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Opinion: Digital Transformation and the Challenges for Legacy Businesses

With many companies turbo-charging their digital transformation plans over the past two years,  there are still many challenges to overcome. But companies need to face them head-on, writes Eoin Corrigan, head of strategy, MediaCom Ireland.

The internet, as we know it, has been around for more than 20yrs. Brands were tentative to embrace this new digital world at first, then went all in, only to quickly retreat as the bubble burst. The industry picked itself up and slowly rebuilt, gathering steam as more and more consumers embraced digital technologies to the point that it quickly became the go to channel for marketers all over the world.

From sole traders and SMEs to global corporations there are few businesses that haven’t embraced digital channels as part of their growth strategy. So, everyone’s doing digital. But there’s a difference between ‘doing’ digital’ and ‘being digital’. Websites, search engine marketing, SEO, email, eCommerce, affiliates, performance and online display advertising are all valuable tools in the marketer’s arsenal but whilst they have worked very well for companies in the past it is digital transformation legacy businesses should be looking to for the future. Digital is not just a marketing channel anymore; it is a channel to market.

The conversation around digital transformation has been happening for some years now. With new technologies entering our lives and the wider business world that have enabled brands to innovate and thrive. But then 2020 happened, and the need to develop digital capabilities suddenly accelerated. What was forecast to take many years to happen suddenly materialised in the course of a few months.

Firstly, it’s because customer expectations have risen sharply, and that genie is not going back in the bottle. They want on demand products and services and a highly personalised experience. Digital natives are changing markets by using technology and data to develop highly customer centric services and move the dial on expectations. They are making things that people actually want instead of the old ways of using advertising to make people want things. Digital transformation needs to be a key priority for legacy businesses if they are to avoid becoming digital prey.

Secondly, there’s an increased need for speed. It’s no longer about big beating small but about fast beating slow. Most companies will have access to greater volumes of customer data than ever before, so investing in the right analytical tools is essential to convert that data into valuable insights so that decisions can be customer centric and made quickly. But they need to be embedded in all aspects of the business to ensure the greatest impact. If this approach is not taken then by the time business has devised a perspective or approach to tackle a threat or exploit an opportunity, the landscape has shifted to a place the digital natives have already staked out.

Lastly, it’s because we are in a transformative time. Digital transformation equals business transformation. It is about evolving to a truly digital value proposition that for some will involve re- engineering their technology systems, operating processes and even their business models. It is also important to remember that this is not just a job for the IT department, it needs to be driven from the top. Digital transformation is a holistic and fundamental shift in how brands create and deliver value to their customers and how that drives revenue.

It isn’t always easy but it can be done. For example, Starbucks had to redesign the layout of their stores to accommodate the logistical challenge of “order ahead” customers, and when Hilton Hotels wanted to let customers use their app to unlock doors they had to change all the locks and train their customer service team on how to manage them. When you get it right the benefits are transformative. Enhanced data collection that provides a single view of the customer, operations, production, finance, and business opportunities, all helping to build a more customer centric business strategy and a better universal customer experience. It streamlines workflow and improves productivity, speeding up innovation, increasing agility and enabling more efficient resource management. It means you can go further and faster. And it’s important to note for those fearful of taking the plunge that by optimising, consolidating and streamlining technology and systems it reduces cost and improves profits. According to a study by SAP and Oxford Economics, 80% of organizations that have completed digital transformation report increased profits and 85% say they have increased their market share.

Digital Transformation is something that all businesses need to embrace. It is no longer a choice but a fundamental business strategy that needs to encapsulate all aspects of the organisation. It enables better collaboration within the business, a more personalised customer experience, and more productivity. Legacy businesses must embrace it for a better chance of thriving in this post pandemic world.

Eoin Corrigan is Head of Strategy at MediaCom Ireland you can contact him via email on eoin.corrigan@mediacom

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