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The definitive guide to digital transformation

Learn why digital transformation matters now, what successful initiatives look like, and how to avoid common pitfalls.


Why digital transformation is the new business imperative

Recent world events have delivered a resounding message to the business world, it’s that markets can change in the blink of an eye. We’re all trying to find more agile ways of working. At the same time, we need to move forward with new ideas for serving customers. And we must activate those big, bold plans as soon as possible. An incremental, long-term approach will not solve deep-rooted problems and form human connections in a suddenly all-digital world. We can’t just improve processes and operations a little; we need to reimagine them.

Digital transformation initiatives apply the power of data science and marketing technology to shape your business around new possibilities. Strategic by design, these projects touch all aspects of the organization, from the C-Suite to content authors and customer service teams. They are experimental and iterative, revealing insights that lead to better decisions every step of the way. Whether you embark on a digital transformation to survive industry disruption, build a more engaged community, or drive online sales, a thoughtful and informed approach will yield the best long-term results.

Companies all around the world are launching ambitious digital projects to realize game-changing results. In 2019, we planned and executed our own digital-first initiative, so that and all of our supporting digital channels became a showcase for the power of our personalization, content management, and experience commerce technology.

Digital transformation has taken on new meaning in our current times. We look forward to seeing how the possibilities unfold for the world at-large.

Chapter 2

What is digital transformation?

A digital transformation is any strategic initiative that applies data science and marketing technology to solve fundamental problems. The goal is to reinvent the business in ways that put customers first, taking advantage of the power of digital technology to create seamless interactions with them. By their very definition, businesses' digital transformations are far-reaching efforts that will change how you think about people, processes, and even company culture. 

The digital transformation roadmap looks a little different in every organization, but some common threads include: 

  • Digital transformation takes rigorous planning, along with buy-in from the executive team. Leaders who can articulate a digital-first vision and show how ROI will be measured are more likely to succeed.
  • Personalization drives the kind of new experiences that resonate with customers and underpin successful digital transformation strategies. The more relevant the better. Each company needs to decide on the best way to implement personalization for its unique circumstances. Blindly following a one-size-fits-all approach is likely to fail.
  • Memorable experiences tailored to the individual require consistent streams of high-quality content. Marketing automation and artificial intelligence can help take the pressure off content creators, but this technology must be deployed strategically and not used as a substitute for human intelligence, empathy, and creativity.

Chapter 3

Digital transformation vs. business transformation

Any type of transformation involves foundational change for the organization. However, when companies undertake a business transformation initiative, the scope may be much broader, involving finance, culture, core values, and underlying processes. By comparison, digital transformations focus specifically on using new technology to make the business digital-first, so it can better compete in the marketplace. Digital transformations typically are led by the CMO, in partnership with the executive team. In fact, 40% of CMOs are primarily responsible for creating the business case for customer experience investments, according to “The Business Case for Digital Investment,” an Econsultancy report for Sitecore. Business transformations, on the other hand, may be led by various other leaders in the organization.

Chapter 4

Digital transformation examples

Through our Sitecore Experience Awards, Symposium breakout sessions, and case studies with global brands, we’ve captured the inside story on many types of digital transformation projects. Here are a few of the most recent success stories:

  • L’Oréal moves from “business as usual” to “digital first,” with an ambitious goal to become the No. 1 digital beauty brand in the world.
  • Subway creates a new loyalty program for the digital age, doubling its digital orders and increasing digital loyalty by 10x.
  • Foodstuffs North Island, New Zealand’s largest grocery cooperative, designs a completely new omni-channel experience.
  • Volvo delivers an agile, innovative, and efficient digital experience at the global scale to simplify and improve consumers’ lives.
  • Sitecore transformed its own digital presence to be the best possible showcase for what its own personalization technology could do.

Find more digital transformation case studies.

Chapter 5

Avoiding common pitfalls

It’s always beneficial to learn from the mistakes of others, whenever possible. At Sitecore, we know what it’s like to face and overcome most of these challenges. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your digital-first vision will automatically become a reality. Instead, think about how you might handle each of these concerns proactively:

  • Lack of alignment: CMOs play a pivotal role in successful transformations, but they cannot go it alone. Alignment across the entire C-Suite is critical, from start to finish.
  • Small scope: Your digital transformation should be a foundational change. Incremental progress by itself won’t justify the investment.
  • Cookie-cutter personalization: If you try to copy what other organizations do to personalize the customer experience, you almost certainly will fail. Choose an approach that makes sense for your business, and the objectives of your digital transformation.
  • Insufficient content capabilities: Immersive digital experiences demand an insatiable amount of content, and this need can easily overwhelm a project team. Use automation strategically to gain efficiency and prioritize which specific channels, experiences, and audience need content first.
  • Drowning in data without insights: You can capture all the data in the world and still not understand the customer any better. Make sure to connect data to actual customer needs and a structured plan from the outset

Get the ebook: “5 hard truths for marketers driving digital experience”

Chapter 6

Digital transformation technologies and services

A digital experience platform and related services are critical to successful transformation projects. The digital experience platform at the foundation of your digital transformation needs to allow you to collect data at every touchpoint along the customer journey and apply it to create rewarding, customer experiences. The results will be better engagement, stronger connections, increased revenue, and higher loyalty.

Here are some pieces essential to your toolbox:

  • A digital experience platform: To create unique experiences for the digital world, you need technology that helps you understand customer behavior and deliver relevant content at just the right time. A digital experience platform that provides content management, digital marketing, and commerce solutions in one platform is critical. Real-time personalization, marketing automation, and omnichannel data capture should guide your digital transformation planning and roll-out processes. 
  • Experience commerce: If driving conversions online is a top priority for your business transformation, you’ll need a way to enable personalized shopping experiences. The right commerce solution will help you stay competitive in the marketplace. 
  • A content hub: Efficiency gains should be part of any digital transformation. A platform that includes integrated digital asset management (DAM), marketing resource management (MRM), product content management (PCM), and a content marketing platform (CMP) will streamline content operations for your entire marketing team.
  • Cloud solutions: The combination of cloud technologies and these platforms allows you to capture the power of digital marketing with the speed and scale of the cloud. Choose the right mix of cloud infrastructure and marketing tools, and you’ll be able to accelerate time to market while reducing total cost of ownership.
  • Services, solutions, and consulting: Consulting practices, agency partners, and managed cloud hosting can help clients accelerate their digital business transformations, with sophisticated personalization and marketing strategies. 

Chapter 7

More digital transformation resources

The Sitecore Experience Awards honor those brands whose digital transformations have elevated the customer experience in unprecedented ways. See last year's winners.

Special topics for industries and regions:

  • Digital transformation in healthcare: Transforming the digital experience to treat patients with care. Visit the page
  • Digital transformation in Asia: Learn how marketers can build a digital strategy to drive digital transformation. Watch the webinar.

A powerful platform for digital experiences