In 2011, Disney World was facing declining customer satisfaction, falling revenues, and the prospect of becoming a 'quaint' tourist destination.

How did Disney pull itself out this and achieve record revenues in 2016? Digital transformation.

To update Disney World to the digital age, CEO Bob Iger secured a $1bn budget from the board and introduced the MyMagic+ wristband with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips build in.  

These wearables serve as the park admission ticket, queue-jumping FastPass, hotel room key, and even a wallet. Customer experience vastly improved and now over 90% of visitors rate the park as 'very good' or 'excellent'.

Making the MyMagic+ wristband work, though, was an enormous digital transformation programme. Some of the many tasks required included:

  • Updating DisneyWorld.com at a cost of $80m.
  • Designing a custom RFID wristband, now used by more than 10m people per year.
  • Installing 30m square feet of WiFi coverage in the park.
  • Fitting 28,000 hotel room doors with RFID readers.
  • Training 70,000 employees on how the new technology worked.

The impact of this initiative - 90% favorable customer experience ratings - is impressive, but how did Disney make such an enormous effort happen? What steps did the digital team take from the initial idea to the realisation?

While we may never know what specifically was required to make this happen at Disney, we were able to talk to a number of brand marketers at Digital Cream Singapore about their digital transformation story.

There, delegates told us about how their brands are updating their company's customer experience for the digital age. 

Below are an overview of the items that participants felt were most important for digital transformation and what should, ideally, be shared internally through a project document or playbook.

1) A north star

Attendees felt that for digital transformation to be successful, the digital team should know what they want to accomplish. That is, what does the digitally transformed organisation look like?

While the answer to this broad question will be different for every company, participants provided some questions which they asked themselves while going through digital transformation:  

  • Can we use our existing data resources to attract more business digitally?
  • Is ecommerce only for the website, or can we offer an in-store digital purchasing experience?
  • Is it possible for us to use customer data to personalise the delivery experience?
  • Should we provide ongoing customer service with social media?

The point of having this vision, or a 'north star' as one participant put it, is that the result of digital transformation should be company-wide adoption of digital technology and processes.

For this to happen, marketers should be clear about what needs to be changed and how these changes will be made operational.  

Just saying 'we will improve sales with big data' won't work, noted one participants.

2) The road map

Agreeing on a goal is a good start for a transformation process, but attendees said that organisations should also know how they are going to get there.

Many delegates who had been through digital transformation felt that a phased approach was best. Summarised by Neil Perkin in a recent presentation, a multi-stage approach starts with digital resources dispersed throughout an organisation and then arranges them into digital 'centres of excellence'.  

This allows companies with limited digital resources to start digital initiatives across the organisation via a single team.

Then, as transformation progresses, resources will be relocated throughout the organisation to support digital programmes on an ongoing basis. 

Participants warned that dispersing resources was difficult, though, as digital experts preferred to work in small digitally-savvy teams. Because of this, the roadmap should also include training existing staff during the transformation process.

3) Team members

Apart from whether the organisation will have centres of excellence or take another approach, delegates said that the digital transformation plan should be clear about who will be on the digital team.

Some organisations built teams with existing staff from IT, marketing, and the call centre while others hired people specifically for the digital transformation programme.

For those who are hiring, attendees felt that it was important to make the team structure clear during the hiring process and to discuss the career paths for those who join.  

Reason being that once the transformation is underway, hires with strong digital expertise will need to know whether they will be responsible for ongoing maintenance.  

Letting them know whether they will or not sets correct expectations from the start and will help keep them on board and motivated.

4) Success metrics

In addition to having an overall goal for the digital transformation effort, the digital team should also have some everyday 'success metrics'.

These should be clear and achievable goals so that the team can see incremental progress toward the digital goal and regularly celebrate small wins.

Some ideas for potential success metrics included the number of in-store digital sign-ups, an increase in revenue from digital, and a reduction in calls to the call centre.

One attendee pointed out that each success metric should be tied to some digital team activity so that they can be certain of their role in the small win.

For example, they should measure calls to the call centre before and after they rearrange the customer service web page so that they know that their efforts made a difference.

5) 'Customer hygiene' factors

Finally, marketers channeled the Hippocratic Oath and said that a digital transformation project should first and foremost 'do no harm'.

To make that happen, they argued, the digital transformation plan needs to include 'customer hygiene' factors. These are things which may not necessarily make customers happy, but if they are not present, then customers will certainly be unhappy.

Examples of customer hygiene factors include: 

  • Ease of purchase (online and offline)
  • High availability of customer service
  • Perks for customer loyalty
  • Sensible customer care policies (returns, refunds, etc.)

Attendees agreed that all digital initiatives should improve the existing customer experience at all touchpoints and avoid having 'increasing efficiency' as the main goal.

Doing so could result in negative customer feedback for digital transformation initiatives and risk the support of the business for the programme.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and the moderator for the Digital Transformation: People, Process & Technology table, Caitlin Nguyen, Global Lead for Digital & CRM at Fonterra.

We hope to see you all at future Singapore Econsultancy events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 11 January, 2017 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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