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As we move further into the digital transformation, the gap between the companies that get it—and those that don’t—continues to widen. Companies that have mastered digital are moving lightyears ahead of their sluggish counterparts. From the big enterprises like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, and IBM to the smaller start-ups making waves in their own industries, the contest is becoming increasingly uneven.
So, what? A recent Cisco initiative, Digital Vortex: How Digital Disruption is Redefining Industries, showed executives believe four of today’s top 10 incumbents in each industry will be displaced by digital disruption in the next five years. In fact, today’s leading companies aren’t just moving ahead, they’re exploiting their advantage to their competitors’ detriment. Leaders post a three-year average gross margin of 55 percent compared to just 37 percent for laggards. As I’ve discussed in my past digital transformation in industry series, it doesn’t matter what sector you’re in. You need to get on board with the digital transformation.
I’ve previously shared a few companies that are killing it in the digital transformation. Now I’ll share the weapons they used to get there.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
One of the biggest reasons some companies are nailing the digital transformation and others are getting hammered is this: big data. Today’s smartest companies are using data and automation to make smarter ad buys, more targeted communications, and better decisions about clients and customers. Indeed, research shows leading companies’ tech budgets aren’t much different than their lagging counterparts—they’re just used in smarter ways that add value to the company. For instance, insurance companies like Allstate and Progressive developed in phone features to monitor their customers’ driving habits, tracking everything from hard braking to unexpected accelerations. They no longer price policy rates by number of accidents; they price them by regular driving patterns—a much better indicator of future accidents. Companies need to get creative in considering new ways to use tech to reach—and exceed—their business goals.
Focus on Experience
The top companies today are using technology to make life easier, both for their employees and customers alike. They know customer experience (CX) is a huge driver of success in the digital marketplace. For instance, research shows leaders are 2.5 times more likely to harness real-time data to personalize customer experience. That includes everything from personalized beacon notices to emails to revisit an abandoned online shopping cart. When customers know you’re paying attention to them as a person, they’re far more likely to keep coming back to you as a favored company. The same is true for overall user experience. Leading companies know the tools they give their employees—and the apps they give their customers—need to offer seamless usability or they will not be used. It’s a novel concept, right? Today’s companies need to give the boot to tired legacy tech and invest in the tools they need to work more efficiently.
Expect More from B2B Partners
Research shows B2B companies tend to fall behind their B2C counterparts in terms of tech innovation. Why? See above! The digital transformation is all about user experience. Companies need to start demanding more from their business partners, just as customers are demanding more from them.
Hire for Flexibility
I’ve said it before: today’s business environment is all about agility. Part of that means adapting to the new mobile workforce. Leading companies are housing fewer in-house workers and making use of the growing contingent workforce. Doing so adds scalability and agility to a company’s overall business plan, allowing them to adjust for seasonal bursts or busts.
Digital progress can’t happen in silos. Today’s companies need to break down the traditional concept of separate departments—and separate goals—and start utilizing data and automation for the company’s overall good.
For the laggards in today’s digital marketplace, jumping aboard the speeding digital bullet train might seem like an impossible feat. Luckily, there are tons of as-a-Service providers that can help with anything from data mining and automation to smart marketing campaigns. The first step is always the hardest. But now more than ever, it is imperative to make the leap.
This article was first published on Forbes.