Marketing technology has come a long way since the new century dawned. As recently as the 1990s, many marketers were still relying more on "gut instinct" than hard facts, but harnessing big data helped them make more informed decisions. What passed for personalized emails was often little more than a mail merge to insert a contact's name. Target audiences were painted with a broad brush that often included more people who had no interest in the product or service than people who might actually become customers. Automated campaigns, predictive analytics, customized content, seamless connections across touchpoints and powerful marketing analytics have helped transform how — and to whom — marketers are delivering their messages.
Steven Temares, CEO of the retail chain Bed Bath & Beyond, recently discussed the company's technology-investment strategy and the transition to a digital enterprise.
Topics: Digital Enterprise
Five or six decades ago, shopping was a radically different experience for most people. It was common for a person to walk into a store, be greeted by name, and have the proprietor recommend new products that he believed the customer would like. The proprietor often knew the names and ages of other family members and their preferences as well.
Through the years, shopping has become much more impersonal. Chain stores replaced mom-and-pop retailers. Store personnel changed shifts or locations frequently. The size of stores expanded as well as the number of products. Staffs were often kept to a minimum, making it difficult for customers to receive any attention much less warm, personal attention.
Online shoppers have never fared much better. They often find they must navigate through multiple pages to find the item they want. Unless they bookmark the page, the entire process may have to be repeated if the purchase is postponed.
A quote attributed to Albert Einstein defines insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing the same way but expecting different results. Another quote for which Einstein is credited warns that the same thinking that led to the creation of problems will not be effective for solving them. Whether Einstein actually said these statements is immaterial. What matters is that there is a great deal of truth in both statements.
Blockbuster, Kodak and Borders are just a few once-major corporations that failed to adapt to the digital age. Many others are no longer the power-players that they once were, such as Motorola, Blackberry, Sears and JC Penney. Other organizations failed to leverage technology to understand who their customers were and what they truly wanted.
Today, businesses must adapt if they are to survive. This means leveraging technology to provide the maximum benefits, but technology alone will not solve the problems. Human intervention is required for a digital transformation — and therein lies the problem for many companies.
Change starts in the C-suite. It is the upper levels of management who determine the methods that the company will use to compete. Their support can also make the difference between successful adaptations and failed attempts. The initiative needs to be company-wide, requiring all executives to cooperate for the greater good. Old mindsets, such as claiming exclusive control over technology decisions or databases, have to be replaced by a better understanding of how every piece of the puzzle affects the customer.
In recent years, much has been written about the need to "go digital" if your business is to be competitive and successful. Despite all of the attention, however, many businesses are still struggling with the transformation. Many more believe that they have completed the move to a digital enterprise but are disappointed with the results. Other companies want to make the move, but they are so overwhelmed by the different technologies that they have yet to launch a digital initiative.
Why are so many organizations struggling with their digital transformations? There is no single answer that applies to all situations, but in most cases, the problem is one or more of the following.
The rush is on for companies to make the move to a digital enterprise sooner rather than later. The proliferation of smartphones, the expansion of the Internet of Things and innovations, such as wearable technology, have forced businesses to rethink how (and where) they will connect with their customers.
One area that has received a great deal of attention lately is digital content — and a recent survey indicates that companies are actually losing ground in meeting the digital content readiness challenge. In 2014, a joint survey conducted by the Center for Information Development Management and Data Conversion Labs revealed that 48 percent of the respondents stated that their content was ready to provide support for digital business requirements during the upcoming two years. In 2015, that number had fallen to 44 percent.
Furthermore, the survey indicated that companies are going to need help to handle the change. When asked to name the obstacles that stood in the way of meeting the digital content challenge:
When the Internet was in its infancy, only the most innovative companies rushed to embrace it. Today, it would be very difficult to find a successful business that does not have at least a rudimentary website or email accounts for employees. As technology advanced, businesses were forced to adapt, and they must continue to adapt if they are to thrive.
The most pressing need today is to take steps toward becoming a digital enterprise. A digital enterprise is one in which the business model is effectively combined with technology to satisfy the demands of customers who are embracing the digital world in ever-increasing numbers. The key is to make the transformation successfully. Businesses that have been the most successful at becoming a digital enterprise typically have five traits in common.
Topics: Digital Enterprise
It has been said that not all businesses are digital businesses, but all businesses must soon become digital or risk falling behind the competition. The rush to digital transformation is on, and there is little chance that a trend reversal will occur.
Technology has always had the power to drive how businesses interact with customers, how they market their products, and how they streamline internal processes. Most advances have built on previous developments, such as the use of factory robotics to enhance existing assembly line methods or local-area networks linking stand-alone PCs to cut costs and improve productivity. Digital initiatives are another way of applying new technology to help achieve a greater revenue production and an increase in profitability.
However, unlike most previous efforts, the transformation to a digital enterprise presents unusual budgeting challenges. The majority of past projects had clearly defined deadlines and objectives. There was a starting point, steps along the way, and a fixed destination. With a digital enterprise, the goal is not a specific destination; the goal is an extended journey. Therein lies the problem.
It is difficult enough to create an accurate budget for a project in which all factors are known. A digital transformation adds a number of unknowns to the budgeting equation.
Topics: Digital Enterprise