At a high level, the goal of digital transformation in marketing is to find more customers while spending less money. More specifically, awesome digital marketing generates more quality leads and helps you get closer to all of your customers, whether they’re new to your brand or longtime loyalists.
The shift from analog to digital marketing materials helps these efforts in two key ways. First, digital materials are generally cheaper to produce and distribute than analog media. Email, in particular, is far less expensive than print-and-mail campaigns. Second, digital marketing opens the door to marketing automation, analytics tracking, and dialogue with customers in ways that analog never could.
There’s a good reason that the traditional roles of marketing and sales are being redefined in the digital age. It’s all about the data.
The ability to collect large amounts of precise data on consumer behavior lets marketing and sales teams, in particular, approach their work in ways never before possible. Looking at consumers as individuals, and studying their behavior from the first touchpoint all the way through the buying journey, brings to light the natural bond between marketing and sales. Nurture that bond, and magic happens when these historically separate groups work together.
Salespeople particularly benefit from access to more and better data. When marketing and sales teams share information across a CRM, and individual sales reps enter sales activity and keep their pipelines up to date on the platform, information flows freely throughout an entire organization.
From there, two big things happen. First, more eyes on the same information means more opportunities to share intelligence across your entire business. Maybe someone from marketing ops sees a sales rep’s note about a prospect in the CRM, and shares marketing campaign activities related to the prospect that helps move the deal along.
Second, as information flows and gathers within your company, you set yourself up to leverage cutting-edge digital innovations like artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence systems can be incredibly helpful in their ability to comb through vast amounts of data in search of useful patterns and other insights. As AI services evolve, they’re studying sales and marketing data not only from the end-consumer standpoint, but also to determine the effectiveness of sales techniques and strategies themselves. In addition to surfacing insights around, say, which demographics are more likely to buy at what times of the year, AI can shed light on which sales strategies have proven most effective over time, or what promotions and product bundles bucked long-term trends to move the revenue needle.
With more and more datasets available from external sources, AI systems can mine marketplace information as well as your own sales history. From there, the systems look for correlations, patterns, and even anomalies to give your teams a competitive edge when going after accounts. Combining AI-driven insights with the tribal knowledge of your teams is perhaps the ultimate realization of digital transformation for sales.
Social media is everywhere, mashing up news, entertainment, and brand interactions alongside interpersonal connections. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently found that 78% of consumers were in some way influenced by social media during their buying process. And nearly half of consumers said their buying behavior was directly affected by reviews and comments they came across on social.
Consumer participation in social media has changed the buying process, so any successful digital transformation needs to incorporate a social selling strategy. This uniquely digital medium is full of opportunity for the savvy salesperson to connect and build relationships with prospects and longtime customers. As the Digital Marketing Institute aptly said, “Successful social sellers can be regarded as thought leaders, or even trusted consultants, by prospective customers as they provide value through industry insights, sharing expertise and offering solutions to common consumer questions through creating or sharing insightful content.”
Customer service, and our ideas around where service begins and ends, are being upended by the digital era as much as any other part of business. Maybe more so.
The “on-demand economy” has quickly grown from a few upstart apps that hire errand runners and hail cars for busy urbanites to a global movement to, as Forbes put it, “Uberize the entire economy.” A combination of smartphone ubiquity, electronic payment systems, and apps designed to match demand (consumers) to supply (gig workers) in real time has created a world in which nearly anything you might want is just a swipe and tap away, around the clock.
Talk about digital transformation! With everything from pizza delivery to child care now available at their fingertips, customers are expecting more and more companies and industries to embrace digital as their primary means of doing business. For service departments, that means greater expectations for 24/7 problem-solving on the customer’s channel of choice. But it also means greater opportunities to delight buyers and win more business.
Listening and responding to customers across all social media channels sounds pretty daunting if you’re just getting started with the Twitter and LinkedIn apps on your own phone. But a host of tools designed for social service makes it easy to highlight customer needs, integrate social channels into your service workflows, and start measuring brand sentiment and activity across social media.
Meeting your customers where they already are is a big part of winning business in our digital world. Approaching social service with a digital transformation mindset can really spell the difference between struggling to keep up with customer needs and turning service calls into opportunities to grow your brand.
