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This article was originally published in Forbes.
Everyone wants to be able to interact seamlessly and digitally with their favorite brands, and these days, we’re all programmed to expect it. New technologies have made it easier than ever for companies—big and small—to digitize nearly every facet of CX. But if you’ve ever found yourself on hold for customer service, then you already know there’s nothing quite like a human touch.
Unfortunately, the human touch is lost when brands enter digital transformation aiming to solve tech problems rather than human ones. At best, this can be an expensive mistake: Digital transformation is, after all, among the most expensive efforts a business can take on, with global spending projected to surpass $6 trillion worldwide as soon as 2023.
Before taking the plunge, step back and consider whether you’re ready—really ready—for what’s required to be successful in any overhaul of your digital strategy. Here are four critical truths to keep in mind as you mull over the possibilities:
1. Digital transformation is for humans.
There’s more to delivering a great digital experience than technology, platforms and code—it’s a deeply human undertaking that requires care and purpose. In other words, don’t overhaul your digital experience if you’re just looking for “a cool app.”
Instead, start by asking yourself questions like: How well do I really know my customers? What are their habits, needs and motivations? What do they even have to gain from a digital transformation? If you don’t have the insights required to do this right, then you shouldn’t be tackling a digital transformation. Period.
If you do happen to have a solid foundation of customer and performance data to draw from, then congratulations! Now your job is to figure out (through advanced analytics) which data points should inform a digital transformation and, ultimately, your CX.
Target’s most recent updates to its popular curbside service, Drive Up, provide an excellent example of how behavioral science and operations insights can be used together to improve CX. Starting this fall, curbside shoppers at select locations will be able to place Starbucks orders and complete returns through the Target app—new features cited as top requests from customers.
Not only did the retail giant honor shopper desires and justify these changes with data, but the updates are also anticipated to provide some relief to their delivery services (currently done through third-party Shipt) while leveraging their partnership with Starbucks. It demonstrates that a customer-first approach doesn’t have to come at the expense of operational efficiency, just as a digital transformation shouldn’t detract from your CX.
2. Digital transformation should meet customers where they are.
We know from Truth No. 1 that advanced analytics can reveal which improvements might be digitized to make the most impact on CX; but how can brands determine what form these digital experiences should take?
Consider how your customers are already interacting with your brand and what might be done to streamline that engagement. Context is king. Take Netflix, for example. Founded during the decade-long decline of brick-and-mortar Blockbuster, Netflix changed the game by delivering the latest movies right to customers’ front doors, then went on to completely digitize its experience. Of course, it’s not as simple a solution as “add technology and stir.” Netflix’s success involved the careful collection and curation of customer data—habits and preferences that have since influenced everything from the design of its user interface to its raved-about productions. Netflix then improved its CX by examining the context with which consumers engaged with the brand’s digital experience.
When Domino’s launched AnyWare in 2015, it gave customers a way to transcend the in-app ordering experience through text, cloud-based voice, smart devices and social platforms. Domino’s Zero Click app is the cherry on top: Open the app, and after a 10-second countdown, your “Easy Order” is automatically placed. It’s just like magic—but magic that improves CX through consumer-centric digital experiences.
3. Digital transformation requires brands to commit to continuous learning and improvement.
When brands make a commitment to continuous learning and improvement, they’re setting their sights on much more than coming out with the latest bells and whistles in digital. It’s a long-term play, and how you get there goes beyond introducing a sweet new gadget on a cycle.
In a previous article, I discussed how businesses embraced irrationality to deliver unconventional solutions designed to better serve their customers. It is this attitude that brands must adopt if they are to create digital experiences that truly resonate.
For example, getting groceries delivered straight to your fridge seemed unrealistic until recently. But by embracing irrationality and following through on a commitment to continuous learning and improvement, Walmart went to bat for its customer—and it paid off in spades. When Walmart introduced InHome earlier this year, it accomplished more than just differentiating the brand in the increasingly competitive grocery space. It offered an out-of-the-box solution for a problem felt throughout the industry: food left to rot on front porches. Leading with customer insights, Walmart successfully navigated the very real, very human concerns for privacy and safety using technology (smart locks and body cameras) as a tool—not a catch-all—to enable a better customer experience.
4. A successful digital transformation starts and ends with people.
The success of digital transformation depends on what it offers the people using it internally (stakeholders) and experiencing it externally (consumers). It can’t substitute for the human relationships built between brands and their consumers, but it can strengthen those connections through thoughtful execution and informed design.
In a world rife with digital noise, be the brand that does things differently—maybe even a little irrationally. After all, the very idea of a transformation—digital or otherwise—requires an evolutionary change. When customer experiences are not bound by the limits of technology but rather empowered by them, that’s where true metamorphosis can be achieved so something new can take wing.