How To use Digital Transformation to Answer Customer Questions

by John Watton

Posted on 09-05-2018

You and I know instinc­tive­ly when the econ­o­my is good or when it’s tough. As con­sumers we make the best eco­nom­ic fore­cast­ers. While econ­o­mists con­stant­ly need to adjust their fore­casts, often point­ing to “unusu­al” mar­ket behav­iour as the rea­son for an inac­cu­rate pre­dic­tion, it’s con­sumer pur­chas­ing habits that should be tak­en as the most accu­rate barometer.

That’s because our spend­ing deci­sions are large­ly dri­ven by instinct – we buy more when times are good, and save when times are bad.

Real change is some­thing you feel com­ing, and our intu­ition makes us high­ly attuned to this. Yet, despite being made up of thou­sands of peo­ple, busi­ness­es still hes­i­tate to trust their instincts. Estab­lished com­pa­nies in par­tic­u­lar need some sort of sign, be it from hard data analy­sis or an exter­nal dri­ver, to jus­ti­fy a change in the way they work.

Hard data is valu­able, but it will only rein­force what they already know. As for an exter­nal sign, this is often the indi­ca­tor that your com­pa­ny is already too far behind.

The dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion that is reshap­ing indus­tries from retail to bank­ing is as much down to inno­v­a­tive chal­lengers as it is to estab­lished play­ers stand­ing still. Brands need to accept real­i­ty and make the most of their advan­ta­geous mar­ket posi­tion before it’s too late.

Wait­ing is no longer an option. Just as we as con­sumers have a sixth sense about our eco­nom­ic health, trans­for­ma­tion is some­thing com­pa­nies can see hap­pen­ing all around them. The real­i­ties of today’s mar­ket are impos­si­ble to deny, even if the num­bers are up for debate. Evolve or become obso­lete; that’s the only jus­ti­fi­ca­tion an organ­i­sa­tion needs to adapt.

What does change look like?

It’s one thing to say you need to change, but where to start? Many small chal­lenger brands will have seen a gap in the mar­ket and made it their mis­sion to fill it with a new prod­uct or ser­vice, but for estab­lished brands it’s not always clear what needs to change.

The first step is to lis­ten. Change may be an inter­nal imper­a­tive but it needs to be informed by what your cus­tomers want. New tech­nolo­gies, new hires and new struc­tures will have lim­it­ed val­ue unless you under­stand your audi­ence and their needs. From that, a busi­ness can focus its efforts, bring­ing struc­ture to its dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion strategy.

In my expe­ri­ence, there are three ques­tions every com­pa­ny should ask itself to improve its lev­el of cus­tomer understanding

#1 Do we have the data and process­es in place to accu­rate­ly pro­file our customers?

A data-cen­tric approach to cus­tomers needs to be the bedrock of your busi­ness. This isn’t news – we’ve been hear­ing about the val­ue of ana­lyt­ics for years – but many com­pa­nies are still strug­gling to col­lect and work with big data in a mean­ing­ful way.

Some­times that’s because indi­vid­ual depart­ments have been col­lect­ing data to serve their own needs over the years, cre­at­ing silos of infor­ma­tion across the busi­ness. Oth­er times, this infor­ma­tion is col­lect­ed in a vari­ety of for­mats, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to com­pare and com­bine it with any sense of consistency.

Most often, both of these issues hold com­pa­nies back. Brands may col­lect enor­mous piles of high­ly valu­able data but most of it sits idle because they don’t have the means to turn it into insight that can inform action.

That’s why many of the busi­ness­es we work with have made it a pri­or­i­ty to cen­tralise their data onto a sin­gle plat­form. DER Touris­tik, one of Germany’s lead­ing trav­el mer­chants, is using Adobe Ana­lyt­ics to gain a com­plete view of cus­tomer activ­i­ty across all its dig­i­tal and offline channels.

That means that even if a cus­tomer brows­es trav­el deals on one web­site, looks at hotels on anoth­er, clicks on a newslet­ter link, and speaks with a cus­tomer ser­vice agent about their trav­el plans, DER Touris­tik can bring data from all these inter­ac­tions togeth­er into a sin­gle cus­tomer record and tai­lor its cus­tomer expe­ri­ences to each person’s preferences

#2 Do we have the tech­nolo­gies and skillsets to make the most of our cus­tomer data?

There is no way around it. To sur­vive in today’s mar­ket, your com­pa­ny needs to be world class in its abil­i­ty to use data to deliv­er incred­i­ble dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences. This is not a tech­no­log­i­cal issue. It’s a skills one, and an abil­i­ty that is dri­ven by your organ­i­sa­tion­al culture.

As a cul­tur­al advan­tage, a data-dri­ven approach starts with your company’s lead­er­ship. From the board­room through to man­agers, there needs to be a col­lec­tive vision for the busi­ness and what it will take to get there. You might not have the right peo­ple and process­es in place today, but with a clear goal you can begin to reshape your work­force and sys­tems to get on the right path.