Collaboration across the different parts of your business is key. The Salesforce “State of the Connected Customer” report made that clear: 84% of high-performing marketing leaders say that service collaborates with marketing to manage and respond to social inquiries and issues, while just 37% of underperformers say the same. When information is freed from silos, teams collaborate more, and businesses perform better.
Remember the days when everything from canned goods to kitchen appliances came with a toll-free customer service number, and that 800 number was your only avenue for everything from product questions to warranty claims? Call centers aren’t quite a thing of the past, but the digital age brings so much more flexibility when it comes to finding the right medium for serving customers in different ways.
The self-service portal is a great example. These user-facing tools offer features like password reset, self-logging of incidents, service requests, and knowledge base searches. They can also include more interactive services like collaborative spaces, chat services, and embedded social media feeds that are relevant to service issues.
User-friendly design, including search fields that offer suggestions, and user profiles that leverage customers’ purchase and service histories, can go a long way toward personalizing self-service for your customers. A good self-service portal can reduce the demands on your service agents. And customers like self-service: 59% of consumers and 71% of business buyers say self-service availability impacts their loyalty, according to our research.
Bringing artificial intelligence into your service organization is a prime example of the power of digital transformation. AI-powered chatbots that answer simple customer inquiries serve as a welcoming presence on your website, reducing the time customers have to wait to reach an agent.
Deploying chatbots to handle level one inquiries also frees up service personnel to spend time on more sensitive cases. AI-powered bots can serve as the entry point into intelligent case routing systems. When a customer’s query is too complex for the chatbot to handle, natural language processing helps map the question to the best available expert to resolve the situation.
We’ve talked a lot in this chapter about specific examples of digital transformation in marketing, sales, and service. All digital transformations start with the move from analog to digital — that is, taking information off of paper and putting it into the digital realm. From there, these basic ideas apply to all businesses and industries:
- Meet customers in the digital channels they already frequent
- Leverage data to better understand your customers and the marketplace as a whole
- Free your data and share intelligence across your entire business
- Encourage once-separate groups like marketing, sales, and service to collaborate
Digital transformation is helping many industries. Let’s look at how these ideas are being applied in a few specific ones.
Banking has been radically transformed by digital technologies in ways that have greatly benefited many consumers. Not so long ago, the majority of transactions were handled in person by bank tellers. Automated teller machines (ATMs) came along and streamlined the basic transaction process, extending business hours and reducing wait times and dependencies on human employees for cash withdrawals and other popular transactions. Over time, ATM technology has evolved to accommodate cash and check deposits, more secure transactions, and support for multiple accounts, including credit cards and mortgages.
More recently, PCs and mobile devices have given way to online and mobile banking, and cashless payment systems. Consumers now conduct more and more bank business via the web, including paying bills and sending funds directly to friends and family. Mobile banking apps let users take snapshots of paper checks to make remote deposits, and a new wave of payment systems, including PayPal and Apple Pay, let consumers pay for everyday purchases with accounts linked directly to their phones, no cash or plastic card required.
Retail has also been radically transformed in the digital era. Digital transformation has both impacted the in-store retail experience and ushered in the age of ecommerce.
Digital technologies have improved the retail experience for consumers and proprietors alike, enabling everything from loyalty cards and e-coupons to automated inventory and retail analytics systems. Shoppers who used to clip coupons from newspapers and magazines now just show their phones at checkout to access in-store discounts and deals. When they do this, their purchases are tallied by digital systems that track consumer behavior trends, tie into inventory and purchasing systems, and trigger individualized customer journey events like email and SMS messaging. Additional personalization of the in-store experience can be enabled by digital beacons that link to mobile apps to sense when particular shoppers enter the store. From there, anything from a phone alert to a personal concierge can be deployed to enhance the retail experience.
Retailers are now even experimenting with subscription-style sales using Internet of Things technology. Amazon, for example, has Dash Buttons: IoT-enabled devices with buttons that trigger automated reordering of an item. Branded Dash Buttons are available for a growing number of household goods and other items regularly in need of replenishment. Just click the button when you’re running low and a refill — billed to your Amazon Prime account, naturally — will be dispatched right away, just like that.