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When Everyone has Digital Transformation Strategies, How Can You Be Different?
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By Christian Reichenbach
The increased use of technology to enhance the value proposition of existing business models or even establish new, digital revenue streams is an all-pervasive strategic initiative in every industry. Most organizations are experimenting with proof of concepts and small pilots, but many of them lack “the next big thing.” Truly, doing something rather than nothing provides the feeling of some transformation, but plagiarizing others doesn’t differentiate you from them, nor does it make you unique.
So, what can you do to identify your differentiation and convert it to your digital advantage?
Focus on your customer’s journey
Today, customers and the customer experience are recognized as driving C-suite decision-making. Customers are the ones that make you’re the topline – no customers, no revenue; simple as that. To delight customers, surprise them above their expectations with additional services, features, and contextualized engagement. Companies that reacted quickly to address their customers’ online experience, at the outset of the pandemic, fared best over the longer term. Consider Pepsico – it launched two new consumer sites in less than 30 days that not only identified the types of items that customers might want to purchase, but bundled them to increase unit sales.
When I recently picked-up my online-order from the supplier’s brick-and-mortar store, I opened their app to access my buying receipt that I thought I needed for collecting my order. In that moment, the app already knew that I’m in the store – thanks to Bluetooth Beacons, the store automatically notified a staff member to bring my order, while asking me questions that identify me so that staff could easily find me.
Not only is that company trying to make my experience positive to make me hit “buy” in their online store, but they’re also going beyond, considering my entire journey as a customer, and “surprising” me with an outstanding shopping experience. Therefore, think before and after sales; what do you already know about customers as if they are currently in your store? And how can you use technology for a better, seamless, and engaging experiences along the journey?
Leverage your identity
Using technology to uplift value propositions is a common objective for most organizations. With an eye on the most innovative peers in their industry, many mimic similar approaches in order to not fall behind. While that ensures similar experiences compared to the market leaders, it falls short on uniqueness, differentiation, and meaningfulness for your customers. And if you’re not a current market leader, it doesn’t propel you to being one.
In a discussion I had with an internationally well-known large public showground venue operator that hosts business, entertainment, and sport events, the Chief Operating Officer highlighted the newly implemented digital experiences such as way-finding, digital signage, cashless point of sales, and others. Certainly, all that is expected from a digital showground today, but what makes them stand out? Focusing on their rich history, proud values, and commitment for sustainability, we identified experiences that only they can deliver – and that’s uniqueness that sticks with their visitors.
Each organization has something that is solely associated with them – something that is almost impossible or at least implausible for others to copy. Finding that unique “something” provides the basis for differentiation.
Think in ecosystems
Michel E. Porter, known for his Value Chain model and Five Forces Analysis, describes in his article “digital technology is expanding industry boundaries. Each organization is in control of its discrete product or service, but customers will interact, use, and connect with many other organizations and their solutions too along their buying journey to achieve their buying objectives.”
As a digital advisor who consults with organizations around the globe, I travel to many countries and see dozens of airports. Even if I know some airports inside out, too often I search for airline lounges in terminals or gates at unfamiliar airports. But because my favorite airline cooperates with the airport operators, they exchange data such as the airport’s floor plan, Bluetooth Beacon IDs, shops, and other meta-data so that I can get situational navigation delivered right into my airline app to find the closest lounge, without the need to have dozens of airport maps on my phone.
This illustrates a strategy to expand your value proposition through digital integration with ecosystem partners, sometime even with your competitors beyond your own controlled systems – creating systems of systems. The synergy of such a powerful ecosystem to mutually improve the customer experience will gain you more satisfied customers and even new cohorts through new channels.
Partner outside your industry
When digital initiatives top the priority list, many organizations turn to their well-known suppliers in their own industry vertical. We all know examples of the players that serve financial institutions with software and retailers with logistic solutions, and suppliers that equip manufacturers with operational technology at the assembly line.
To illustrate with a different example, though, we can point to Continental. At the time when Continental AG, one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world, started their pivot towards digital and connected cars, an article can be found in the latest Doppler Report, called “Don’t go it alone. Three successful strategies for making partnerships work.” You can download here.
Continental realized “if tens of millions of our products are connecting with thousands of HPE servers, it would make sense for the leaders of both companies to connect as well.” That was the start of a strategic partnership between Continental AG and HPE in which we, among other things, worked on a new concept to exchange data from different automobile brands, across OEM-boundaries, to enable driver experiences that aren’t possible today.
In the bigger picture, new conclusions start to form that existing technology vendor relationships might continue to complement at the infrastructure level. For the next big thing or your next big move, in which digital concepts from a certain vertical can create advantages in your industry, consider connecting to a partner that has broader expertise in digital transformation.
Include scaling from the start
Many organizations have established think-tanks, digital subsidiaries, and experimental affiliates to explore novel technologies. That is also a great opportunity for start-ups to interact with well-established brands to collaborate and build proof-of-concepts.
Unfortunately, too often I’m approached by my clients with the ever-same question: “We have this new thing here, but can you help us to scale it globally?” Many incorrectly identify technology as the inhibitor, but in reality, the lack of success at scaling innovation is more to do with not treating scaling capabilities as its own discipline within the innovation journey, nor having the correct culture to make tough decisions.
To be clear, I’m a big fan of the disruptive thinking and fresh ideas from just-launched companies – we need you! Thus, keep in mind, that success isn’t limited to impressed board members after a completed pilot. They, their stakeholders, and their shareholders are even more impressed when it scales across all subsidiaries and regions. Keeping that in mind from the very beginning will ensure long-term success and the global roll-out of the next big thing.
The “Advance Moment”
HPE Digital Advisors, of which I am one, deliver a Digital Next Advisory framework through innovative, even remote facilitation methods. Advancing your digital aspiration through the co-invention of new ideas that create exceptional experiences for your customers is our aim. We do this with a methodology we refer to as the “Advance Moment.” With a compelling narrative for decision makers and stakeholders they’ll get everything needed to start exploring new ideas.
In a future article I’ll develop how we go about collaborating in delivering an Advance Moment.
Christian Reichenbach is a digital advisor for exploratory, digital business transformations. He advises customers worldwide on how to establish connected economy business models, designs and builds minimum viable products, and drives operating model changes toward a more innovative, efficient, and productive way of doing business. In an edge-centric, data-driven, and cloud-enabled world, he is an evangelist for the role that digital plays in advancing the way we live and work by engineering contemporary experiences. As an enthusiast for digitalization, Christian bridges the gap between technology, user experiences, and business benefits. He also talks with senior executives and runs ideation session to unveil new opportunities for digital business models.