Digitalize your products

The essence of digital transformation is the reform of a business’ products to harness the data that the business creates. You must ask and answer questions like “Who are my customers and how do I identify them?”, “What data do I have about the products they are ordering that I should share with them?”, “Can they make orders whenever it suits them?”. These lead on to other questions like “Is ordering a simple and pleasant experience?”, “How should I tailor my product for customers based on what I know about them?”, “What data do I hold about previous orders?”

Using location data, a map of Brisbane CBD. Credit: Google Maps.
Cars on the highway. Credit: Mehrshad Rajabi

Consider how Uber has been able to transform the private hire taxi “product” by harnessing the location data it holds. Customers using the app can see in real-time where the nearest free taxis are. When they make an order they can track where their ride is and how long it’s going to take to arrive. They can share their ride with family members letting them track their progress. And they have a log of all the rides that they have made, with maps, times and prices. All invaluable for work expenses and reminiscing about fun city breaks!

Uber’s product is better than a traditional taxi service because it is enriched with data. Product digitalization is deeper than just adding an app. Your business must be capable of supplying and understanding the data that all your distribution channels will need.

Automate your processes

A digital business needs to record and manage orders and production in a centralised, realtime and searchable system. With an automated system, staff are helped to process orders while the system enforces your business’ rules. Automation will reduce mistakes, improve turnaround time and increase management visibility and control over the business’ operations. Appropriate systems for many small and medium enterprises already exist. These systems are cost-effective on a subscription basis, but beware inflexible models that require management of important parts of your process offline. A customised, localised and integrated cloud platform will help you to take more orders more effectively without increasing staff.

Digital Transformation process mapping
Clean shirts after processing. Credit: Waldemar Brandt

For example, A dry cleaning network runs its processing chain on an end of day cycle. Orders come into outlets throughout the day and are picked up by the laundry for service overnight. Each stage in the chain issues a copy-paper receipt when they take possession of the goods. They collect the receipts and use them for invoicing on completion. But when a customer enquires after the status of an item it is difficult to determine exactly where the item is. If a chit is lost or damaged it takes time for the staff to identify where the item should go.

By implementing an automated workflow where the goods are issued with a barcode, the business can track all inventory in a cloud platform. As inventory moves to the laundry and back staff and management can locate all items in real-time. Automation will speed up the process by replacing manual record-keeping – and remove the possibility of transcription errors or accidental docket loss.

Distribute through digital channels

All your customers can now connect with your business via the internet. But how they choose to connect will vary based on the devices they own. A digital business must provide the best service possible for each channel and design alignment between them so that each “feels” like your business’ home. Every channel must use its own strengths to showcase your products in the best light.

A woman reading on her tablet. Credit: Anna Demianenko

Web-apps linked from your website are the most universal means of access. Also, most firms selling to the public should add native smartphone apps with more effective notification channels and imaging capability. Businesses with high-frequency orders like cafes need watch support. Content creators should be able to showcase their product on the primary screens in a home or office through TVs.

As well as direct user interfaces, businesses higher up the supply chain should consider APIs to develop and secure their relationships. At the retail level, generic platforms like UberEats, Seek and offer simple means to connect with new customers.

Develop business insights

Like cashflow and reputation, your business’ data is a valuable resource that should be developed and conserved. Your customer technology and automated business processes will generate lots of information about all aspects of your products, operations and customers. All this data needs to be stored for future use and integrated into accounting and marketing tools. In time, you will use this resource to build powerful databases and reports. Digitizing and storing your data for future use gives clarity of sight and evidence for decision making.

A businessman looks at statistics on a tablet. Credit: Adeolu Eletu
A Street filled with people shopping. How has digital transformation affected them? Credit Artur Kraf

The value of information is not always apparent at the time we record it. However, in future times your business will need the means to mine all the information it owns to gain insights and efficiencies. Insights such as: do changes in order volumes year on year reflect demographic trends? What are the effects of school holidays on peak hours and inventory? How do incidents of increased delivery time affect retention of customers?

The future will bring new opportunities that will need the “Big Data” you gather today. So if data has value and is easy to store, why throw it away?

How to do a digital transformation?

The process of performing a digital transformation starts with planning each of these four steps. You will need the help of technology specialists. But as many have noted, Digital Transformation is first a business problem. When you are ready to start your journey, we are here to help. Just click on the login link at the top of the page to get started.