Digital Transformation and the Customer panel, from left to right: Stephanie Fry, vice president of digital at Jackman Reinvents; Andrea Stairs, managing director of eBay Canada; John Comacchio, senior vice president and CIO of Teknion Corporation; and moderator Steve Papagiannis, technology director of Informatica.

Published: June 15th, 2017

Customers are increasingly expecting businesses to have digital features, such as a website that’s also mobile-friendly, and a digital way to pay for products or services on any platform.

But possibly more importantly, customers expect these digital features to lead to a more tailored, personalized online experience, according to a panel of experts at ITWC’s Digital Transformation Conference and Awards, held in Toronto on June 14.

“Companies should be leveraging the data they collect from consumers to give them a tailored, uniquely personalized experience whenever they shop on their website, and they can’t be shy about it,” Andrea Stairs, managing director of eBay Canada, tells the audience. “This is what customers expect; they want to be served up the products they’re interested in.”

She advises that companies throw away the one-size-fits-all concept and tailor information to their consumers, although also warns that this tactic does need to be moderated to an extent – such as toning down an overactive chat bot that messages a customer more than once when they hover over a product – and it can only be done using their own data, not bought data.

The beginners’ guide

However, that’s easier said than done, especially for companies with no digital background or history, the panel collectively points out.

For those at the beginning of this digital transformation journey, “it’s all about data,” says Stephanie Fry, vice president of digital at Jackman Reinvents. “Companies just starting out need to begin by looking at the trends in the market, leveraging their internal data, and reaching out to partners that can help them, to really do digital transformation right.”

She continues to say that going directly to customers and asking what they’d like to see is also a good strategy and shows that you are abiding by the old adage, “the customer comes first.”

Adding to this is John Comacchio, senior vice president and CIO of Teknion Corporation, who agrees that going to the customer first will always help businesses discover how to effectively move forward.

“Companies need to realize that customers are going through digital transformation in their own lives at the same their business is, so taking the time to understand what they want and what tech will make their lives easier and may even help them uncover a new path,” he says.

When it comes to actually taking action, eBay’s Stairs points out the importance of partnerships.

“You can’t do it all yourself, and if you try, you’ll get lapped. Companies need to make tough decisions and have the conversation of what part of their digital transformation they should do in house and what to contract out,” she says.

But how do they make that decision? Jackman’s Fry says companies need to evaluate themselves and find their key strengths.

“If a business takes an analytical look at itself, it will see patterns and emerging trends showcasing its strengths. Combined with what it already knows, this will show how it can move forward,” she adds.

Comacchio continues this thought, saying that the best approach is through collaboration internally.

“The IT team needs to talk to the sales team and they both need to talk to the customer receiving team, and they all need to talk with executives at the company. Everyone needs to be on the same page about what they want and what they think their strengths are,” he advises.

At the same time, however, Stairs cautions companies to not wait until they have every last piece of information, answer or detail planned, to embark on their digital transformation journey.

“If a business wait until it’s analyze all the data until the very last decimal point of truth – which also doesn’t really exist – it will have wasted so much time, resources and bandwidth. They need to be comfortable making decisions using intuition, experience, and critical thought – based on what data they do have to inform them – before all of it is finalized,” she concludes. “And that in itself is subjective; every company needs to find its own line for when it has enough information to make a decision.”

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