When it comes to digital, we are at a pivot point. Digitizing your business isn’t about technology: it’s about customer obsession - and in 2016, it will be among your ten critical business success factors helping position your firm for success in the Age of the Customer. In fact, next year will be a year of consequence: those firms that “get digital” will begin to pull ahead, and those firms that don’t will begin to look increasingly archaic, facing the risk of extinction.
The preliminary results from our recent digital business survey are telling. An increasing number of firms are reporting that they have a coherent and comprehensive digital strategy. While this is good news, these firms are still the minority. The vast majority of firms report that their approach to digital is limited at best, and non-existent at worst. But the consistently bleak picture is that most executives think the wrong people are in charge of their digital activities and few (very few) think they have the capabilities to deliver.
But there are some shining lights.
Leading firms like John Deere are pathing the path to digital mastery, demonstrating revenue and share price growth that outpaces less digitally savvy competitors. Executive committees are taking note. Innovation spend is on the rise, digital skills are in hot demand, and a new breed of digitally savvy senior leaders is finally emerging.
Deliver exceptional digital experiences. It sounds easy enough, but to win in the age of the customer, businesses must realize that there is much at stake if they do not focus efforts on providing customers with a solid customer experience. Forrester even argues that, in the coming years, it’s the customer obsessed digital leaders who will push far ahead of their competition. But how can they get there?
To help digital leaders exceed the expectations of their empowered customers, Forrester has designed this week’s Digital Business Forum around how to build a strategy that works — now and in the future. Liza Landsman, executive vice president and chief customer officer of Jet.com will be on stage alongside Forrester analysts Stephen Powers, Adam Silverman and Alyson Clarke to share her experience in digital business transformation.
At Jet.com, Liza is responsible for producing a compelling end-to-end customer experience with the tools and technologies that drive growth. I’m happy to share the below Q&A session with Liza — I caught up with her in advance of her keynote, and she was kind enough to chat about digital strategy and customer behaviors, and the ways that Jet.com handles its competition.
We are constantly told that millennials are breaking the workplace rules. They refuse to work 9 to 5. They demand iPhones. They can’t work unless there’s a fridge full of beer and a pool table in the office. And with a growing war for digital talent, many digital leaders are setting their sights firmly on attracting the digital generation to their firms.
But a recent IBM study suggests an even more interesting conclusion. While the study largely agrees with every other conclusion on the desires of the millennial workforce, it also strongly pointed out that it’s not just “youngsters” that want autonomy, flexibility, empowerment, an awesome work environment that ignites their creativity and the feeling that what they do makes a difference.
It’s the Tools and technology chapter, which has been an absolute beast of a research project. After all, where do you start outlining all of the tools and technologies you need to transform your business to become truly digital? To digitize your business strategy?
The short answer is you don’t.
In most of our research for the Digital Business Transformation Playbook we’ve concentrated on finding and outlining best practice examples of traditional firms that are transforming to embed digital into the heart of their business strategy. As one of our Research Directors so rightly pointed out early in this research, “horses don’t like stories about unicorns”. It’s not so helpful for us to tell you “hey, just copy Amazon” when you run a retail bank with a chain of a thousand branches around the world.
But in this instance we do need to hunt for unicorns.
Because the unicorns are nailing it.
Firms like Amazon, eBay or Spotify manage digital technology on the massive scale, yet retain a high level of innovation and agility. So what sets them and other digital masters, apart from digital dinosaurs in their relationship to technology? What can we learn from how they plan, manage and invest in technology? What we found was:
It’s no great shocker that digital skills are in short supply.
In our annual organizational and staffing survey of eBusiness and channel strategy professionals, we found that while eBusiness budgets have grown by more than 10%, finding the skills and capabilities to execute on a digital strategy is becoming harder and harder.
Digital transformation is undeniably complex and often misunderstood. To look at why things go wrong for some firms, lets take a quick look at three high-profile examples of transformation - two failures and one new initiative. These highlight some common mistakes that senior executives make:
By here, I mean here in Europe. And it’s here to stay.
Amazon launched Europe’s first Black Friday sale in 2010, with a small fanfare and some success. Most European retailers did the polite thing, and looked bashfully away while their brash American cousins celebrated a day with zero cultural significance this side of the Atlantic. “We’ll wait for Boxing Day” was the overwhelming sentiment.
But consumers bit, and the following year a small handful of global brands like Apple and Walmart (in the form of its UK subsidiary Asda) followed suit. Black Friday grew somewhat organically.
But 2014 was different.
Previous Black Friday successes unleashed a literal tidal wave of copy-cats in the run up to Christmas last year. This was most publically a UK phenomenon, with well-known brands like John Lewis taking part, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it was just a quaintly British emulation of the American trend. French and German retailers like Darty and Saturn also indulged. Akamai saw triple the normal web traffic to retail websites across Europe on Black Friday. But it was the UK that bore the brunt of the impact as:
High profile websites buckled and crashed under unprecedented load, with many retailers reporting upwards of a 300% uplift in traffic on Black Friday.
It’s no secret that digital skills are in short supply. In fact, while some three quarters of executives tell us their firm now has some form of digital strategy (however rudimentary), a paltry 16% say they have the skills and capabilities necessary to deliver it. Even though the average eBusiness team’s staffing budget is growing year on year, finding the skills and capabilities to execute on a digital strategy is becoming harder and harder.
eBusiness Teams Have An Average Of 95 Employees. The average eBusiness team has 95 team members. As would be expected, the larger the worldwide revenue, online revenue, or total employee count is, the larger the eBusiness team is.
Technology And Customer Experience Are Still The Hardest Roles To Fill. Technology, customer experience, and business analytics are the hardest jobs to hire for. Additionally, technology and customer experience are the most outsourced, and technology is the most understaffed.
The Digital Skills Gap Continues To Widen. Digital transformation brings an increased level of responsibility for eBusiness employees who are often leading the charge for company-wide transformation in addition to handling day-to-day operations. As all business becomes digital business, eBusiness teams will have an increasingly difficult time sourcing talent.
In 2014 digital business hit the boardroom and the C-suite offices: At the beginning of 2014, 93% of executives told us that they believed that their industries would experience digital disruption in 2014. But our surveys and interviews also tell us that many executives don’t believe that their firm has the ability to execute on that plan, and many don’t have confidence in the plan itself.