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What businesses should do to prepare for digital transformation

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In today’s digital era, it’s more important than ever for businesses to manage their core operations electronically.

According to Edward Coram-James, Co-founder and CEO of digital marketing agency, Go Up, this is because of one simple truth: the most effective way to run a business ten years ago is not the same as the most effective way to run a business today.

Here, Edward takes us through his thoughts on everything related to digital transformation and what it can achieve for your business.

What is a digital transformation?

We view digital transformation as the operational and organisational transition to integrate smart technologies and processes across an entire company. “Going digital” will overhaul how your business runs and how you generate revenue, adapting your internal systems and external services to meet modern demands. So, while it can be a daunting change, it’s an all-important leap to take in order to bring your business up to date.

But in practice, what does this look like? Some common transformation strategies include:

● Switching to cloud-based computing

● Seeking data-driven insights

● Automating key business operations

● Prioritising e-commerce

How do you prepare for change?

The process of modernising an enterprise can be challenging if you neglect to prepare for a 180-degree turn in your day-to-day operations. Instead, you’ll want to plan ahead of time and reap the rewards of efficiently introducing new systems.

Over the past 11 years of working in digital marketing, we’ve become keen supporters of managing everything electronically, from strategy planning and HR, to outreach and workflow. Based on our experience, we’ve developed a general framework that addresses the three core tenets of digital transformation: your audience, your tools, and your team.

1. Develop audience insight

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Your first move should be to pursue data-based insights from your target audience, to define your goals and provide avenues for lead generation. There are various data sources that can be used to gain insight into customer behaviour, so let’s discuss a few.

Track the numbers

Google Analytics is a tool that can tell you the virtual and geographic sources of your traffic, track views and bounce rates from target pages and assess conversion funnels, among other uses. The platform is often used in tandem with strategies such as “A/B testing”, to determine what kind of content the customer base responds to.

This involves creating two identical pieces of content, each with one variable manipulated — for example, a call to action on the top or bottom of a webpage — and testing which is more effective. One way that marketers do this is by distributing each of the pages to a separate audience and testing which sees a higher click-through rate to the next stage of the customer journey.

Once you have this data at your disposal, it can be used to inform your business strategy. For example, if you notice low page views or click-through on a key service landing page, this may tell you that your content requires further optimisation. Or, if much of your traffic is arriving from a Google search for a close-match service but then exiting your website, this might suggest that you could benefit from adapting and offering the desired service also.

The benefits of audience insights

Taking a data-driven and audience-personalised approach to marketing can pay dividends — Invesp reports that this strategy can deliver five to eight times the return on investment compared to traditional marketing expenditure. Similarly, a report from IBM found that 62% of retailers have gained a competitive advantage from analytics, with approximately half using it primarily for customer-centric purposes.

In an age of commercial saturation, any marketer worth their salt will tell you that having the edge in promotion is essential — and data insights can help you to define your goals and target your audience rather than shoot into the dark.

2. Select new tools

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The next step is to reflect on which of your operations need to be optimised using dedicated software in order to achieve your goals. With the range of SaaS (Software as a Service) suites available, a little research will point you in the direction of the best digital solutions for your trade.

Alternatively, self-hosted or “on-premises” software can be useful if there are only a few key members of staff that need access to certain applications, which can be purchased for a one-time fee. These may include tools for automation, analytics or customer relationship management, to name a few.

You’ll need to assess and prioritise the programs that best fit your needs, to stop you from investing in unnecessary and potentially expensive changes. Many industries, including our own, simply couldn’t operate without vital software — these are some common applications that we use across our digital marketing efforts:

● Ahrefs, SEMRush and SEOMonitor for SEO analytics

● Figma for UI/UX design

● Asana for workflow management

● Google Drive for cloud storage

● Everhour for time tracking

● Canva for graphic design

Cloud computing

One kind of software that has seen a recent uptick in business adoption is cloud computing, with 81% of firms accelerating their cloud plans in light of Covid-19. The pandemic has forever changed the way that we work, with many teams shifting towards a hybrid-remote working pattern — managing workloads, contributing to projects and sharing ideas across departments using suites such as Google Workspace.

This accessible, collaborative working style can lead to up to a 40% improvement to employee productivity, according to corporate IT firm DDLS. Naturally, heightened productivity is conducive to increased profit — and a 2021 report by Infosys found that switching to cloud systems can add up to 11.2% growth year on year.

Digital marketplaces

Even for businesses that consider themselves less reliant on online systems, such as traditional retail and hospitality venues, digital services might hold the untapped potential for expansion. Aside from introducing new tools internally to streamline key business operations, digital platforms that take your front of shop online could revolutionise the way you work.

Take the likes of Airbnb, for example — joining the platform may make a worthy investment for local rental owners looking to reposition themselves in the market and extend their reach to audiences wider than ever before.

3. Invest in your talent

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New systems are only as smart as the people implementing them. Once you have access to the necessary software, you should make sure that your workforce understands how their workflows will change. While many of your staff will probably already be fairly tech-savvy, they’ll need to be comfortable using all systems efficiently to generate a significant return on investment.

Spend the time

For the first three to six months, your new tools are likely to take up more time than they save, due to different rates of adoption and errors in use. As a result, you may experience some pushback from your team during this period.

To address this, you need to provide regular training and supervision sessions and ensure that everyone understands how and why you’re using these new systems. We strongly recommend hiring a software consultant for this, so that you can minimise the initial downtime and ensure that everyone reaps the benefits for morale, productivity and profitability later on.

Drive engagement

We believe that digital transformation is not only an opportunity to train new practical skills but also to instil a fresh mindset among employees, open to different processes and opportunities to innovate.

An invested, satisfied workforce will drive your business’ growth during this pivotal time. Shockingly, Gallup reports that just a fifth of the world’s employees were engaged in their job last year, costing the economy an estimated $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. Getting your team to believe in your product/service, ethos and processes allows them to invest in your brand, increasing productivity and team happiness — and a happy team means happy clients.

Therefore, supporting your team through periods of uncertainty should be a top priority — as the foundations of your business change, consider providing staff with the chance to diversify their work, and advertise any hiring positions to your existing pool of talent. In time, some colleagues may wish to learn more about technology and its potential — a responsive employer will facilitate this by supplying resources and learning opportunities.

The bottom line

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Digital transformation is an essential part of operating a successful business in the 21st century. While the majority are in the development stage, Zippia reports that just 7% of surveyed companies have fully implemented a digital strategy — and as the evidence shows, are missing out on innumerable benefits for streamlining, boosting productivity and growing as an enterprise.

By seeking insight into your audience, investing in appropriate technologies and supporting your workforce, you can be prepared for a successful transformation into a more modern and intelligent organisation.

Images by VivaRado

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