Three tips for digital transformation

December 31, 2021 11:38
Digital transformation involves people transformation too. It’s important to invest and offer training and development opportunities to staff. Photo: Xinhua

One of the results of the pandemic is that it moved many organizations to accelerate digital transformation initiatives, providing those in need of a more secure platform with plenty of options for virtual banking, e-commerce, insurance, media and so forth. For many of these companies, such digitalization programs were already in place prior to COVID-19, but for others the virus was the catalyst.

The challenge for small and medium-sized businesses as they embrace digitalization, along with new business strategies for the new environment, is maximizing the return on their investment. Unfortunately, that does not always happen because these businesses lack the time or skills to create a strategy for achieving such outcomes. Here are three tips for how businesses can plan, execute, and grow their business through digitalization.

Focus on a specific area

The first tip is to select the niche market in which your business can become the byword for expertise and professionalism – a standout. This means being prepared to start small, build a reputation and then grow. For example, Amazon started out selling just books, with which it could perfect its supply chain, distribution, marketing and online payments, before moving on to compact discs (CDs) and later a myriad of products. China’s Zhong An built its reputation around micro-insurance before expanding into new areas, including virtual banking. And, in Hong Kong, Ping An OneConnect virtual bank has made serving local small-to-medium-sized enterprises its focus before launching services in the Greater Bay Area.

In each of the above examples, the company set its own agenda. While it’s important to be aware of what the competition is doing, it’s more important to be clear about what your customers want and then deliver it. Having an “I have it too” mindset doesn’t help, because it makes you indistinguishable – when everyone thinks the same, innovation can become stifled.

And, while doing that, establish a culture – determine what you stand for and let your customers and partners know. Right now, many consumers are more concerned about issues such as the environment, employment practices, supply chain management, and companies’ position and community role on certain issues. A company’s philosophy is an increasingly important part of the business.

Data collation and usage is critical

The second tip relates more directly to digital transformation. Data collation and usage is critically important for businesses today, as it can help identify trends and smooth out supply chains and speed time to market. Harnessing and utilizing data is also increasingly important as your business scales and enters new markets. It’s the quickest way to understand the mechanics of local markets, short of having a large on-the-ground workforce, which is unlikely to be the case with digital sales platforms.

Digitalization should aim to create a great experience for users online, including interface, functionality, speed and security. For retailers, leveraging payment technologies such as buy-now-pay-later or one-click checkout can boost the user experience and decrease the amount of shopping carts being abandoned at checkout.

Businesses should look to gather consumer data – both internal and external – to learn more about their customers and guide their decision-making. Companies need to sharpen their data collection and analysis tools to ensure they are capturing relevant quantitative and qualitative data to understand consumer behavior. By extracting insights from the data, companies can customize and personalize services to suit their customers’ evolving needs. This provides companies with the responsiveness and agility needed for a better customer experience.

Train and motivate your team

Finally, the third tip is to train and motivate your staff. It’s important to invest and offer the best training and development opportunities to your teams, rather than focus on instilling loyalty alone. Digital transformation involves people transformation too.

Loyalty comes from more than purely investing in your people and offering better professional development opportunities to your staff. It’s about creating a culture and environment that the best talent wants to be part of – something in which they want to invest their time. Part of that comes back to having a clearly defined vision that is ahead of the current skills, but something that can be grown into. It should include giving people space to try new ideas, while also giving them room to fail because failure is part of learning.

Moving forward into 2022, businesses should be prepared to continue accelerating their digital transformation efforts to keep up with consumer expectations. As customers’ needs evolve, organizations need to invest in technology and training that serves both employees and consumers.

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General Manager - Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macau, Red Hat