“Digital transformation” – what does it mean in 2021?


Its certainly been a turbulent time over the last 18 months! Businesses have had to “adapt to survive”, there is always someone touting the “digital transformation” mantra, but what does it mean, as we come out of lockdown and learn to live with COVID19?

Personally, I think it is different for each sector and business as they all have different processes, products and ways of working.

Digital transformation could be:

  1. Moving “my bricks and mortar flower shop to an online outlet” where orders can be placed and either delivered or collected (click ‘n’ collect). 
  2. Or it could mean “removing paper from all internal processes”.
  3. Or it could be a complete digital move “from onboarding staff through to supplier orders and automated invoicing” into a series of digital platforms that “talk” to each other.

All are transforming a business using digital processes with differing scales of complexity.

The key is to ask yourself “where does my customer fit” and “what does my customer want”? If you don’t know what your customers want it is very difficult to design a solution that will be successful. So the first thing to tackle is your customers’ needs and how are you going to fulfil them, this may be a simple solution or something much more complex.

Giving your customers a good experience during and coming out of lockdown is going to be the make or break for a lot of businesses. A few excellent ways I have seen some industries “pivot” have been:

  1. Restaurants have offered takeaways for collection and delivery. However, that has not been enough for some with the likes of Rick Stein, Tommy Banks from Made in Oldstead, offering gourmet meals for delivery at home. Offering a fixed meal delivered ready to do the final cooking. The question is how many of these establishments will continue with that service as it expands their weekly “covers” to a much larger audience. Not easy to get to the Rick Stein restaurant in Cornwall without going on holiday.
  2. Workshops being delivered via Zoom to a much larger geographic area than previous. I have worked with some whose workshops were very local (30-mile radius), that now have customers globally. One particular client delivered Knitting workshops, all of which were cancelled in March 2020, and designed a knit-along for the summer of 2020 expecting 20 customers. It ended up with 90 attendees over 20 weeks from as far afield as New Zealand, the USA, and all over the UK. Many of the customers are now “regulars”.

So “how might that be possible for me”, you might be asking? The critical factor is “customer experience” (CX), which can be defined as the set of interactions and engagements your customer has with your brand. Online touchpoints including videos, content consumption, e-commerce as well as offline touchpoints such as in-store, in-branch, outdoor and experiential advertising are all part of the overall customer experience. The importance of an online and offline strategy that underpins CX cannot be overstated.

Content is the lifeblood of most marketing activities across a whole host of touchpoints from website and ad copy through to email marketing and social media activities. It is the fuel that drives digital experiences without which most businesses would eventually grind to a halt.

Content and data need to work in unison for the delivery of the best possible customer experiences – online and offline. Being able to measure the success of an activity should be seen as a very important activity. Good data analysis capabilities to better understand customer experience can only help achieve what your customers want.

People often implement new tools without really thinking through how they need to be configured, how they need to be designed and, most importantly, how they need to connect into the broader marketing technology architecture and even the business process.

Digital transformation is very much a journey rather than a destination!

Organisations that are confident in measuring their return on investment for digital marketing programmes are more than twice as likely to have exceeded their business goals by a significant margin.

Investment in content – or, indeed, any digital asset – is nothing without an understanding of the ‘why’, with insight into how it will help or engage customers, and ultimately drive sales. Metrics that drive value for the business, instead of vanity metrics and standard KPIs that don’t give a true view on sales.

  • Ensure the right kind of leadership and culture are in place
  • Prioritise design and creativity
  • Know your customers… and then delight them with the right content at the right time
  • Budget for success
  • Invest in integrated technology

Social marketing is the gift that keeps on giving for marketers who continue to explore ways of harnessing both paid-for and organic social media. 

Organisations with a cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of initiatives are nearly twice as likely to exceed their business goals.

While marketing should certainly be powered by data, creativity and intuition are key components for effective marketing and the creation of great customer experiences.


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