When I started my first marketing agency (wowbrands) on a couch in a coffee shop in 2009, I had zero idea how the next 11 years would unfold. All I knew was that the internet was taking over, and companies of all sizes needed to simply have a website to compete in the changing marketplace. Back in 2009, a well-designed, efficient website was enough. Today? Yeah, right…not even close. In 2020, not only do brands need to have an expertly developed web presence with a custom, immersive design experience, but they also need to embrace anything and everything that the digital space has to offer. I’m talking social media, paid media, content marketing, data and analytics, conversion optimization, automation – you name it.
When wowbrands was acquired by BDSmktg in the summer of 2017, I quickly realized that national and global companies face the same challenge as emerging and disruptive brands: “how to embrace selling advantages through digital innovation to gain market share over the competition.” If they hope to compete and continue to grow, companies across the board need to revolutionize their operations and embark on a complete digital transformation from the inside out.
So, What Exactly IS Digital Transformation?
“Digital Transformation” means something different to everyone. Personally, I like a definition from The Enterprisers Project: “digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.” It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment often, and get comfortable with failure.
In 2020, no company is exempt from digital transformation. If digital growth isn’t part of your business and marketing strategy, you might as well not have a strategy at all. Worth noting though, effective Digital Transformation isn’t a short-term solution, and it’s not a quick fix. Instead, it’s a long-term investment that needs to continually evolve, embrace change and be disruptive, in order to stay relevant. If it doesn’t affect every part of your business and culture, you are doing it wrong.
In this article, I’ll lay out four specific tactics that every company – regardless of size – can immediately work towards in order to guarantee success on their path to Digital Transformation. It doesn’t matter if you run a 10-person startup, or if you’re in charge of marketing for a brand with 10,000+ employees – the journey can start same, and the destination is equally attainable.
1) Use Public Online Data To Gain A More Intimate Understanding Of Your Customers.
As of 2019, 3.48 billion people were active on social media – almost half of the earth’s population. With every post, double tap, and share, they’re building an online portfolio – a personality report that companies can use to understand their customers. Despite social media being the ultimate focus group, it’s estimated that 7/10 marketers ignore social data – a statistic that’s hard to fathom. If you’re part of the 30% that seeks out what customers are saying online, prepare to be amazed by the plethora of information that simple social listening provides. To help organize the information, social listening tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social allow you to simultaneously see all messages, comments, and brand mentions, and then respond in real time. Beyond Hootsuite and Sprout Social, review services like Trustpilot can allow companies to see customer complaints and develop reputation management tactics.
Obviously, social media is an amazing platform that allows you to learn what people are saying on their own turf. But if you want to know exactly how your customers interact on your website, there are excellent tools that can gather, break down, and analyze data on your behalf. Take Google Analytics, for example, a popular data mining service. With Google Analytics, you can see where your customers are coming from, optimize page performance based on traffic, understand the geographic location and demographic of your visitors, identify your most popular content based on user clicks, and most importantly – measure ROI! By learning about your consumer behavior, you can also learn about yourself. The best part? It’s free. Now there’s no excuse.
Brands need to nurture the client relationship and embrace the new, more comprehensive consumer data now available, listening closely to feedback and authentically continuing to respond to these wants and needs to increase customer lifetime value.
Andrew’s Early Riser Pro Tip #1: We are living in a golden age of consumer data. If you’re not taking advantage of it, your competitors will.
2) Experiment with Online AND Offline Social and Selling Strategies. (When you are ready you can get super fancy and integrate them both together!)
To take advantage of how today’s customers research and buy products, companies must experiment with their marketing strategies and selling techniques. One of the most popular ways brands are beginning to differentiate themselves is through innovative selling tools.
According to HubSpot, 81% of people use Instagram to research products and services, and 130 million accounts tap on shopping posts to learn more about products every month. To capitalize on that trend, companies should explore social selling opportunities, which allow customers to interact with products in a fun, user-friendly way. Need proof? Just look at Rothy’s, an eco-friendly shoe line that got its start on Facebook and Instagram. In December of 2018, they garnered a $35 million investment from Goldman Sachs, bringing total funding to $42 million.
