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Why a customer-first approach to digital transformation is key to long-term success

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

As modern-day consumers, the huge amount of choice we have in nearly every aspect of our lives means we can be choosier than ever before about how and where we spend our money. Consequently, the businesses competing for our attention also have to work harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. Average is no longer acceptable. In fact, in most cases it’s a one-way ticket to failure. Nowadays, the businesses that truly excel are the ones who go above and beyond what’s expected of them, to deliver a truly memorable consumer experience every time.

However, in such a rapidly changing technology landscape, staying on top is easier said than done. With consumers now mercilessly unforgiving of even the smallest misstep, making the right investments can be critical to long-term success.

One of the most effective ways to truly engage with modern day consumers is through the use of digital technology to create a distinct competitive edge.  While the prospect of digital transformation may seem overwhelming at first, introducing simple yet powerful solutions isn’t as challenging as you might think. Yet it can quickly lead to marked improvements in both customer retention and revenues

Businesses going all-in on digital technology

Data shows that a huge number of businesses are going all-in on digital technologies, in a bid to deliver the kind of value-added services that today’s customers expect. In fact, IDC predicts global spending on digital transformation is expected to hit an unbelievable $1.97 trillion by 2022, with the manufacturing, transportation and retail industries leading the way. These are not small bets by any means, but the numbers for customer adoption suggest they are certainly smart bets.

Where do you begin?

Like so many aspects of business, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to digital transformation, so how do you know where to begin? Analysing existing customer spending patterns is usually a good place. Doing so provides fast insights into how current retail operations could be optimised and where better, more customer-centric services are needed.

Another good place to start is with the age-old challenge of getting customers through the door. If you’re not located near a traffic hot spot, capturing the attention of potential customers can be very difficult. Making it easier for customers to consume your products and services is critical and, if you get the formula right, customers will find you no matter where you are! A bit of research here can help you find and implement the right technology to align your offerings with the latest consumer trends and expectations.

How much is too much?

One of the main dilemmas in modern retail is just how digital technology can serve as both a disruptor and a solution. If used recklessly, some technologies can quickly elevate consumer expectations to a level that simply isn’t realistic for your business. On the flip side, if used wisely these same technologies can help you leapfrog the larger competition by becoming more agile than they could ever be.

As you start to hone in on the technology strategy that’s right for you, also take time to  understand the vital role your retail network plays in monetising your business. The reality is this network will have an enormous impact on the success or failure of any digital transformation strategy.

Consider this. It’s the height of the Christmas shopping period and as a store manager checks the new inventory application for additional sizes/colours, or your customer attempts to access the store Wi-Fi for a voucher code, they receive an error message saying the entire system has gone down. Not only is this is frustrating for everyone involved, it could quickly start leading to lost sales and dissatisfied customers.

Lay strong foundations first

In order to ensure reliable and timely delivery of these digital services, retailers first need a robust, intelligent network that’s flexible enough to support multiple technologies. In addition to things like critical front-end and back-office operations, the network must also facilitate application uptime and business continuity. The inability to process a credit card payment because the network has gone down simply isn’t good enough in the eyes of modern consumers.

The network also must be secure enough to protect confidential business and customer information. No one wants to see themselves in the news because of a security breach. However, according to the government’s 2019 cybersecurity survey, 32 per cent of all UK businesses suffered a cyberattack or breach in the last 12 months.

Finally, the ability to monitor network health and manage updates through a single dashboard or location makes it much easier to deliver the type of enhanced customer experiences that will differentiate your brand. Beware of over complicated applications and user interfaces.

A customer-first approach is critical

With the fight for customer attention and loyalty in the retail sector now more ferocious than ever before, effective digital transformation is becoming absolutely essential to long-term success. While the prospect of it may seem daunting at first, making small investments in the right areas can quickly transform the way consumers view and interact with your business. However, building on strong foundations is critical and businesses need to ensure they have a robust, secure and intelligent network in place first, before deploying large numbers of revenue-generating apps on top of it. If done correctly, the benefits of effective digital transformation will soon be clear for all to see, from customers to employees, to senior leadership.

Hubert da Costa, Senior Vice President and GM EMEA & APAC, Cybera
Julian Andrews, Managing Director,
Virocom