The term may be played-out, but that doesn’t change the fact that digital transformation – the use of cutting-edge digital technology to improve organizational efficiency – is crucial for companies who want to remain competitive and increase profitability in today’s global marketplace. It enables brands to apply technical solutions to modernize and streamline operations across multiple business functions (e.g., marketing, finance, operations) by tapping into a broad range of technologies (data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, etc.). As such, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) should typically be tasked with developing and executing digital transformation strategies.
Yet, a Deloitte survey of global CIOs showed that 42% of organizations either had a limited digital strategy or none at all. In addition, within these organizations, only 40% of CIOs were developing the digital strategy and only 27% were leading its execution. In order to stay ahead of the curve, here are a few of the data principles that CIOs need to adopt, along with real-world examples on how they can be put into action.
A recent study by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, found that data-driven companies are:
Simply put – organizations need to adopt a pro-data mentality across the entire enterprise. This means brands must prioritize investing in reliable data, services, and technologies that support their ability to generate insights across departments.
Brand Example: Software company Adobe recently underwent a digital transformation helmed by CIO Cynthia Stoddard. Adobe switched to a data-driven operating model, that included integrating data across the entire enterprise. Cynthia Stoddard said the transformation required collaboration and teamwork to make it successful.
“We integrated data across the entire enterprise into a unified data architecture – to run the business, drive predictive data insights, and deliver personalization. It’s always challenging when you have to get everyone on board with definitions, KPIs, governance, and bring together the right level of insight” said Stoddard, “This was truly a cross-functional effort, in which everyone from finance to product teams came together to lay out the vision. People had to give up individual tools and move toward a new way of working. If an idea didn’t pan out in the way we expected it to, we learned from it and applied those lessons to new ideas.”
Studies have shown that increasing customer retention by 5% can result in a 25% increase in revenue. Collecting relevant data and having the technology to analyze it is the best way to guide customer experience improvements that boost retention. For example, collecting feedback can provide insights on where customers are experiencing frustration with a product or purchase flow. This information can direct a brand’s efforts and help them tweak their offerings where they make the biggest impact on customer satisfaction. Brands should keep in mind that different target audiences have different needs and brands shouldn’t take a cookie-cutter approach to the customer journey.
Brand Example: Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, has said that “data is the enabler of digital transformation.” Best Buy started their digital transformation in 2012, back when “everyone thought Amazon was going to kill us,” Joly said. The company adopted technology to build a single view of the brand’s customers and more accurately determine what consumers really wanted. An analysis revealed it was important for their customers to feel informed and assured that they were making a smart investment when purchasing electronics. Realizing a positive in-store experience with knowledgeable in-person assistance could meet their customers’ needs and serve as a key differentiator, Best Buy invested in training employees to ensure that customers received the highest levels of expertise. The brand also added new services that sent techs directly to customers’ homes to provide advice and personalized product recommendations on items like smart appliances and home theaters, free of charge.
Many organizations employ artificial intelligence (AI) during their digital transformation – including implementing AI to build and expand their audience. A customer profile is a compilation of demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics, along with buying patterns, credit, and purchase history. AI tools are incredibly efficient at analyzing large datasets to provide marketers with insights into a prospect’s habits, spending motives, behaviors and common questions. This allows marketers to home in on the best products, messaging, channel and time of day to reach their target consumer. During a digital transformation, companies may also find that these improved insights into their customer base help identify new segments in need of their services.
Brand Example: Automobile brand BMW decided to use the brand’s first-party data and AI solutions to improve personalization and lower their customer acquisition costs. BMW started with an analysis of consumers who had visited the BMW website and customers in their CRM system to learn the habits of the target audience. They then used an AI solution to test and optimize their search ads, to ensure the messages would reach the consumer at the right time of day and target messages based on factors like previous searches and site visits. The strategy paid off – the brand was able to triple their conversions and decrease cost per acquisition by 75%. 
An IDC survey of 2,000 global companies revealed that two-thirds of CEOs will shift their focus from traditional, offline strategies to more modern digital strategies to improve the customer experience. As more brands focus on enhancing their customer experience, any organization that isn’t using data to provide a personalized customer experience will be left in the dust. Analyzing data to gain insights into your customers’ behaviors, preferences, and values allows organizations to personalize messaging and tailor the customer experience to appeal to their target audience and understand the customer journey.
Brand Example: Telecommunications company, Sprint underwent a digital transformation, which included a move to a data-driven, dynamic website. Thanks to the efforts of Sprint’s Chief Digital Officer Rob Roy, the brand now has a more comprehensive view of its customers than ever before and the ability to track a consumer across multiple channels. Roy said, “Our website is more flexible to all of the data we are getting, taking the human interaction out of it and letting the machine provide the information on what we should show visitors based on the segment that came in and the type of activity that we were seeing,” Rob explained. “We are seeing a lot of benefit from taking that data-first mentality and focusing our technology build around that type of environment.”
As Sprint collects data on the customer journey, they can adjust the website in order to offer a more convenient and personalized experience for their customers. For example, Sprint tested two purchase flows for their Sprint Complete Protection program and evaluated which option resulted in a better experience for customers. They determined that the customers wanted more visuals that helped explain the protection program rather than text. Sprint is committed to leaning into the machine learning trend to keep customers engaged and continuously improve upon the customer journey. 
As brands undergo digital transformations, CIOs need to leverage data and data technologies in order to stay competitive and exceed customer expectations.