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Today's buying journey -- no matter the industry -- is exponentially more complicated than before, with customers demanding speed, personalization and ease. This is forcing business leaders to accelerate their digital transformation journeys to meet those customers on their desired terms. 

Why? It's simple: Experience.  

Great experiences increase loyalty, which spurs growth and enables you to continue investing in technology that can unlock even greater experiences, letting you focus on and invest in additional strategic areas of the company.  

Companies that prioritize customer and employee experiences tend to have better success rates when it comes to digital transformation. According to a report from Altimeter, early focus on digital experiences for both customers and employees has consistently been a differentiator between companies that are succeeding at digital transformation and companies that are struggling with similar efforts.  

 

Check out this 20-minute WWT Experts video and hear Executive Creative Director Sam Schmiz talk about Experience Design, the importance of blending digital and physical experiences, and much more. 

 

Consider Starbucks. Despite the pressures of a global pandemic and supply chain shortages, which are limiting customer interactions and availability of materials, the coffee giant saw increased loyalty from its customers, which its leaders attributed to savvy technology and digital investments. 

"Clearly, Starbucks tech investments' primary focus is driving customer loyalty -- that's a high-ROI common starting point that all companies can embrace," wrote Noah Barsky, a business programs professor at Villanova University and fellow for the Cutter Consortium, in a recent Forbes article. 

What does this mean for you? Mostly, it should serve as a reminder to never forget your audience -- be it a consumer, an internal employee, a partner or another group you serve.  

Digital transformation affords you a tremendous opportunity to increase efficiency and agility or adopt fresh thinking to tap into new markets and revenue streams. Just as importantly, it grants you the ability to explore new ways to delight customers and drive loyalty. 

Here are three things you should consider when trying to leverage technology to deliver better experiences that foster growth.  

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Don't even think about technology... at first 

When it comes to connecting business and technology from an experience perspective, it is crucial to have the voice of your audience in the room. Too often both business and technology stakeholders pave paths to transformation their audience has little interest in. 

You should start with the audience and work backwards to the technology stack -- not the other way around. And listen closely to get to the root-cause of their challenges. Many times the audience won't know how to articulate the solution, but they can deeply explain their frustrations. This allows you to ground transformation in a human-centered approach -- understanding what the audience hopes to achieve and what could remove friction from their journey.  

Act only with purpose. Investing in technology without clear goals is costly and inefficient. Identify and gain agreement on what you are trying to achieve and then work to develop a technology strategy to support that vision. 

Take, for example, our work with Little Caesars, which was experiencing inefficiency in the heart of their operation -- the kitchen.  

Before we started working to solve their most pressing challenges, we needed to understand the audiences' current experience (customers and employees) and experience the operation for ourselves. We worked the Friday night rush and busy lunch hours. We realized the last thing they needed was a traditional approach. We then worked collaboratively with Little Caesars to completely transform their kitchen with a cloud-native point of sale (POS) system that increased operational efficiency, integrated a framework for easily integrating delivery and other third-party services, enabled advanced analytics to drive business performance, improved store resiliency, scaled the system to international regions, and fostered employee satisfaction.  

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When you do think about technology, think long-term 

Massive shifts in consumer behavior are changing the way loyalty is won. That pace of change is only accelerating, and the way you please customers today will undoubtedly be different from the way you please customers five to 10 years from now.  

Meredith Sandland, author of Delivering the Digital Restaurant, used drive thrus and mobile ordering and delivery as a good analogy during a recent WWT webinar. 

When drive thrus were first introduced in the 1940s, she said, restaurants simply slapped a window on the side of their building thinking it would create a new revenue channel. They failed, however, to change anything about how the restaurant was designed or flowed, which led to inefficiencies until years later when restaurant owners began thinking strategically about drive thrus. And today, the ease and convenience of drive thrus helps the channel account for up to 70 percent of fast-food sales.  

"That's kind of where we are on the digital evolution (for digital and delivery)," she said. "Some brands understand the future of where we're headed. Digital and delivery are the equivalent of slapping the window on the side of the building, with restaurants not designed or not knowing how to accommodate them. 

"Once you start thinking about the restaurant differently and designing for those experiences, restaurants will figure out a way to deliver in a cost-efficient and profitable manner," she said.  

As a transformation leader, you must figure out a way to utilize technology to drive great experiences today as well as five to 10 years from now. 

Mike Taylor, WWT's chief technology officer, has some good thoughts about how you can prepare to act quickly, even when you don't know what the future holds.  

  • Rationalize and streamline applications, getting rid of the ones that no longer add value and prioritizing those that matter most to the overall endgame.
  • Lose the dead weight of outdated and obsolete legacy systems and equipment that are costly to maintain, moving to cloud if feasible.
  • Develop the ability to move applications and data around quickly.
  • Build resiliency into systems to prepare for unexpected changes.
  • Build and train teams in agile development and hyper automation so they can respond to rapidly changing expectations and get to market quickly.

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Keep your best customers top of mind 

Who are your best customers and how do you know they are your best customers? It is a stunningly simple question that could not be more core to your business. Yet many transformation leaders struggle to produce a definitive answer.  

Let's consider another case study: Jersey Mike's. Prior to working with WWT, Jersey Mike's had a fractured and incomplete understanding of its customers and their behaviors. We studied their customer personas and developed journeys and friction maps associated with each customer segment.  

What was driving the great customers to come back multiple times a week? What did Jersey Mike's need to do to take a customer on the cusp of being great and push them over the goal line?  

We worked to replicate the experience of a great customer to craft a pragmatic roadmap that would lead to a best-in-class mobile experience. We built an intuitive, user-centered mobile app and architected a marketing tech stack that supported the app so Jersey Mike's could make sense of the information and take actions to improve promotional effectiveness. Our efforts helped grow revenue 10 percent during COVID thanks to the app's ability to nurture the customer journey and relationship, leading Jersey Mike's execs to recognize our work as a lifesaver

In the end, customers will drive the success of your digital transformation based on their engagement and loyalty. So it's critical to understand the experience of your best customers so you can replicate that journey for others -- turning good customers into great customers.  

Loyalty is a behavior. And at its core, transformation is about changing behaviors. 

Winning loyalty among your customers, therefore, is a great guidepost for digital transformation and how to measure its success.  

By focusing on your audience, you'll be better positioned to chart a course of action that can lead to faster, more personalized experiences that drive loyalty and capture growth.