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What is digital transformation and why does it matter to your business?

The phrase ‘digital transformation’ gets thrown around a lot these days. Everywhere you look, it seems like every business is at it, but what does it actually mean, and why should you care?

What is digital transformation?

At first glance (or indeed first Google), it seems as if digital transformation is simply about digitising your business – the process of moving online, using digital tools and uploading everything to the cloud. It’s a buzzword that’s overused and misunderstood.

Digital transformation is the process of radically rethinking how your organisation uses its people and technology to accommodate changing customer expectations and behaviours. Amazon is one of the most commonly used examples, as it has changed the way people shop for everyday items. In order to survive, other retailers have had to follow suit, not only by moving partly (or fully) online, but by putting a bigger focus on customer service.

Why is digital transformation so important right now?

The biggest recent shift in consumer shopping habits hasn’t been a business, but a pandemic. Lockdown restrictions meant that everyone had to move online overnight. People who had never bought anything online had to adapt; consumers had to use brands they wouldn’t usually use, and everyone’s spending priorities changed.

Even though physical stores and branches are open again, things are far from back to normal. Everything from house viewings to eating out now look very different and there’s no guarantee that things won’t change again. This is why digital transformation has once again become a hot topic: ultimately, it’s about future proofing your business - no matter what industry you find yourself in.

Why you should care

It’s no secret that consumers are becoming savvier. More and more people start their buying journeys online, and a pandemic has only sped up that process. As a result, many businesses are trying to get ahead of the curve with digital transformation. Over half (51%) are increasing online interactions with their clients and 79% say they’ve made changes to operations to accommodate their customers.

Take the legal industry, for example; the pandemic forced businesses to move online overnight as suddenly, they were unable to meet with clients face-to-face. Now, even if another lockdown takes place, those that have adapted will be able to continue operating.

If you’re not putting your customers’ needs first and meeting their ever-changing expectations, they’ll go elsewhere, and you can only do this by understanding who they are, what they think, how they feel and what they’re doing online.

Getting started with digital transformation

There’s never been a better time to take a radical look at your business and ask yourself if you’re truly serving your customers. Here are four things you should do to begin your digital transformation process.

1. Maintain a human connection

People always remember the way you made them feel. The human connection you have with your customers is the most important consideration. Whether you’re speaking to someone instore or replying to a complaint on Twitter, every area of your business needs to put the customer first.

But how can you maintain that connection when almost every touchpoint you have with your customers is virtual? Collecting feedback at every stage of your customer journey will not only maintain a level of contact with your customers, it will also give you insight into where your connection with your customers is strongest, and where it’s weakest.

Make sure you respond to, and follow up on, any feedback you receive, too. This will show that you’re listening and taking what they say seriously – whether they’ve been positive or negative about your business.

2. Collect a range of feedback and act on it

From customer surveys to feedback straight from your customer service team, make sure you’re listening to a range of sources and making the most of that feedback. Here are some of the most important types of feedback and how they can be used to improve your business and its processes.

Product and service reviews

Are your products as good as you think they are or are customers running into issues time and again? How could your service be improved to ensure your customers remain loyal? Product and service reviews are perfect for measuring whether you’re meeting customers’ expectations or not, as well as building trust in your business.

Reviews can be collected throughout the customer journey. For example, if you’re a travel business, you may want to collect feedback when the customer makes a booking, after their outbound flight, and once they’re back home from their trip. This is vital to get a complete view of each customers experience with you, as you can understand exactly how they feel at each stage and identify any pain points easily.

Surveys

Is it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for on your website? Is your customer service team great at solving issues over live chat? Surveys are a great way for measuring the smaller, but important, parts of the customer journey. You can ask for feedback on almost anything and engage with a much wider audience, allowing you to understand everything from how your brand is perceived by non-customers, to why someone chose to go with a competitor instead of you.

For example, if you want to learn more about what visitors think of your website, you can create a survey and put the link in a pop-up asking visitors for feedback.

Social listening

Gathering feedback through surveys and reviews allows you to ask specific questions, which is helpful when you want to know what people think about a specific interaction or product, but your customers may have slightly more to say that they wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with your one on one.

Social listening tools allow you to be a fly on the wall – you can see what people are saying about your brand online, unfiltered. If people hate your new advert, they may not get in touch with you directly, but they could tweet about it. By catching these criticisms early, you can act fast and solve these issues before they snowball into a huge PR problem.

It’s not all about the negatives though. What do people love about your brand that they aren’t telling you about? Maybe it’s your sustainability practices or the fact you offer something no one else does. By knowing what makes you special, you can realign your marketing focus and craft better campaigns.

Not all the information you get through reading Facebook comments or forum posts will be helpful, but they do allow you to see how your brand is perceived online.

3. Align your digital and physical engagements

If you’re lucky enough to have a store or a chain of stores, don’t treat them as separate to your online offering.

Whether your customers choose to buy from you online or visit you in-store, you must deliver a seamless experience. Your branding, messaging, and tone of voice should all be consistent across your offline and online functions. For example, if customers come to your store because they know they’re going to get a personal service, you could offer this online by running a live chat or consultation service that allows your customers to contact a member of staff for help if they can’t visit you in person.

4. Be agile

Rigid processes are the downfall of digital transformation. Every department needs to have the flexibility to adapt to changing situations and customer needs. As Covid-19 has shown, those needs could change overnight, and your business may need to adjust its processes very quickly so that your customers experience minimal disruption.

Giving your teams the right tools to allow them to be agile is important, but you must make sure they have the right skills too. Invest in training and regularly run refresher sessions so they know how to get the most out of the tools at their disposal. You can even run some internal surveys to see where your various departments need more help or support.

Starting your digital transformation journey? We can help

Digital transformation isn’t something that happens overnight – it’s an ongoing process, but the key is making sure your customers always come first. Our feedback and insight tools can help you stay on top of customer trends and track what your customers think and how they feel.

Get in touch with our friendly team today to see how we can help you truly understand your customers.

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