Brands are constantly shifting and evolving trying to catch up with today’s increasingly digital world that demands new strategies and techniques to stay relevant in the game. The Berries interviewed Alan Casey, Partner at Prophet,  to get his insights on how should brands tackle the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation.
BB: The term “digital transformation” has been commonly used to describe anything that operates within the horizon of social media, mobile and web. What does “digital transformation” mean for brands? How can it change the face of a brand?
AC: For me, digital transformation is less about being more active on social media or investing more on digital marketing channels, and instead represents a shift in how you want to interact with your customers.
Digital should not be something you ‘do’ and instead should be deeply infused into the way you do everything. What I mean is, brands need to recognize that the world their customers or clients now live in is inherently digital. As such, their expectations in terms of speed, personalization and value have evolved to match.
So for a brand, digital transformation does not mean hiring someone to manage your Facebook or WeChat accounts. It means adapting a more digital mindset in how you run the business and interact with your target customers.
Take the realm of marketing for example – applying a digital mindset requires you to break free from a static and standardized approach and get comfortable with dynamic and experimental approaches. This means trying new channels, exploring what might be possible in the worlds of voice assistants and virtual reality, and of course building a network of influencers who are far more effective in boosting both credibility and scale among a digital native audience.
In short, digital transformation means brands need to be focused more on experiences and relationships than one-way communications. We call companies that have managed to make this shift evolved enterprises – and they have 3 traits: A focus on customer experience, empowerment of their people to enable them to be responsive and a relentless drive to create positive associations with their brand.
BB: One of the most important tips of digital transformation is ‘make it personal’. How can brands leverage digital transformation to become more consumer-centric?
AC: Well, this is where data comes in. One of the key assets that the digital revolution has produced is an enormous source of data on your customers. Whether you want to call it ‘deep data’ or ‘big data’ or anything else, the reality is that the data you need to comprehensively understand your customers in terms of who they are, how they behave and what their preferences and values are should be available to you.
This is going to be most powerful when it is the combination of ‘online’ and ‘offline’ data, and a combination of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ data. To create a holistic view of your customer you need to understand how they behave in all channels, including when shopping your competitors.
In reality though, very few organizations have yet managed to harness that power, especially when we consider companies that are not borne of a digital business model. Data tends to be siloed, incomplete and often inaccessible in the format needed to create a single view of the customer.
They are also unaware of what data they should be buying or even how to go about creating the right partnerships to access it.
The four things companies need to do pave the way for data-driven customer centricity are
1) Understand what data you actually have on your customers, as there are often pockets of potential insight that              exist but are simply not being used for that purpose.
2) Understand what system, process, capability and regulatory barriers you are facing to gather and analyze more data on your consumers.
3) Understand what the required ‘value exchange’ is for your customers. They will not give you their data unless there is something of value you are giving back in exchange, and rightly so. You need to think what experience enhancements you can commit to in order to encourage them to opt in to sharing.
4) Understand what alternative sources of data are available to plug the holes.
BB: While brands are able to reach consumers throughout many moments in their lives, competition for their attention is becoming stiffer. How can digital transformation help brands stay competitive?
AC: As you say competition for mindshare is stiffer, and in reality – with the current regulatory environment and the requisite changes to personal data policies – consumers are now in control of how brands can reach them. For me, the three key words for brands to live and act by are: respectful, authentic and valuable.
Brands need to be respectful of the fact that customers are bombarded with communications all day every day. They need to understand where they have permission to play and stay within those boundaries. They need to limit interactions, or even adapt more of a rapid response model, for example, making use of chatbots to be proactively available, instead of defaulting to blanket communications
Brands need to be authentic in their message. This is of course an age-old truism for branding but even more relevant in the age of social media. There are too many examples of social media gaffes by brands having a destructive impact on brand image to ignore.
Brands need to provide value to consumers. As mentioned above, there needs to be a value exchange to get consumers to opt-in to sharing data, but there also needs to be a value in interactions themselves. This is achieved by creating perceptions of personalization that deepen the bond with the brand.

BB: Digital, and especially mobile, has fundamentally changed the way people consume media, develop brand preferences and choose products. Can you elaborate on how digital transformation has an impact on empowering consumers?
AC: Totally agree. In this day and age, where aggregators, recommendation sites and increasingly voice assistants and smart appliances have more influence on decisions – if customers cannot remember your brand name you essentially don’t exist.
This means that brands need to work harder for your loyalty. They need to understand you better and be more transparent with you.This enables customers to get products and services that better match their needs.
For example, Netflix claims that 8 in 10 shows watched on their platform are discovered through their recommendations. This shows the power that machine learning can provide to customers in helping to navigate the overwhelming choice we know face.
BB: Digital transformation is the act of investing in people, technology, systems, and processes to upgrade how businesses work in this digital economy. In your opinion, what are the key challenges that face brands when developing a digital transformation strategy?
AC: We have all read surveys where we see that 9 in 10 digital transformation efforts end below expectations or worse. The main cause is not a lack of ambition, but tends to come in implementation.
Organizations underestimate their own lack of agility and are blind to the limitations of legacy processes and systems that have been built to operate in a certain way and which simply cannot flex enough.
Another issue we see is that companies focus on the ‘what’ of digital transformation instead of the ‘why’. You need to stay focused on the desired objectives which should be better marketing strategies, seamless customer experiences and motivated employees that work together to deliver smarter, faster and more flexible market responses.
Finally, in terms of how you do it, we always recommend that companies use purposeful iteration. They need to create a roadmap that lays out the different ways digital transformation will add value to the business and then tackle them one at a time. By celebrating successes, they can build support and momentum for further changes.