to do, and that's where the transformation piece of the term is actually accurate.

Why is this even happening?

In a word: connectivity. Internet accessibility on mobile devices has been more transformative than the internet itself, and that’s because of the information availability that it introduced to the world. Connected devices allow us to access any information we desire anytime, anywhere. 

We never stop consuming. More importantly, we expect that we won’t have to. 

Thanks to limitless information availability, we’ve come to expect instant gratification and personalization in all of our transactions. We also know that information availability means to us- as customers, as employees, as individuals- that we have the power of choice.

This is where organizations are getting into trouble.

If we as consumers don’t receive what we want as quickly as we’re getting it from elsewhere, we move on. 

Consumers value adventure, not things. 

What do consumers want?

We used to value things because they were hard to acquire. Now, time is hard to come by because we’re always connected in this information age. For brands, experiences need to be top of mind. Shoppers are looking for fantastic buying experiences.

How does your brand foster a positive customer experience?

Hint: not product availability or competitive pricing. Big box shops like Walmart and online giants like Amazon have driven all of that down with economies of scale. We're now at the bottom of the price floor, and most retailers have similar store locations and product sets.

What’s left to compete on is the interaction itself- the human experience. To win our customers’ business, we must cater to their feelings.

This leads us to personalized experiences. 

How do you actually do that?

Organizations only have two options to stay relevant in this space. You can either be a fast follower or you can create new capabilities.

Change the capital planning cycle

 What used to operate on five-year plans, that has now changed to five months, and even that might even be long. Realistically, we need to re-evaluate on a quarterly basis. 

Reposition products

Marketing used to be 30% positioning your great product, and 70% shouting about it. Today, that dynamic has shifted to 70% positioning and delivering on experiences, and only 30% shouting about it. And you can't shout about personalization because that would be really, really creepy. 

Repositioning isn’t exclusively digital, however. You might need to invest in personalization technology for your digital media, but you might also need to overhaul trainings for employees in the field who interact directly with your customers. Likewise, you might need to invest in internal tools for better workflow and collaboration. 

Value employees

Surprise, they're humans too. From a people perspective, digital transformation involves working though cultural, leadership, training, and workflow changes. 

The Smart Creative

Another product of the information age is the “smart creative” concept. Organizations were previously built around “knowledge workers,” or employees who had either deep technical expertise or strategic backgrounds, but never both. The value employees offered was information, and that information flowed up.

Today, we have a workforce that was raised to question everything because information availability allowed them to seek out the answers themselves. What that created was a whole group of people who can think both technically and strategically. This is the smart creative.

The value smart creatives provide to an organization is creative thinking, or the ability to process information. This has created an interesting new dynamic where information can- and should- flow freely inside an organization.

Culture Shift

Today, we're paying people to think, not to know. Personalized experiences are powered by integrated and ever-changing technology, which is powered by employees. 

More information must be shared with employees farther down the funnel in order to continuously adapt and improve products and services, which is a concept that many seasoned C-Suite executives have trouble with.

Evolve Recruiting

Organizations should prioritize finding and retaining these smart creatives who are capable of leveraging new combinations of new and existing data to produce the best possible products.

More importantly, smart creative talent can build those products to produce more data, which they in turn use to develop even better personalized experiences for your customers. That is how you differentiate and win against your competitors. That is the value of the smart creative.

Where to begin?

There are three ways you can start making an impact today:

  • Find your customer data, get it in order, and then find out ways to generate more

This is partly an internal task. It requires breaking down traditional silos, finding out where your data exists, how it's categorized, how it’s captured, and what format it's captured in. As you dig into your data, you may find unexpected ties to other aspects of the business such as product, technology, or training. Explore those connections and embrace where changes should be made.

  • Work with your agency partners to build a campaign structure that will flow data back through your systems

There's lots of different ways to generate more data. If you're working with Google, for example, you can send data into their cloud and use Ads Data Hub to find information about what those people are doing on the Google properties. 

  • Start asking your leadership about their formal transformation agenda

This is important. There is no one cut-and-dried roadmap to successful digital transformation. However, there are pieces that we can pull from other companies. Bringing in outside consulting teams from companies like Accenture can help identify improvements as you work through each part of your business. 

Start asking questions

You as an individual can also take advantage of information accessibility to help your organization navigate it.  Just keep asking why. "Why are we doing this? Why are you asking me for this set of information? Why did we capture the data this way? Why are we doing this?"

Keep asking those questions, keep researching, and keep looking for ways to make things better. That will organically start to shift culture internally as well, and it will make people more comfortable with trying to figure out better ways to solve problems.

Prior to joining Accenture, Katie led the digital transformation at Lowe’s as they worked with Jellyfish to transition their digital team over to the DoubleClick stack. 

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