Posted: Monday 30th November 2020 in Retail Strategy, Senior Management Team, Thought Leadership.

Let’s all stop obsessing about digital transformation. It is just a bunch of words!

You are probably thinking “yes, but the world is changing, my customers’ shopping habits are different, my market share is eroding, and I am losing out to internet pure players who have different financial levers to me and have not been exposed to the Covid-19 lockdown measures. How do I compete?”

All true, but the answer to your problem does not lie in digital transformation! I am certainly not saying that building, growing and nurturing your digital business is of paramount importance, because it clearly is. What I am saying are the words “digital transformation” on their own do not actually mean anything. What the hell is digital transformation and how do you execute it? At Summit our definition is simple; do the stuff your customers love, online. But this is not a new thing. I have been running and helping digital businesses since the early days of the internet. During this time, retailers have all been in state of constant change and transformation when it comes to the internet. The suggestion that they now need to “transform” into some sort of digital butterfly is absurd and slightly condescending!

So, what is important and how does your business stay relevant and in good health through these changing and challenging times?

Well, it is very simple, it is not going to surprise you and it is often forgotten by many boards and senior management. Customer, customer, customer! It has never been more important to have a deep understanding of your customer. The key to your future success, whether you are an internet only business or a multi-channel operator, lies in your ability to deliver best in class, cross-channel execution of customer service and customer experience.

Amazon didn’t become the behemoth we all see today just because it sells lots of stuff at great prices online. Sure, it’s a factor, but you have to couple this with its impeccable customer experience proposition.

You can see here a CNBC interview with Jeff Bezos, where he said back in 1999 that “If there’s one thing Amazon.com is about, it’s its obsessive attention to the customer experience, end-to-end.”

Everything that Amazon has done is on purpose and based on constantly making incremental improvements to its customer service and experience proposition. They push themselves to relentlessly improve every measurable customer metric and challenge anything that may impact these negatively, whatever the cost.

Case in point, in 2007, Visa bought out its new online security system, Verified by Visa, to reduce online fraud. These systems still today power most of the global transactional websites and although things have improved slightly with this process, it is still a pretty horrible user experience and often ends in frustration. Back in 2007, Amazon, when asked by the banks to put these screens into their journey, said no, as they didn’t see them as customer friendly and would likely reduce their shopper satisfaction. Despite the pressure from the banks and the potential fraud claim backs, which would have been considerable, they chose to take the side of the shopper and moderate their own fraud screening.  This is still true today and is one of the main reasons why you can buy a product so fast via the Amazon App. Just swipe and you are done!

My point here, is not that continuing to develop your digital offer is unimportant, because it really is, but don’t think that simply building a new website, linking it up to your ERP and adding a few new bells and whistles is the whole answer. You must start by truly understanding your customers and what they want. Then strive to create an amazing end-to-end, cross-channel experience which will bring them back again and again. From researching and browsing, delivery and returns and everything in the middle, it all starts and finishes with knowing your customer!

Catch our Managing Director, Martin Corcoran and our Senior Client Director, Rebecca Wilkes, speaking at Econsultancy Live on the 2nd of December discussing what retailers really mean when they talk about digital transformation. Get your tickets for the event here.