Pallavi Singh
Guest Article

"Our current worldwide tragedy is a slog, but it will have another side..."

... writes our guest author, in an essay about how digital transformation will lead to digital commerce.

The new realities of life and business, post the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to a number of paradigm shifts in our world. Some of these are apparent, while others are subliminal. Most of these changes are still ongoing. And while much will change, the future won’t be all that different. We are likely to be presented with a series of unexpected challenges and opportunities, and business as usual will no longer be sufficient.

What this means is that while the contours of supply, demand and customer-centric cultures may change, the foundation of these concepts will continue to be in place. It is during these times that agile business systems can help companies create the innovations they need to survive, and for the future.

One such thing, which necessitates innovation, is digital commerce. While some form of online selling and transactions have been around since the birth of the internet, it has seen rapid evolution. The principles and drivers of online sales and commerce, however, continue to be quite stable and well defined.

Therefore, while consumers are today far more willing, able and capable of being active participants in digital commerce, their expectations around value and experience have evolved (and will continue to). Digital transformation is going to be critical for those organisations which see their futures aligned to this new reality, and do not miss out on the potential of this new reality.

That being said, digital transformation requires talent, policy support, resources and leadership – just like any investment into the future. Indeed, assembling the right team of technology, data, and process people who can work together — with a strong leader who can bring about change — may be the single most important step that a company contemplating digital transformation can take. Of course, even the best talent does not guarantee success. However, a lack of it almost guarantees failure.

... I would like to focus on the importance of talent, technology, data and leadership when it comes to leveraging digital transformation for digital commerce.

Talent

Transformation requires an end-to-end mindset, a rethinking of ways to meet customer needs, seamless connection of work activities, and the ability to manage across silos, going forward. In building talent in this domain, look for the ability to “herd cats” — aligning silos in the direction of the customer to improve existing processes and design new ones. And, a strategic sense to know when incremental process improvement is sufficient and when radical process re-engineering is necessary.

Technology - martech platforms

As the customer experience bar keeps being raised, marketing automation can help brands differentiate themselves with relevant messaging and business-led actions. Investments in marketing technology continue to be a priority for businesses across the board, as they strive to meet increased demands for personalisation and a need to collect, authenticate and analyse rapidly increasing amounts of consumer data to improve the customer experience. COVID-19 has shaken the brands which wanted to run away from tech platforms and digital transformation, and in some ways, has given brands the opportunity to upskill their workforce.

Data

As with technology, you need talent with both great breadth and depth in data. Even more important is the ability to convince large numbers of people at the frontlines of organisations to take on new roles as data customers and creators. This means thinking through and communicating the data they need now, and the data they’ll need after transformation. It also means helping frontline people to improve their own work processes and tasks such that they create data correctly.

Leadership

It’s easy to wait for it. The movies have taught us that when the music swells and the chips are down, that’s when leaders arrive and when heroes are made. It turns out, that’s not how it works.

Our work is what happens in all the moments. Leadership doesn’t simply appear when the script announces it does. It is the hard work of showing up when we’re not expected to, of seeing what’s possible when few are willing to believe.

The defining moment is whenever you decide it is, and you get a new chance to lead every day.

Our current worldwide tragedy is a slog, but it will have another side. And the organisations that thrive will be the ones who depend on: Peer-to-peer leadership and innovation (produce) resilience, and leadership that turns any moment into one where we can make things better.

(The author is marketing director, BMW India. This article was first published on her LinkedIn page; reproduced with permission.)