Stop following and become a digital transformer

David Maunsell , Accenture Australia’s digital lead.
By David Maunsell , Accenture Australia’s digital lead. | 11 February 2016
David Maunsell

Digital is rapidly becoming a crucial part of marketing with the strongest performing brands combining their product and marketing strategies with innovative digital strategies. The question for those marketers designing an organisations digital strategy is: Am I a follower? Or am I a transformer?

While all marketers would like to think of themselves as transformers, the reality is they are not. A ‘digital follower’ is generally someone who continues to view digital technology as a tool for steadily improving existing business activities. A ‘digital transformer’ on the other hand can see something much more profound. Digital transformers are not waiting to react to events, they are taking proactive action to define marketing strategies and activities that focus on growth and allow organisations to compete in an evolving digital landscape.

As the rise of digital marketing continues, the disparity between transformers and followers is growing. So too is the disparity between leading global brands and most Australian brands. Unfortunately, Australia is lagging when it comes to digital, ranking only eighth amongst the 17 leading economies measured as part of the Accenture Digital Density Index.

The DigitalDensity Index measures the extent to which digital technologies penetrate companies and national economies. Scoring more than 20 points less than the top ranked nation, the Netherlands, Australia’s digital competency has much to answer for both from a marketing and economic perspective.

If Australia were to improve its performance by 10 points, it could lift annual GDP growth rates by 0.25% over the next five years, resulting in an estimated AUS$34.5 billion of additional economic output (GDP) in the year 2020 measured in 2014 prices.

Although Australia has high internet usage (87% of households use the internet) and leads the world in telecommunications investment per head, it scores poorly on creating and exploiting digital markets. For example, only 2.3% of retail sales are online, compared to 10% in the UK and 13% in South Korea.

Strong digital leadership can foster a culture of innovation in the digital marketing realm and generate positive business outcomes for organisations. So how do Australian marketers stop following the leader and become a leader themselves?

The key is to avoid several pitfalls when developing digital strategy:

1. Focus digital investments on growth oriented initiatives rather than just using new technologies to improve efficiencies. Cricket Australia has recently undergone a process of mobile application development, web portal implementation, content management and integration across all of its digital properties. This investment was made with the goal of providing great digital experiences to fans who want to watch the games from all over the world.

2. Digital transformers don’t just use new technologies to digitise existing platforms – they design for new digital customer experiences to deliver something exciting and innovative. In Australia, Coca Cola Amatil retrofitted vending machines with touchscreens, video cameras and Kinect technology; creating fresh, engaging and personalised experiences for customers.

3. Digital should be built into operating models, and skills should be nurtured. Global cosmetics retailer Sephora ensures continual evolution of the customer experience through the integration of digital marketing efforts. To achieve this, the marketing and IT teams work together as a united team, led by a single executive who serves as both chief marketing officer and chief digital officer; ensuring marketing and digital is constantly intertwined.

4. A digital transformer will take risks with digital, they don’t passively wait for new opportunities. In fact, transformers actively experiment with new technologies. Notebook brand Moleskine recently teamed up with smart pen manufacturer Livescribe to release a range of Livescribe Moleskine notebooks. The notebooks allow users writing with a Livescribe smart pen to record handwritten notes and images digitally to their phone or laptop via the Livescribe app. This innovative connection between the physical and digital note taking experience bridges a gap and creates an enriched user experience.

5. Digital transformers use customer information and data to their advantage. Digital followers often suffer from a lack of rigour when it comes to using available data about customers, operations and suppliers to create new products, services and efficiencies. Macy’s department store uses customer information from Shopkick, an app that lets customers browse, ‘favourite’ and discover new items from the Macy’s catalogue in order to transform the physical shopping experience into something more personal. Using this information and iBeacons, Macy’s sends push notifications to in-store shoppers to inform them when their favourite items are available and offer them customised discounts on those items.

Digital change is coming fast, and it will not be stopped. Inevitably it will come from the outside in, in the form of customer choices, new products, services and experiences. It will be entirely agnostic in its impact, affecting every company and every industry. How quickly will your leadership team be ready to run with it? How quickly can you stop following and start transforming?

David Maunsell is Accenture Australia’s digital lead.

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