Vision comes first. From that, you can turn to get­ting the right peo­ple and process­es in place. This men­tal­i­ty makes com­pa­nies more focused in their approach to data, har­ness­ing their abil­i­ty to inno­vate quickly.

Con­sid­er Swiss­com, Switzerland’s lead­ing tele­coms provider. The com­pa­ny serves 6.6 mil­lion mobile cus­tomers in a coun­try of 8 mil­lion cit­i­zens, a com­mand of the mar­ket it’s main­tained by nev­er rest­ing on its lau­rels. Today, this com­mit­ment to inno­va­tion is about doing more with data.

Swiss­com need­ed a more con­sis­tent and respon­sive approach to tar­get­ing cus­tomers. With that focus in mind, it began work­ing with Adobe Expe­ri­ence Man­ag­er to cen­tralise its con­tent. Soon after, Swiss­com grad­u­at­ed to a deep­er under­stand­ing of how peo­ple inter­act with its web­site, and today it uses advanced AI algo­rithms to opti­mise the dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence for each customer.

#3 Are we just deliv­er­ing prod­ucts or ser­vices, or are we deliv­er­ing com­plete experiences?

The mis­take many busi­ness­es make is that they use data to ratio­nalise exist­ing ways of work­ing, rather than see­ing how they should be working.

Set­ting aside our late night pur­chas­es of milk or bread at the cor­ner shop, peo­ple don’t just buy prod­ucts or ser­vices any­more, they buy expe­ri­ences. And com­pa­nies who sim­ply use their data to deliv­er the same old mes­sage are quick­ly real­is­ing this is no longer enough.

Mar­keters are no longer in con­trol, mov­ing peo­ple through a lin­ear sales fun­nel at their own pace. Instead, cus­tomers con­trol the expe­ri­ence, inter­act­ing with brands through a range of chan­nels and plat­forms with no clear path to purchase.

This cre­ates a chaot­ic web of inter­ac­tions and the only way to stay front of mind in this chaos is to deliv­er an expe­ri­ence that is con­sis­tent and rel­e­vant across all con­sumer access points.

Audi­ence tar­get­ing has become par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing in this envi­ron­ment. The world’s num­ber one bat­tery brand, Dura­cell, has been work­ing with Adobe to adapt its pro­gram­mat­ic strat­e­gy to serve a dig­i­tal cus­tomer base. Dura­cell faces the addi­tion­al chal­lenge that it doesn’t sell direct­ly to con­sumers, mak­ing it even more cru­cial that their ad buy­ing deci­sions are rel­e­vant and deliv­er value.

Duracell’s Head of Dig­i­tal, Jon Ones, likened this chal­lenge to sky div­ing, say­ing, “You don’t want to pull your shoot too ear­ly, but if you pull it too late, you die”. A bit dra­mat­ic per­haps, but it’s true that tim­ing and fre­quen­cy are as impor­tant when it comes to serv­ing ads as the con­tent itself.

With Adobe’s Demand Side Plat­form, Dura­cell has gained the insights it needs to help make its con­tent more view­able and ensure it res­onates with the right peo­ple with­out turn­ing them off. Cru­cial­ly, Dura­cell can also mea­sure its per­for­mance and opti­mise its deliv­ery mod­el based on how peo­ple inter­act with its adverts.

Across every indus­try, brands are los­ing touch with their audi­ence because of an abil­i­ty to deliv­er dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences that cater to how cus­tomers research and make pur­chas­es today.

We keep hear­ing about the retail­ers suck­er-punched by online-only dis­rup­tors, sub­scrip­tion ser­vices and the Ama­zon effect, but the same is true in hos­pi­tal­i­ty, bank­ing, tele­coms –every indus­try that is mak­ing the tran­si­tion to digital.

Brands have no choice but to trans­form when con­front­ed with dis­rup­tion on such a large scale. The com­pe­ti­tion has been quick to cap­i­talise on their stag­na­tion and it will only be more dif­fi­cult to play catch-up once these small play­ers carve out a larg­er por­tion of the market.

It might be tempt­ing to wait for a pos­i­tive eco­nom­ic fore­cast, but con­di­tions are chang­ing too quick­ly and instinct needs to take over. There is a place for play­ing it safe, but the time has come to make a leap.

To learn more about how Adobe is help­ing brands trans­form to suc­ceed in a dig­i­tal mar­ket click here.

Take part in our live 360 cus­tomer jour­ney at DMEXCO. You can reg­is­ter for a tour here

Topics: Digital Transformation, AI algorithms, artificial intelligence, Audience targeting, Big Data, business transformation, data centric, data-driven approach, digital experiences, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA

Products: Experience Manager