The digital transformation of our workplaces is not new. Ever since organizations started moving from personal computers and files stored locally to cloud computing and mobile phones, a fully online world has become the corporate norm. However, what truly constitutes a full-scale digital transformation is not simply the employment of digital tools. Rather, it’s a fundamental reconceptualization of how all parts of a business should operate in a fast-moving and digital-first world.
This new way of reimagining how to operate transcends all aspects of a business, no matter the sector or industry. But in order to be transformative, businesses cannot be fixated solely on speed and how to find minor inefficiencies and ultimately rectify them.
An effective digital transformation will undoubtedly result in gains in time and productivity, but it must include a more profound paradigm shift in doing business.
So, the question becomes: at a high level, what aspects of a business can and should be digitally transformed?
A single source of truth
A primordial aspect of digital transformation is the synergy and analysis of disparate data. Nearly 80% of organizations use anywhere from five to 20 different digital marketing tools to interact with consumers and amass data. A large part of the difficulty lies in parsing this information to arrive at something of value that can be leveraged to make meaningful decisions. Establishing which metrics to consider as an organization will help to distinguish what is valuable from what is extraneous. This involves setting definitions and dimensions for particular metrics to increase alignment and buy-in, across departments.
To that end, if the right tools are available, data from different sources can be unified in a manner that drives decision making. This typically results in a more directed approach that focuses time spent on adding value and increasing ROI. In the APAC region, the right partnership with a company well-versed in business and consumer trends in the market can help present myriad data in single-platform—arriving at a single source of truth.
Businesses cannot exist without satisfied customers and clients. This is especially pertinent for companies looking to enter and succeed in markets in APAC. Chinese and Japanese consumers and, more specifically, their customer service expectations, differ greatly from those of Western consumers. One area where many businesses in APAC are typically lacking is in their ability to create a seamless customer experience across multiple platforms.
A study by Deloitte found that 75% of Chinese consumers are unsatisfied with their customer experience when having to interact across multiple channels. Increased mobile connectivity, as well as shopping integration between social media and other channels, creates an environment where the same customer can reach out to one company about issues through multiple touch-points.
So, as different interactions are occurring through different mediums, if a company is unable to store and log critical information that stems from these interactions—and make it readily accessible to any customer service agent or department that might touch the file—it has lost an opportunity.
An effective digital transformation in this domain integrates all customer facing platforms with internal databases to leave the customer the impression that she can start and stop any interaction through the channel of their choice. A company that fails to reimagine doing business not with different departments operating in silos, but rather with an interconnected capacity to understand, in an instant, what the customer needs and wants will lose out on customer loyalty and might not survive the fast-moving and digitally minded markets of China and Japan.
Marketing and advertising
Digitally transforming the way a company markets and advertises its brand and services is paramount to making sure a business is effectively acquiring and retaining customers and clients in APAC. Whether an organization is leveraging in-platform advertising on Tmall or is paying for acquisition via KOL campaigns, a digitally optimized marketing strategy can be the difference between true success in the market or middling results.
High-performing Tmall partners know how to optimally navigate the Tmall marketing ecosystem. Keyword bidding, banner ads, Juhuasan flash sales and strong Tmall SEO rankings are all areas that are worth companies’ time and resources. The right Tmall partner will know how to manage a brand’s relationship with the platform and gather the right data to ensure that the company’s advertising is reaching the right customers. Then, it’s critical to ingest that data to continue to derive revenue from the platform and its customers.
Baidu is to China what Google is to the West. A significant number of online traffic starts through this platform. A company looking to do business in China and APAC effectively should be fairly prominent on Baidu, using Madarin Character keywords. Meanwhile, its sister-forum Tieba is a Reddit style platform where users can up-vote posts they like. Popular posts can increase a brand’s visibility, since posts with many up-votes are likely to appear on Baidu’s front page.
