It has been easy to peg “digital transformation” as a buzzword or a tag for limited special projects or initiatives. However, IDC recently reported that the value it derives for organisations now means it has become a “strategic business imperative” for Global 2000 enterprises. Whether it’s through the cloud, mobile or analytics technologies, all industries are embracing digital advances to serve their customers in new and better ways. This is taking place by putting IT at the centre of their business and identifying ways agility can positively impact their digital business. Organisations must take a holistic approach to ensure the success of these investments. But how?

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A customer-first approach

As IDC reported by 2020, 67 percent of all enterprise IT infrastructure and software spending will be for cloud-based offerings. There are many reasons for the tremendous growth in the cloud, but one important factor is an organisation can often add server capacity at a rate much faster than they can within their own data centres. This helps free up product teams to optimize, iterate, and develop new experiences and applications to customers.

Delivering a great digital customer experience doesn’t just require a shift in the way you build products; it also requires a different relationship with your customers. The most successful digital businesses have a commitment to serving their customers in new and better ways by understanding deeply each customer’s experience with their digital products.

Many businesses are almost blind when it comes to understanding what kind of digital experience their customers are having. To remedy this requires an all encompassing approach. It should include the way customers interact with the company’s digital properties and the relationship customers have with everyone at that company – including developers, marketers, and sales representatives. That way, the company will be able to serve their customers better.

Take for example a retailer like John Lewis during the peak holiday shopping season. As shoppers have shifted from bursting through stores’ physical doors on Black Friday, John Lewis now requires a complete understanding of their digital doors on the web and mobile as shoppers begin their search for the perfect gifts. This begins with an understanding of where shoppers are located, how they interact with the web or mobile app, and the chain of events triggered with the click of a mouse. But the digital experience doesn’t end there as sales, advertising and email campaigns, and in-store pickup are also now critical digital components and require coordination across the company with IT.

The stakes are critical with major online retailers earning tens to more than a hundred thousand pounds per minute during the holidays. Customers expect immediate response times, or they will quickly move on to another site.

Everything is knowable about your digital customer experience

Previously product teams formed opinions or speculated about their customer’s experience, but now every part of a customer’s journey is knowable with real-time data and metrics. Everybody in the organisation must work from a common dataset; ideally, through a common platform, that’s easy to access, and enables for the whole team to collaborate to deliver consistency to your customers.

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To ensure the effectiveness of this data-centered approach organisations must start with a clear business goal such as, “What do we want customers to actually do with our product?” From there you may ask basic questions about your site starting with, “Are we available?” Digging deeper you need to understand, “What are the customers doing?” or “How are they behaving?” with a feature or the entire purchase path. Finally, you have to understand whether any change you make to the product has a positive or negative impact on a customer’s experience.

Digital transformation requires an all-encompassing change in mindset across an organisation, regardless whether you’re a beloved, century-old department store or a startup, what you’re selling, or whether the buyer is a consumer or business. Every function in some way may have to change the techniques, processes, and underpinning technology used in this new relationship to your customer. By gaining empathy for your customer’s experience based on data, you can deliver exactly what your customers expect, and create greater business value.