Digital transformation: Beyond the sales vs. marketing debate

May 9, 2019 - Tech Trends - Digital transformation

As customers shift from traditional channels to e-commerce, many companies have to go through digital transformation. This is happening in all industries albeit at different speeds.

You may have heard people say: It is all about digital marketing’’ or Online is just a new Route To Market’’. 

Is it really that simple? 

What functions are affected by digital transformation? 

Beyond the sales / marketing debate

Digital transformation is about corporate change ’’

Digital transformation is happening in all industries, at different speeds: The entertainment (books, music, videos…) and travel industries were the 1st to be transformed. The retail industry came next. The banking, insurance and healthcare industries are still in very early stages of this difficult journey.

A frequent misconception is to believe that it can be led by the sales manager because it is just a different route to market. Other companies, often very strong brands, believe it is all about transformation to digital marketing. 

The truth is a lot more complex: Digital transformation affects sales & marketing, but also other functions such as supply chain, legal, operations and IT & data infrastructure teams. 

Besides, strong coordination between those different functions is more important than ever.

This is why, like any significant corporate change, strong leadership from the top (general manager) to drive this change is needed, if the company is to succeed.

This article will start to explore the changes needed in marketing.

The change to a digital marketing organization

Threats and opportunities for brands. 

In traditional marketing organizations, people used to think of new products, services and content, extensively testing them via customer research, or in a “safe” testing environment. Companies would then launch when they were almost certain it would be a success.

In the new digital world we live in, we do not have the time to adopt such an approach anymore. Companies have to shift to a much more agile, “test, learn and improve’’ approach. 

Testing can be done on a small scale in the real world, with real customers to collect feedback. Data can be captured in real time. For example, when testing new content, with a Google analytics account, you can measure real time how customers interact with the content, i.e. what is the bounce rate, how long do they stay on the page, what is the conversion ratio to “Add to Cart’’ and constantly improve the content to improve on those KPIs. 

This means that the people producing the content need to know how to work with such data. Marketing people no longer hold all the knowledge about the customers, the data does. And people who know how to use this data effectively, do.

It also means that people should be “allowed” to experience with less than perfect content or products to start with. KPIs such as speed to launch, become as important as content quality. This represents a significant mindset shift from a traditional marketing mindset.  

When diving into the data, you quickly realize that customers can no longer be clustered in segments defined by demographics or income levels. Every customer is unique. And the data allows us to target him / her very precisely where they live (geolocation), and the right stage of the purchasing lifecycle, depending on past: purchasing experience and patterns, on precise sensitivity to cost, reviews and other influencing factors… etc.

Furthermore, with the development of digital platforms, brands matter less. Knowledge of products and customers (based on data) matters more.

Customers are exposed to so many different options, and are able to compare those alternatives easily, that it is no longer possible to secure customer loyalty with a strong brand alone. 

Even such brands have to make sure they constantly offer the best possible product or service, for the right customer and at the right time.

Brands also need to be familiar with e-commerce platforms algorithms enough to make sure their products can be visible enough to their customers. With the quick development of voice search, this becomes even more critical. If a brand is not portrayed as a preferred choice by the algorithm of the voice assistant, it simply ceases to exist in the eyes of customers! There is no place for 2nd or 3rd  place anymore.

In traditional marketing organizations, people are mostly focused on activities to build brand awareness. 

In the new world we live in, even the strongest brands lose share to much less known alternatives who know how to play the game and capture customers at the conversion stage of the purchasing cycle. 

They do so, using targeted search campaigns, and a whole range of switch selling technics. 

Because securing customer loyalty at conversion stage has become so critical, it becomes really important that the marketing and sales teams work tightly together.

KPIs such as conversion to sales become relatively more important than brand awareness and recognition. 

Finally, new skills such as running effective targeted search and CRM campaigns, as well as digital content, (natural search optimization) and  social media campaigns are a must have in new marketing organizations. Such skills are very technical, and people need to constantly update them (to adapt to innovations by large e-commerce players). 

Mobile and voice search technics are the next big thing, companies need to master. 

In conclusion, the transformation needed from traditional marketing to digital marketing is a radical one. It involves different processes, focus, speed, skills and importantly a different mindset. 

Delphine Bradshaw Nguyen

Delphine is an experienced marketing and eCommerce manager, with 16 years experience in large corporations (HP and Epson), in international roles.

In the past 5 years she led the HP EMEA printing supplies team through digital transformation, building the team, data infrastructure and needed programs to gain share in the online space ( i.e. online brand protection program).

She is passionate about supporting companies through the change management needed to be successful in this digital transformation.

She holds an MBA from Cambridge university and a professional coaching certification.
Delphine Bradshaw Nguyen

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