Another platform with daily users numbering in the hundreds of millions and counting is the short-video platform Douyin, known as TikTok in the West. Promoting a businesses on Douyin can take several forms, be they digital advertisements or partnering with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). The latter form of marketing is becoming increasingly popular in China and APAC thanks to the ability of brands to interact with consumers and live-test products for added authenticity.
For an even more intelligent, targeted approach, marketing within the WeChat platform allows brands access to a social media channel that boasts more than 1 billion monthly users worldwide. WeChat groups are active communities with up to 500 users centred around specific areas of interest. Once a business has determined the best audience to target with its products and services, it can engage with an audience that is most interested in those products and services. The prevalence of sharing posts and topics in this platform can make for a mix of organic and paid awareness reaching a vast audience.
The first step in making digitally informed decisions about where and to whom products or services should be marketed involves data collection and analysis. This is not particularly unique to the APAC market, but what is critical is taking that data, ingesting it, and incorporating it throughout your production cycle.
Chinese consumer preferences, for instance, vary greatly not only from those of Westerners, but even within China itself. Understanding those variances in expectations when it comes to pricing, seasonality, product details (specs, colours and sizing) is nuanced and dynamic, but having access to the right data can remove a lot of uncertainty, saving businesses money and time in the process.
While the Chinese and APAC e-commerce markets are ever-changing, and an approach used today will ultimately need tweaking in the future, a business that digitally transforms its approach to marketing by leaning on the power of data will be better set to make those adjustments when necessary.
AI and website UX
A precipitous decline in brick and mortar retailers in favour of online platforms has created a massive opportunity for— and vastly increased the importance of— a company’s website and landing page. A business’s homepage is tasked with instilling confidence in a brand’s quality, reliability and accessibility. While that may seem like a tall task, a company’s digital transformation can (and must) leverage relevant data points and modern technology to communicate all the key messages to its audience.
Having attractive and appealing landing pages can vastly increase conversion rates and result in more leads. Of course, a landing page in APAC can and should look different than what the Western world might be accustomed to. This is another opportunity to delve deep into relevant consumer data to understand what makes a customer or client more likely to pursue a relationship with a company based on what they see on a website. Different landing pages for different campaigns trying to reach different audiences are all possible and necessary to make the most out of digital transformations.
A relatively new reality of websites is the chatbot. Powered by AI, a chatbot can save time and resources by triaging a customer’s query or issue directly to the right customer agent or to other parts of the website where customers can serve themselves. Effective chatbots can also improve customer experience by providing a platform where he or she can be served immediately, instead of having to queue up. And, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, chatbots will become more sophisticated and adept over time.
Considerations and first steps
Embarking on a digital transformation journey is the right thing to do for any business looking to compete in the Chinese and Japanese markets and beyond. Before doing so, there are several factors to contemplate and initial steps to take to ensure an all-encompassing and successful digital transformation.
- Does my business have the right team on the ground in China or Japan to affect a change of this scale?
- What are some gaps and inefficiencies in my current business that need transforming? What does successfully filling those gaps look like?
- What is the growth trajectory of my business? What will I need to scale in five-years time?
- What does the roadmap for a digital transformation look like? What are the checkpoints?
- Find the partner with access to the most relevant data and experience to best support your organization’s particular needs.
- Look for integrative technology solutions to increase coherence and centralize information
- Consider hiring a consultant to give you an objective look at where your business is lacking and what needs to be done
- Determine the best change management strategy to communicate and prepare your employees for the digital transformation
Now’s the time
Digital transformation- the Internet of Things, 5G connectivity, and Artificial Intelligence- are far from foreign or novel concepts. But the devil lies in the how, not the what.
A survey of more than 1,000 organizations conducted by Mckinsey found that nearly 80% of respondents had begun some form of digital transformation. However, only 14% reported these changes having had a lasting positive impact on performance; and merely 3% of the organizations surveyed reported that their transformation was completely successful and sustaining change. Acting correctly will ensure your organization’s changes are sustainable, successful, and valuable.
With the right tools and the right partner, your organization can ensure its transformation is a complete success.
If your business is ready to begin its digital transformation in APAC, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.