Another way companies can experiment with new marketing strategies and selling techniques is by investing in human interactive experiences and guerrilla marketing tactics like : sampling street teams, experiential hype rallies, pop-up shops and in-store demos. According to Event Marketer, 85% of consumers said they were likely to purchase after participating in events or experiences and 91% of consumers said they had more positive feelings about brands after attending events or experiences.
“Experiential forges a personal connection with a brand. The next time that customer goes into a store, which brand will they reach for? As younger generations increasingly value experience over tangible items, they’ll go for the products that come from brands that have taken the time to get to know them and offer that crucial experiential element.” – GP Johnson @ Experience Marketing
That said, in-person experiences should always be supported by a digital component to ensure exposure goes beyond the event itself. The next time you’re planning a pop-up shop or event or you find yourself ready to deploy an in store demo or street team program, try launching a paid media campaign that targets keywords in the geographic location of the pop-up shop or event, directing traffic to an event landing page or microsite. When people land on the microsite, collect their contact information by promoting an exciting “Enter To Win” giveaway that can only be claimed in-store. During the actual event, encourage visitors to share their experience on social media with an offer to win a year’s supply of “X product” if they follow your brand, post a photo, and use a specific hashtag. Just like that, you can continue the impact of your one-day event online, extend the value of the company/consumer interaction, set the stage for future re-marketing campaigns, and develop a clear path to measure ROI.
Andrew’s Early Riser Pro Tip #2: By combining in-person events with online interactions, you can boost event success, increase opportunities for ROI, and make a lastingly impact, to keep your audience engaged.
3) Make Friends with Your Data and Automate Anything & Everything You Possibly Can.
According to Mopinion, automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed to more effectively market on multiple online channels and automate repetitive tasks. When used effectively, automation can enhance lead generation, upselling opportunities, conversion optimization, and retention strategies. Not only does automation allow digital marketers to accomplish more with less, but it also propels business growth. According to Digital Marketing Institute, companies that use automation have seen increased leads and sales, driving a 14% in sales productivity and 12% reduction in marketing overheads. Some easy automation “wins” that companies can immediately implement are a welcome email series, birthday and anniversary offers, re-engagement campaigns, and survey and feedback requests. With automation, your customers will always feel cared for while you focus on other initiatives, such as improving customer service response time.
Data can teach you about your customers, highlight the things you’re doing right, and identify opportunities for improvement. One company that excels at using data to its advantage is Lowe’s. According to Lowe’s, data is its biggest business enabler, and helps it better serve the 18 million customers who enter its 2,200+ store doors every week. By using data – a whopping ~500 GBs of it every day – Lowe’s can anticipate consumer needs, even down to stocking more snow shovels and driveway salt in geographic locations that are experiencing inclement weather! In addition to online data collection, Lowe’s puts data directly in the hands of retail employees with handheld devices, so they can go back and see the purchase history of in-store shoppers to make better product recommendations. Lowe’s has completely embraced digital transformation, and it’s paying off: in the third quarter of 2019, Lowe’s net income grew to $1.05 billion from $629 million the previous year.
Andrew’s Early Riser Pro Tip #3: By making friends with data, companies can predict trends, target the right customers, and strike a thoughtful balance of automation and human competencies.
Digital Transformation Is Here: Go Big Or Go Home!
It can be easier said than done for a business to go through a “Digital Transformation.” Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s a big change. But is it optional? Absolutely not. IDC forecasts that worldwide spending on technologies and services that enable digital transformation will reach $1.97 trillion in 2022. Are you going to sit back and let your competition win simply because you’re unwilling to innovate?
As the SVP of Digital & Marketing Strategy at BDSmktg, I’ve seen many industry trends come and go. However – without a doubt – the future of the retail industry is totally dependent on digital transformation, and it’s time we plan accordingly. Because in the long run, that’s the only way we’re going to survive. If you have any questions about what digital marketing can do for you, or how to modernize your go-to-market strategies to keep up in the new decade, drop us a note for a free consultation and no-obligation assessment.