The Merits of Marginal Gains in Digital Transformation
Author: Audelia Boker, Glassbox Digital
Three years is a long time in the digital world, but as far back as 2013, The Guardian newspaper reported in an article entitled ‘What is Digital Transformation?’ that it was already an overused phrase. Roll forward to 2016 and a recent report has suggested that business leaders in over 20 countries see digital transformation as critical, but almost half of respondents have no strategy in place. What is more, 86% said it will play a key role in their market in the coming five years! So why is the rate of change so slow?
One of the big problems has been a lack of understanding. Rather than the lengthy, high-cost change management projects completed by the big consultancy houses, Digital Transformation is really all about marginal gains. Or, to quote Aristotle: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Understand marginal gains
Organisations can easily fall in to an early trap of trying to ‘boil the ocean’, getting bogged down in board-level debate about mapping customers’ entire journey across all channels (a valuable exercise but it won’t deliver the quick wins that are waiting to be had). Making just half a dozen small well-informed alterations can individually, or collectively have a huge impact on performance.
Now infamous, the term marginal gains came to the fore in the wake of Team GB’s success in the velodrome at London 2012. The objective was to win gold medals, the strategy was to train hard and smart, whilst leaving no stone unturned in finding the areas that would give even the slightest advantage (more recently the Team Sky has reportedly weighed the paint on the bike frame and found a lighter alternative). Find ten ways you can save one tenth of a second and you can be a whole second ahead in the race (often the difference between first and last place).
At its core Digital Transformation is all about finding these gains, as a programme of continuous improvement. Going through this process breaks down the counter-productive data silos that typically emerge as new channels are introduced, the benefit of which will be felt right across the organisation. Digital Transformation is as much a tactical exercise as it is strategic direction. Find these areas, exploit them and you will…
• Improve the customer experience
• Be competitive, agile and adaptable to market forces
• Maximise sales, cross and up-sell opportunities
• Reduce abandonment
• Drive brand advocacy, loyalty and repeat business
• Remove process bottlenecks and technical issues
• Decrease fraud
• Optimise dispute management
• Ensure regulatory compliance
The first step on the path to Digital Transformation is to know where to start and what to do. What needs to transform, what doesn’t, to what extent and how?
Finding marginal gain is easier said than done
You need to have the ability to accurately review the performance of your digital channels, the most common being the website and mobile app. Visitor numbers, page views, click-throughs, sales figures and abandonment rates only tell a miniscule part of the overall story. What you really want to know (and ideally in real-time) is not only what your customers are doing on your website and mobile app, but why they are behaving the way they do. It is here that analytics can provide you with all the insight you need, such as…
• How are visitors looking at your website/app? And, how does it appear to them?
• What journey did they take (where did they enter and where did they exit?
• What did they do at all points in between? What pages did they look at and for how long?
• Did they make a purchase? Did they abandon their cart?
• Was a form half completed and if so why?
• Were they presented with the required, or requested information at the right time?
• Did they show signs of switching channels?
• Did they encounter any problem pages, or technical niggles?
• Are incidents isolated or indicative of a trend?
• How do your digital channels’ performance and availability impact customer behaviours?
• How to share the insights you find with your peers, in order for issues to be quickly resolved?
This rich level of insight is available if you have the requisite tools and what is more, it doesn’t require lengthy project to be implemented or technical knowhow to operate.
Capturing every click
Today, it is possible to capture and store every moment, every visitor spends on a website, or mobile app. You can see every page they visited, how long they spent looking at information, where they placed their cursor, data they entered and every click made. This type of technology can also capture and replay each session as it is seen by the visitor on their device and operating system.
With this data securely stored it is possible to use analytics to ask those questions – using free-text – regarding how customers are behaving online and what is influencing this behaviour. What is more, as the system is always and doesn’t require that you tag events on your website/app, on you can begin to measure the impact, from the moment any revisions come in to effect.
One such example, was a financial services organisation that went through this process and quickly found that the mobile version of its website was not displaying correctly on certain devices. Consequently, visitors were unable to complete an important form, as the submit button was hidden from view on screen, and potentially high value customers were abandoning their sessions. It was a problem that was able to be ‘transformed’ in moments, but knowing that problem existed was the big challenge as it had not been reported. The significance of optimising all digital channels was brought to the fore in July when the British Bankers’ Association revealed a clear trend in mobile banking apps being increasingly preferred to banks’ website.
It is important to stress that this type of initiative isn’t just for ‘static’ websites. The same tools and approach works for an increasing number of dynamic, highly personalised online experiences that organisations (those with a strategy in place) are delivering to customers as part of their digital transformation plans. It also supports more recent applications built with single page technology.
Placing digital transformation on the boardroom agenda is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Strategy and direction are important but don’t let that delay your search for those marginal gains. The sooner you do, the sooner you will start winning.