Every company is digital
Organisations that deal with customers, partners, suppliers and staff are, in effect, digital companies. This is hardly a new concept. Every company utilises digital systems to record information (data). The data are recorded as touchpoint interactions. A touchpoint can be a sales terminal, an online account, a recorded interaction with your call centre, an email marketing communication, or even a social network post. Interactions create records of how you do business. What touchpoints you use, how they operate, and what they do are key questions which are answered by the data that such touchpoint use records.
If digital and data are so important, why is there so much confusion about how to utilise their benefits? Why is ‘big data’ so misunderstood? Why is data centralisation so complex? How can my digital and data investments increase my sales? Build loyalty? Reduce churn? Help me maximise ROI? Typically, the answers to such questions are unnecessarily complex and disparately focused.
Importance of taking a holistic view
Part of the confusion arising from asking questions about digital and data is a lack of acceptance and understanding that organisations are increasingly driven by digital systems, and that the resulting data are a record of touchpoint interactions.
Consider the following customer-focused example: if you want customers to buy more from you what do you do? Answer: you simply ask them to buy more from you. How do you do it? Answer: in the most relevant, personalised and timely manner. In order to personalise your message you must have access to contact, profile and demographic information. In order to make your message relevant, you must have access to behavioural, purchasing and qualitative information. In order to ask in a timely manner, you must be aware of the customer’s preferred communication channels, and you must have the skills to get the message across, and then record and act on the results.
So, in order to sell more, you have to record historical interactions, be able to access the information in a meaningful way, and be able to leverage touchpoints themselves, so as to present the sales offer.
In order to increase sales, you need a holistic view of the customer and the ability to use that information effectively.
Interactions and the related data recorded need to be assessed from a holistic viewpoint. They are not merely part of your business – they are your business.
Follow the leader?
Being a leader does not necessarily mean being the best. Early adopters have a very high failure rate. What they do is help to open up new markets and, as a result of trial and error, expose real opportunities and in turn push new developments. This does not mean that leading the market in the use of digital and data is wrong or that it poses a risk to a business.
As with everything, once the purpose of market leadership is assessed in the context of achieving a business objective, then the likelihood is that leading can deliver a competitive advantage. If we take the example of investing in building a social network community (e.g. on Facebook), is this really a channel that will help you achieve your business goals? How does it fit with other channels? What data are collected and how can that data help you to achieve your business goals? Or are you investing in social media because everyone else is?
Benefits of digital and data optimisation?
A starting point for maximising the business benefits of digital and data within your organisation is to speak plain English. State clearly what you want to achieve. Then, examine your touchpoints and the processes they utilise, in order to determine if they are effective, appropriate and aligned with your business goals and objectives.
The process of optimising your organisation’s digital and data assets starts with key business drivers. These processes are fact-driven, and derive from your business goals and results, from employees and from the external business environment. They provide an input which enables you to review the touchpoints against the value that they could potentially bring to the business and its customers. All channels (whether you actually use them, or could use them) should be considered.
Both the nature and the quality of customer interactions for all channels need to be reviewed and analysed against internal processes and systems. Their impact on your business objectives needs to be examined: it is only then that you can identify ways to optimise your digital and data assets to maximise the output from your business activities – typically, to increase sales, build loyalty, reduce churn or maximise ROI.
What I should be doing?
Start with developing an understanding of how you use digital and data within your organisation. Use plain English – everyone needs to clearly understand what exactly you are trying to communicate. Identify waste and opportunity by reviewing your touchpoints. Create optimisation projects linked to your business goals.
Michael P McMahon is head of the Digital and Data Optimisation practice within Pathfinder, a management consultancy company with offices in Ireland and the UK. Pathfinder are the ultimate strategy consultants in digital sales and marketing.