Beyond digital marketing to “digital transformation”

The power of digital innovation goes way beyond social media, as shown by a recent article in Marketing Week. The bigger opportunity is to transform the whole brand experience. Diego’s CEO Ivan Menezes summed this up perfectly when he said “It’s not about doing ‘digital marketing’, it’s about marketing effectively in a digital world”, as reported in another Marketing Week piece by Mark Ritson.

Below I share some examples from the article that show different ways of transforming the brand experience.

1. Make life easier for people

With the rush to use sexy new digital channels, in some cases brand teams have lost sight of the consumer. Rather than trying to "connect" or "engage" with consumers, a first priority should be to focus on making life a little better by solving problems for people. Car breakdown service The AA took this approach when revamping its app offer. It had a bewildering collection of 60+ different app versions, including breakdown reporting, pub guides and aids for learner drivers. 74% of customers did not use an app again after download, according to the Marketing Week article.

The AA worked with agency Rufus Leonard to launch a single app that tied up activities and services, based on consumer needs. "[There’s a] focus on making life easier for customers so they can call out [breakdown services] via the app, but also other services such as the nearest petrol station, the cheapest petrol, car registration or when your tax is due,” comments Digital director Thom Groot.

In terms of results, The AA’s app store rating from 2.5 to 4 stars, drove 37% more app visits and 33% more unique users, with double the number of people per week registering to use the app"

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2. Channel innovation

Retail group Shop Direct has harnessed digital technology to truly transform its whole business model and route to consumer. “We have fundamentally changed our business,” says Gareth Jones, deputy CEO and retail and strategy director. It is a great example of a company revitalising its core business before it goes into decline. Three years ago, 72% of the brand’s sales came from printed catalogues. Today the Shop Direct brands, such as and, are 100% online. Even more impressive is that a whopping 63% of sales come from mobile devices.

The digital transformation is still underway, with partnerships used to drive further innovation. For example, Shop Direct is working with omnichannel personalisation agency RichRelevance to offer customers personalised product recommendations and offers.

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3. Connecting with external partners

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca worked on making digital channels work harder for the company’s partnership efforts. This supported a wider business strategy based on "open innovation" and partnering with the external world in science. The initiative included a new corporate website and social media strategy, done with agency DigitasLBi. One key learning from this example is the importance of creating compelling content. “New websites and platforms are great but content is king,” says project director Roeland van der Heiden here.

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The article covered the challenges of digital transformation. In particular:

  • Getting buy in from senior leaders and the board: a report by eConsultancy shows that the responsibility for digital projects lies with senior leaders. 75% of seniors managers surveyed agreed that strategic digital priorities are the responsibility of the senior management. And senior management can be the key barrier to success. 62% of staff feel the biggest barrier to digital transformation is lacking a leadership mandate, according to research by agency Organic.
  • Culture change: As The Marketing Week article says, "Digital transformation is about adapting the culture of the business and the way it operates to work with new technology, rather than making the chosen technology fit". As with the consumer, the focus should be on making life easier for people. “Technology doesn’t drive change, it provides the opportunity to do things better,” comments James Moffat, executive director at Organic.

In conclusion, marketers should look beyond digital communication and to digital business, with a focus on the consumer. As Digital director Thom Groot rightly comments, “You have to start the process with what is going to be useful and valuable for customers and the business. Unless customers really want it and engage with it, you are not driving impact."