How digital and marketing executives are taking charge of digital transformation

Spreading responsibility for digital transformation beyond the safe confines of the IT department creates benefits for your business and its customers.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor

Increasing numbers of non-IT executives are taking responsibility for business change projects on behalf of their organisations. Here, three digital and marketing leaders explain how to deliver digital transformation projects that boost business operations and customer experiences.

1. Create a single, consistent message about your brand

Linda McBain, director of digital at Save the Children UK, says the charity's digital transformation started in 2015. She says the organisation had "a broken technology platform". Donors couldn't complete transactions online and the charity only had a small digital team with a limited amount of resources.

"Our supporters wanted different experiences, to come online and to support our work," she says. "We need to inspire our supporters with our cause – the more deeply they believe in the cause, the longer they'll stay with us."

SEE: Digital transformation: A CXO's guide (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

This required a significant business transformation: McBain says Save the Children UK traditionally centred its attention on making money from donations on a single campaign. Now, the approach is much broader.

"We're looking at the audience first – we're planning across multiple channels and inspiring people with a single, consistent message about Save the Children UK as a brand," says McBain. "Instead of being siloed, we're focusing on the lifetime value of a customer. We're thinking about how we can encourage people to campaign with us, to support us and fundraise with us."

McBain says the charity's partnership with technology firm Adobe has been key to this transformation. The organisation has implemented Adobe's Experience Manager and Campaign Manager tools. McBain says these tools have helped the charity to develop an experience-focused approach to online platforms, with responsive web designs that support transactions on any device.

Save the Children UK also uses Adobe Target to run tests that allow it to identify its best content. McBain's organisation ran three tests in quick succession through Target earlier this year. The digital team has seen a 9% increase in income on site by using the test results to create more personalised content.

"That will have a huge impact for us and mean we can change more children's lives for the better," says McBain. "Technology is allowing us to show our supporters the benefits of their donations. It's a long journey but we're making significant progress."

2. Segment your clients to create personalised content

Fashion retailer Boden is famous for its catalogue business, yet the firm also sells products online and in shops, through high-street stores and concessions in department stores. Phil Lewis, director of digital transformation at Boden, wants to use digital technology to change brand perceptions.

"Conversations with customers were all about the catalogue – there was little interaction and it was a bit of a static experience," he says. "We recognised that we needed to change that and create something more than a website that was just an order-taking platform. That was the trigger for us."

Boden aims to ensure content on its website is at a similar standard to the firm's catalogue that its posts to customers.

"We have used improvements in our website to open doors and understand our customers more, to target the right people and direct them to the site. We're part way through the journey – we're comfortable with the site but we want to use content to help us achieve our global growth ambitions," he says.

Lewis says work on this journey continues apace. Boden completed a customer segmentation exercise recently, which helps break down the firm's client base into sub-groups with shared characteristics. 

Lewis says this exercise is part of a wider shift, where the retailer is moving from developing products to creating content for customers, and identifying who it will appeal to. This process involves using the technology Lewis has implemented to allow people from all over the business to create personalised content for the retailer's clients.

"The pace of change in shifting demands from customers is quite ferocious. You have to react quickly and that means building the capability to change your plans quickly. We've had to build in the capability to react," he says.

"Data has to be core to your customer proposition – it's very different to how we operated three of four years ago."

3. Partner with line-of-business functions to deliver data-led change

Liv Brahin, head of group marketing and communication services at UBS, has helped transform the finance giant's approach to content provision. She says that any executive looking to drive digital transformation must stay as close to customer trends as possible.

"A lot of the drivers for what we want to do are being created by expectations from companies like Uber and Amazon. As consumers, we all expect everything to be easy and effortless. So how do we, as a 150-year-old business, create a similar experience?" she asks.

UBS chose its website as the starting point for its digital transformation. Like many other blue-chip businesses, the firm suffered as a result of its online presence growing in a disparate fashion. Brahin says UBS was running a range of micro-sites and many were hosted by third parties.

"That makes it difficult to understand customers when they're spread across multiple website properties," she says. "We wanted to make our tech investment work for us – we pooled our budget and created a single approach."

SEE: 60 ways to get the most value from your big data initiatives (free PDF)

Brahin says the key to success has been the marketing team's hybrid approach to digital transformation at UBS. Content is at the heart of this approach, where a centralised marketing organisation is helping line-of-business functions to transform the online experiences of clients.

"Everything that concerns content delivery into the website and marketing channels is through a single approach, while business units still have control of their products and services. We partner with them to deliver marketing content into their service areas," she says.

"It's an approach that has allowed us to create a solid foundation with a powerful content-delivery hub, where we can pump content to individual areas from a single hub. That's worked pretty well for us."

The firm has analysed website analytics and used this insight to help deliver "modern, mobile experiences". McBain says the focus recently has been around optimisation and extending its content across new channels, including a recently launched website for the main brand.

"It's been a long journey – we're also skilling and cross-skilling our people," she says. "It's been a process of staying close to the overall customer trends and analysing what people are doing with technology."

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