Digital Transformation isn’t, really, a transformation

Digital transformation and the shift to e-commerce has been on the rise across industries as many businesses are going digital to reach their customers more effectively. However, the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst to bring digital operations to the forefront for many businesses as they needed to stay afloat without in-person sales. Now in mid-2021, it’s become abundantly clear that digital transformation isn’t that uncommon a phenomenon. In my opinion, digital transformation isn’t really a transformation at all — it’s just a shift to better business practices.

While some organizations have undergone radical transformations, for the majority, it’s more of a minor adaptation. I don’t want to diminish the importance of this change though. While an entire organizational transformation is rarely called for, it’s critical that organizations embrace digital channels to better reach their customers. We are are spending more time online than ever before, and this trend is only moving in one direction. Any brand should be experimenting with relevant digital channels to determine viability of digital offerings. If your company isn’t doing that, you’re leaving money on the table.

As the CEO of SoPost, a technology platform for digital product sampling, I’ve been a part of a number of companies’ shifts to digital. But beyond just coming to view the term “transformation” as a hot topic, I’ve learned that it’s different for every company. It’s not all-digital or nothing, it’s finding the right balance that works for you. This is a hybrid model for many.

Find your sweet spot

If you work for a company currently trying to digitize, the best advice I can give is to try to find your sweet spot. Every organization, even ones with similar products or offering, is unique. You don’t have to sell every storefront and move your entire organization online! The myth of the “transformation” is an alluring one, and I’ve seen companies go too far, too quickly. Instead of looking to make large-scale changes, try starting with a couple of small digital initiatives. See what works, and what doesn’t.

Some companies will be most successful when entirely digital, or entirely non-digital, but most will be somewhere in-between. A partner recently told me about a customer who received a free product sample from a digital campaign, liked the sample, but instead of buying online, went to the actual brick and mortar store to purchase the full size version. This consumer journey is common, and the combination of experiences was key for that interaction and ultimate transaction. Getting the exact mix right can be a challenge, especially for brands with a strong heritage. But in today’s market, both have to play together for organizations to maximize their impact.

Maximizing impact through digital strategy can look very different for different brands. Imagine a high-end luxury beauty brand, and an energy bar brand. The beauty brand’s typical customer will expect a tailored experience from start to finish. Maybe that brand’s digital shift will involve gleaning more data about their consumers from their digital campaigns to improve the customer experience, and personalize everything possible when that individual comes into their store.

Compare that to the energy bar’s typical consumer. She likely won’t care about how personal the experience is, and probably isn’t buying directly from the energy bar supplier – she may be buying on Amazon, or from the grocery store. That energy bar can still get a lot out of digital, though. Their digital best-practice might be to offer a lot of engagement opportunities to customers who are fitness enthusiasts.

These hypothetical examples exist to illustrate how brands can get equivalent amounts of value from digital, even if that value comes in very different ways. This just underscores how important it is for brands to find their own space in the digital world, and use strategies tailored to their specific situation. Brands that successfully merge the digital and non-digital pieces of their businesses will have a strong competitive edge, as shown by the last 18 months. Just don’t call it a transformation.