“Necessity is the mother of invention.” It's an old-school, dusty proverb, but it’s still relevant today. In the face of recent global events, brands have had to accelerate their digital transformation strategies because of necessity — the necessity of staying in business. Their objectives are being accomplished through invention — or innovation.

Whether simply upgrading or reacting in response to industry disruption, businesses must not only cope but excel through these challenges and adapt to a world where digital engagement might be the only channel available to them to connect with customers or employees.

Developing a winning digital transformation strategy, built on well-researched customer needs, positions businesses to be successful amid uncertainty. By definition, a digital transformation strategy is any digital-first strategic initiative that applies data science and marketing technology to solve fundamental business problems. The objective is to put in place the tools and the strategy to create seamless interactions.

But what’s involved in building a quality strategy? How do you ensure your customers benefit, as well as your business? How do businesses know when it's time for digital transformation? How should they approach the transformation? What about buy-in and adoption? Let’s explore these challenging strategies.

What’s involved in a digital transformation strategy?

Transformation, obviously, means something is changing; existing strategies are being reinvented, reorganized, or redefined. In a digital customer experience context, that means reacting to needs and creating a sensible digital-first vision, and determining what kind of value it provides to customers, who simply want the ease of interaction and dependability.

Although the digital transformation roadmap is different for every organization, the approach to identifying solutions is nearly the same. Once a digital transformation vision is determined within the marketing organization and often times the broader business, work through a process to establish partnerships and align goals, run pilot tests, get stakeholder buy-ins, identify the personnel and skill-sets necessary for information technology successes, streamline processes, and account for risk management.

In an ebook, Sitecore compiled five hard truths for marketers driving the digital experience, including some of those marketing tenets.

  1. Chief marketing officers need to take control: Evaluate return-on-investment impact, gather support and get buy-in from other members of the C-suite, or the executive team.
  2. Personalization is not one-size-fits-all: Devise a fit-for-purpose strategy, start small, and evolve. Ensure your organization is set up on the path to delivering 1-to-1 personalized digital experiences.
  3. AI alone won't save you: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation empowers human intelligence, but it requires sophisticated data practices. Make sure you have the technology to power meaningful outcomes.
  4. Your content crisis won't solve itself: Invest your time and effort in streamlining your end-to-end content lifecycle to empower your teams to work better together and produce enough tailored content that your customers demand.
  5. Customer data is your kryptonite: Companies need to be able to collect, combine, and secure data while improving accuracy and trust in the data's validity. You must understand the data to power business decisions.

How digital transformation benefits customers

On an e-commerce scale, customers have been transforming and, in most cases, embracing this new reality of health and safety protocols. Businesses that have recognized certain emerging consumer behaviors have adapted their business models to put their customers’ needs first and transform how they’re connecting consumers to their products.

According to a report prepared by Actual Experience, 93% of business leaders believe their businesses' success correlates with a customer's digital experience.

Brick-and-mortar stores and supermarkets have evolved into local distribution centers, processing app-based orders for delivery or pickup. Restaurants have adjusted their business strategies with more curbside pickup and upgraded drive-through options. Traditional businesses faced with costly office space are learning to shape more productive and secure work-from-home strategies.

As more people transition to a digital lifestyle, customers benefit because businesses continue to identify and understand behavior data to deliver a positive 1-to-1 digital experience, which gets customers what they need easier and faster.

On a B2B enterprise scale, these experiences deliver similar benefits to the customer, but now individual customers also need digital access across systems, inventory, and distribution methods through mobile apps or application programming interfaces (APIs).

According to Econsultancy, one in five large enterprises say they have increased spending or invested new spending as strategic initiatives in the first half of 2020. In the same study, 54% of large enterprises say that the best way to describe their organization's response to global events is “shifting messaging to emphasize digital fulfillment, digital products, and digital services.”

What digital transformation success looks like

Businesses must undergo a deep reckoning of what they want to be and how they're perceived as a digital-first company. Is it an internal or outsourced solution? Out-of-the-box solutions don't always come with guarantees of updated technology — such as Internet of Things devices — continually evolving. To keep up, many businesses are turning to a digital experience platform that specializes in integrating with these emerging technologies and consolidating data to power personalization.

As an example, a university in Texas wanted to be known as a "platform of the future" to reflect its diverse student body and progressive curriculum. The university's website consisted of 200+ web properties spanning more than 100,000 pages, all managed and aggregated by multiple teams and multiple management tools with little or no cohesive messaging and branding.

Through Sitecore and its partners, the university took large volumes of content and identified relevancy, built in strong audience-targeting personalization capabilities, then added contextual and relevant search experiences to create a memorable, user-friendly experience on its website.

Your digital transformation journey

Whether it's done in-house or outsourced, developing a successful digital transformation strategy depends on the basic tenets of good business: Identify the business need, analyze the company culture, establish buy-in from stakeholders, marshal your resources, leverage the data and content, learn from successes and failures, consider the feedback, and execute.

Also, it's also not necessary for businesses to stay in their own lane. They should examine other industries and explore their success stories and best practices in their digital transformation strategies. The concepts of good business can be universal. It's all a matter of solving necessities with innovation.

To learn more about understanding your digital maturity and planning a road map for digital transformation, download the “Plotting your path to personalization with the Digital Experience Maturity Model” whitepaper.

Jill Grozalsky is a Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.