Digital companies have completely transformed how people consume over the past 20 years. Digital transformation is no longer optional – it is a prerequisite to producing goods and services in the way consumers expect to be served.
“Generation C” (the C stands for Connected) can’t be defined by a single demographic, but its ranks are growing and driving the future of business practices.
While the news is full of tales of the so-called Retail Apocalypse or Retail Armageddon, highlighting those long-standing businesses now closing their doors, innovative online companies are actually moving to brick-and-mortar spaces as well.
Consider it: traditional retail hasn’t evolved much in the last hundred years or so. Even the move to online commerce was mostly a digital iteration of catalog ordering.
What’s happening now is a new age of innovation, where retailers win through creativity and change. (Think about fundamental shopping experience shifts offered by places like Stitch Fix or Warby Parker.)
Customers no longer associate “large” with success, trust, or stability the way they used to. Retail isn’t dying, it’s finally evolving.
As society and technology evolve, so do their impact on behavior, customs, and expectations. Depending on your point of view, this is either a threat to your business or a tremendous opportunity.
Digital transformation isn’t just modernizing how a business works, it’s about changing the way we think about business.
The top goals of digital transformation are twofold:
First, to stay ahead of market disruptions (such as we saw this past year with COVID-19).
Second, to enhance the customer experience. It’s an evolving pursuit of innovative and agile business and operational models – fueled by evolving technologies, processes, analytics, and talent capabilities – to create new value for not just customers, but employees and stakeholders, as well.
Failure to master this process means, at best, moving too slowly for the current pace of business. At worst, it can mean becoming obsolete.
There’s a new normal unfolding. People spend up to four hours a day on their mobile phones, and our brains are being rewired by our technology use. Meanwhile, there’s a huge experience divide between most executives and customers.
While the executives are still dealing with margins and profits and business outcomes, customers are expecting more than just mobile access – they want convenience and immediacy, of course, but they also want personalization, the promise of an entire lifestyle, happiness, appreciation, and more.
Digital transformation is not a finite process with a set end point; it’s a mindset shift and the perpetual pursuit of the next set of targets.
Technology will continue to evolve and challenge even the most agile infrastructures. Every business that wants to stay relevant has to look within and identify opportunities for improvement.
No matter the field, the process starts with understanding customers, which is based on data. Artificial intelligence and cognitive automation allows organizations to create new models which are internally transformative, which in turn allows them to become more relevant in their outside-facing practices.
Innovation is the work you do to conform to the expectations and aspirations of people as they evolve, rather than making them conform to your legacy perspectives, assumptions, processes, and metrics.
Experience innovation is a differentiator.
When innovation and disruption succeed, the customer wins. In today’s “now” economy, impatience is a virtue, and customers expect inclusive, multi-dimensional engagement that gives them everything.
89% of customers have switched brands due to poor customer experience, and that experience must be viewed in its entirety: it’s the sum of all engagements a customer has with your organization.
Despite knowing this, companies struggle to close the experience divide. 85% of businesses still have fragmented customer engagement, highly-complex enterprise infrastructures supported by disparate systems, and conflicting goals due to siloed operations without leadership or alignment.
Businesses need to cultivate “digital empathy,” understanding the customers’ expectations and enabling back-end support for those personalized experiences. Once truly personalized experiences are enabled, they become the new standard for engagement. Uber is a great example of a “disruptive” competitor in experience design.
So how does a company engage their digital empathy and move toward innovation and disruption?
It all starts with data. Think of it as a relevance revolution: the goal is to find the overlap between what the customer wants/needs and even what they don’t yet know they need, but won’t be able to live without once they have it, and the brand’s best guess of what those things are.
When these processes are data-driven and start employing cognitive automation, real-time decision making and innovation begin.
The scale, complexity, and pace of decision making in the digital era require a new way of working – the typical “pyramid structure” of most organizations needs to become more connected and agile.
This isn’t just what customers want, it’s also what Generation C expects from their work experience, too. Cognitive automation is a shift from the era of people doing the work supported by machines to machines doing the work, guided by people.
There are four pillars of cognitive automation:
Applying this automation to Demand Planning, for example, would lead to a system that understands what is currently happening, recommends adjustments, predicts changes in demand or deviations from financial plans, then acts autonomously to adjust, select forecasting methods, and prompts planners for additional information.
Brands must continually evaluate the end-to-end experience at every stage of the customer lifecycle. With digital transformation, organizations are better positioned to answer the questions that will lead them to innovation:
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