By Jonty Sutton, above, UK CEO of SQLI Digital Experience
Three to four years ago, ecommerce decisions were no concern of the C-Suite. It was a perfunctory engine that did the heavy lifting once marketing had worked its magic. It didn’t need to be pretty. Brand, brand, brand was as always first and foremost, front and centre. And it was where the money was spent. From there, came customer conversion, loyalty and sales. Digital transformations back in the day were major overhauls done by outside contractors that were waved through by leadership without having to understand the detail. It did what it said on the tin and the only discussion was about the cost.
Fast forward to today, and there has been a fundamental shift. Today’s business success is now all about transactional customer experience and fulfilment. The power of fulfilment has now become a huge element of what it is to build a brand – think Amazon. There is no attempt to be pretty or aspirational, its success is built on decent proprietary technology and large fulfilment centres based next to motorways. It’s not sexy, it’s resilient.
As a company that has been operating at a high level in the UK, Europe and globally in this field, SQLI Digital Experience has witnessed a fundamental shift in a short pace of time.
It’s a radically holistic view, but a lot of the requests for proposals (RFPs), we’re responding to at the moment, across a diverse range of sectors – airport groups, logistics firms, luxury fashion – have a common thread.
There’s a clear core message in all of them. Yes, it’s function, but it’s also operational efficiency, as well as selling the brand and with that comes resilience which as we all know, is vital if we are to protect ourselves from the kind of existential shocks that we’ve been living through for the last few years.
So, what do CFOs need to know about digital transformation?
1. Customer. Digital Transformation is no longer about ‘the web’. In a retail sense digital is just the latest medium – just as print, TV, radio, physical stores, events, pop-ups have been to retail and advertising in the past. Digital transformation is about enabling customer touch points across each medium, bringing them all together.
2. Selling. Implementing a true Digital Transformation strategy goes beyond ‘selling’ – it covers attraction, engagement, conversion and retention. It is the new marketing department, sales outlet and customer service rolled into one.
3. Data. Data and its importance in the overall ability to execute digital touch points is often misunderstood. It must be treated as a core asset in the business not an operational expense. Quality data will lead to quality outcomes, revenue and conversion.
4. Cost. You need to spend money to make money – with digital not being just ‘the web’ – think of investment in this asset as an ‘enabler’ across the customer, marketing, product and sales channels.
5. Resilience. As the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and the skills shortage have shown, brands need to be resilient. Digital transformation has been shown to be a key way to withstand future existential shocks. But not only that, digital platforms need to be able to cope with modern buying habits. For Generation Z, brand trust and loyalty have given way to discount codes and Klarna. Digital influencers could at any stage set your order book alight. Those that can cope with the highs and the lows of digital volume will win – and attract decent employees.
Jonty Sutton is the UK CEO of SQLI Digital Experience. It is the digital service team behind the digital transformation of classic British brands like Fortnum & Mason, Hamleys and Seasalt.