How Digital Transformation Can Solve for Inefficiencies

How Digital Transformation Can Solve for Inefficiencies and Improve the Customer Experience

by Marta Ripoll

6 minute read

Following up on our article around the panel at our ThinkContent LabⓇ London in May, How to Get Internal Buy-In for Digital Transformation and Drive Adoption, we’re bringing you “part 2” with insights from keynotes presented by Shell’s Digital Transformation Lead, Ben Glatz, and Unilever’s Global E-Commerce Lead, Punit Parikh.

Digital transformation and why it matters

The session opened with Ben Glatz, who shared how he has addressed global digital transformation, providing key learnings around the implementation process and how emerging technology will affect marketers.

The change imperative

To set the scene of why digital transformation really matters for marketing, content marketing, and marketing organisations, Glatz began by discussing The Change Imperative. Starting with the introduction of the Internet 30 years ago, and the disruption that it caused, we have since had another wave known as the “digital revolution” or “digital disruption.” Basically, the stack of technologies we’re all familiar with and at a minimum, have invested in — Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (SMAC).

The problem is that most organisations haven’t really come to grips with how to make the most of those technologies, but the ecosystem is already moving on. Research shows that since 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist as a result of digital disruption (Harvard Business Review).

“All of this is happening, how do we grapple with it, what do we do about it? The problem is, it’s getting worse,” Glatz said. “We are entering a post-digital era. If you’re accepting the definition of digital being that SMAC stack, we are way past that. We need to catch up because what is happening next is accelerating even faster, with even more change and disruption in the way we do marketing — from a data perspective, from a compliance perspective, and from a content perspective.”

How AR/VR, 5G, AI, and emerging tech are relevant to marketers

“I think there are huge opportunities in content marketing and experiential marketing that are being wasted,” Glatz said. “AR/ VR is an emerging channel and a new way to access consumers. It’s a relatively unchartered area for marketers and for content creation, and most importantly, as another outlet to engage with consumers.”

In terms of 5G and the capabilities it brings, Glatz was sure to mention that it will supercharge new business models, new channels, and content consumption on the user side.

“When it comes to AI, the concern is not just how we analyse all the data, but how we segment our customers. While it’s already well understood and well underway in a lot of organisations, others still have a long way to go. But there’s so much you can do with AI in marketing already. You can create models for photoshoots — you don’t need a model release form or an agency. You can create 20 people for a target audience that look real,” Glatz said. 

Though they come with their concerns, all of these new capabilities drive the need for digital transformation — and there is a lot of investment in the space, according to Glatz. But of the $1.3 trillion that was spent on Digital Transformation last year, it was estimated that $900 billion went to waste (Harvard Business Review). Why? Glatz said it largely comes down to the fact that a lot of it is not just about the technology. “The technology is almost the easy bit when you’re trying to drive real transformation. The hard bit is how we engage with users, how they engage with us, and how we adopt different ways of working.”

Digital transformation goes beyond technology

Successful digital transformation goes far beyond technology and requires fundamental shifts in mindset, strategy, and culture. “In order to drive great customer experience, you also need a great employee experience. That’s where digital transformation also comes in — employees need the tools to do their job,” Glatz said.

“Anywhere you go, the top tip when talking about successful digital transformation is always top-level buy-in. At the same time, running in stealth mode for a while can be quite useful because you escape some scrutiny and hopefully with a few wins, you get that buy-in from leadership. In fact, sometimes it can be really useful to do things under the radar. Other than that it’s having it out with whoever you need to convince.”

Considerations for digital transformation

Punit Parikh, who is part of the B2B Transformation team at Unilever, is responsible for transforming their technology to better enable B2B commerce. In his session, he talked about the risks that come with digital transformation and how you need to take them into account when before implementing new technology.

Technology has to be useful

Technology is great, but only when it’s actually solving problems — not creating new ones.

Parikh discussed the complex process that Unilever goes through to manufacture its goods and sell them in a place like India. “We have our own manufacturers to produce goods, and we have warehouses. We don’t own the warehouses, but we have distributors who own the warehouses. The reason for this is that they have the logistics support and they have their sales team who will go to each individual store and collect the orders. The salespeople will take the order will go to the stores, deliver the goods, and collect the cash,” he said. “That’s an entirely manual process, and these sellers are spending most of their time going back an forth.”

The logical process would be to implement technology to automate some of this process. However, you have to be thoughtful of the complexities and how it will impact the customer.

Parikh warned, “We always jump the gun: Let’s cut the middle man. Let’s get more margin and do the transformation. But if you do that in a complex space like ours with consumer goods, your business will collapse. Why? This sales rep will have known your customer for more than 20-30 years. They have been interacting with them, they are your ambassadors, they will enable your programme. If you think you want to go without them — good luck.”

Find where technology will best fit into your organization

“Everyone is doing digitalisation. In our space, there’s Amazon for Business, Ali baba, and lots of other different market spaces. They don’t own any goods, they own the logistical support. They own the ecosystem.”

So what has Amazon done differently for B2B and why is it such a force? According to Parikh, “They started integrating with complex technology that automated the entire inventory process so they can see through the warehouses and the supply. As a B2B seller, I’ll probably be working on algorithms which decide the pricing strategy with a whole team behind it, but with Amazon B2B that doesn’t have to do this because they own the data.”

However, there are ways in which digital transformation can make Unilever’s processes more efficient. Rather than cutting out the middle man who makes the sales, they transformed their delivery mechanism to make up for those inefficiencies.

“In B2B, it’s more about driving the right customer experience and building the ecosystem. It’s not just a customer-facing website, it’s about fulfilling the customer’s expectation in an increasingly competitive environment,” Parikh explained.

So what can marketing teams who want to implement new technology take away from this?

Ask yourself: Why should we do this transformation in the first place? Who will benefit from it (the organisation or the customer)? Or are we just doing it for the sake of it?