Digital transformation is an ongoing journey. It is a process of continual progress and adaptation as things change quickly. This section of the report will focus on the key strategic pillars that need to be considered as part of this digital transformation journey.

Ashley Friedlein, Founder of Econsultancy and Guild, argues that digital transformation is really business transformation. With the acceleration of digital, there is a need for companies to transform into agile, customer-centric digital organisations in order to succeed.

Econsultancy’s guide to Digital Transformation and the Role of Data describes digital transformation as a journey undertaken to futureproof businesses. Its success is underpinned by people, technology, processes and data. It often involves re-engineering and automating business processes and reorienting the company culture. The aim is to change at a speed that allows the business to disrupt the market before it is disrupted by others. B2B digital transformation effectively involves streamlining processes using digital solutions with a focus on improving the customer experience.

Digitally transforming a company is not a quick fix but a long-term commitment that can take decades. Proper change requires an overhaul of the systems, data, processes and culture of an organisation, which must all be aligned to a new way of working. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for ongoing business transformation. Companies must invest in changing the business in order to innovate, be more agile, and respond to changing customer behaviour and expectations.

Friedlein describes a digital organisation as one that has a digital culture and a focus on the customer experience regardless of channel. If a company is customer-centric and obsessed about the customer then that is the hallmark of a digital business rather than whether their business is online.” Friedlein identifies seven attributes to drive successful digital transformation as illustrated in Figure 6.

Figure 6: The seven drivers of successful digital transformation

Figure 6 The seven drivers of successful digital transformation

Source: Econsultancy

The overriding success of digital transformation is down to vision, leadership and having alignment in place, and then it is the right technology, data and ways of working like agile and talent, he says.

Research[75] based on case studies of B2B digital transformations and interviews with 1,000 B2B transformation leaders shows that successful transformation follows a step-by-step approach that starts with the customer. Leaders will then tailor the approach to their organisation and market. The leaders in the study highlighted cost savings, improved employee satisfaction, increased revenue, and better brand reputation as benefits from their transformation efforts.

Businesses need to think and move in non-traditional ways suggests Econsultancy’s guide to Digital Transformation and Role of Data. This may mean changing the very DNA of a company, including redefining the business purpose. Although this will be a complex undertaking, the reward is the potential for greater business impact, innovation, growth and sustainability. Staff must be on board and support the change. They must be involved in the transformation and encouraged along the journey. Companies will need to find ways to upskill their staff and train them for the jobs and business models of the future.

To succeed in digital transformation, businesses must unlock decision-making bottlenecks and ensure there is leadership and C-suite buy-in.

5.1 Vision and leadership

The need for a digital strategy is key as customers turn to digital distribution channels for their products and services. The approach taken to transforming the business needs to support overall business goals, which in turn need to be supported by the right leadership, vision, values, mindset and culture in order to drive progress along. The importance of having the right vision and leadership to drive successful transformation was highlighted by a number of interviewees for this report.

Suzanne Picciano, Business Excellence Manager, Marketing at Boehringer Ingelheim, emphasises how vital it is to bring stakeholders on the journey with you: “The urgency and appetite for digital transformation was always there. However, appetite and capabilities don’t always match. We won hearts and minds around the vision and through acceptance that we’re no longer in a ‘new’ digital world – this is modern day marketing. We found success through a single-minded focus on our vision, building momentum and celebrating milestones (no matter how small). Crucially, we were lucky enough to have a leadership team who embraced this journey and championed a digital culture which was half the battle won,” she says.

Having a clear vision and leadership

“In terms of what it takes to digitally transform and why it works or doesn’t, a lot of it comes down the overriding success factor of having a clear digital vision and having a senior leadership team, including a CEO, who is properly behind it. It is very hard to successfully digitally transform unless that level of senior management backing and endorsement is there. With any change management you need to take the organisation along with you. The hallmark of successful digital organisations or digitally transforming organisations, is where digital and marketing work well together and you get that internal alignment between the teams. HR is important for culture, but marketing and technology working well together is essential for success.”

“No digital transformation can ever be successful if it is not fully integrated into the business strategy and, most importantly, fully supported by the CEO.

“At Electrocomponents it was very much the vision of the CEO who wanted the business to be more customer-focused and saw digital as a key enabler to deliver that. My role as Chief Digital Officer was to show how a digital world would significantly accelerate the execution of the business strategy by making suppliers, customers and employees lives easier, as well as help towards the environment and social responsibility.”

Guy Magrath, Director at GHM Digital Ltd

Many of the interviewees consulted for Econsultancy’s Learning from a Crisis Best Practice Guide emphasised the same key elements of effective leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • Prioritisation – Being able to identify the top priority was vital as the crisis unfolded, such as the ability to take orders digitally to maintain cashflow.
  • Speed of decision-making – The ability to make decisions quickly is key for mitigating risks as well as for seizing new opportunities where being first to market can be a major competitive advantage. It is important, however, to have the right people involved in those decisions (see Section 2.1.1 for more on this).
  • Clear responsibilities – With restrictions in place and the need for new ways of working to be adopted, clarity around roles and responsibilities were critical to a successful response to the crisis.
  • Customer centricity – A deep understanding of the customer and their needs is crucial both for effective messaging during a crisis, but also for identifying, and getting to grips with, challenges and opportunities. The best examples of business model pivots and marketing campaigns across the pandemic all demonstrated a rich understanding of what the customer wants and needs.
  • Agility – Agility is paramount. A deciding factor of success in a crisis is how adaptable and responsive a business can be to these changing contexts.

Many of the features that define effective leadership during a crisis are those which are key to effective leadership in the digital age and are just applicable whether managing a B2C or B2B company. For more on this, see Econsultancy’s Effective Leadership in the Digital Age Best Practice Guide.

5.2 Culture and strategy

Delivering a digital vision requires fostering a culture which will enable successful digital transformation.

GHM Digital Ltd Director Guy Magrath works with a number of leading B2B companies across a variety of sectors ranging from electronics and industrial distribution, financial services, industrial catering and enterprise solution providers. He highlights how culture is the most challenging area and describes his process for adopting change: “To drive culture, not just digital transformation, we asked every function to document what transformation meant for their area and build out a plan to deliver it.

“For one client, we selected 50 roles from across the organisation, and these were not the top ones but big operational roles, where you have operational heads doing big execution roles. We created more cross-functional teams and looked at customer problems and brought teams together to work in this way around common goals and drive a lack of silos.” 

In an interview with Econsultancy,[76] Guy shared the story of the three-year journey that Electrocomponents went on and the five core strategic pillars that their digital transformation was built on, further demonstrating the importance of having a clear digital vision. This vision is an integral part of the business strategy and needs to be supported by leadership and culture.

5.3 Driving agility and innovation

The pandemic has had an impact across all sectors in terms of their attitude to change. Looking at responses from companies selling to B2B customers as part of the survey for Econsultancy’s Future of Marketing report, innovation, adoption of experimentation and agility and adaptability are set to become increasingly important over the next two years (Figure 7).

Figure 7: How do you expect the importance of the following to change in the next two years for your organisation?


Source: Econsultancy’s Future of Marketing survey (B2B respondents)

Businesses increasingly need to embed more agile ways of working into the fabric of how they operate and strive for continuous innovation. However, this needs to be led from the top.

Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation, Technology at RM, notes the importance of having the leadership team engaged in transforming the business: “We ask our senior leadership team to behave like an agile cross-functional team. If they can be an agile leadership team then the whole business will be agile.”

Agile has to be top-down and bottom-up, and we must understand how to do it well. There is a need to break down silos and commit to the team rather than each member’s separate function. We moved from an environment where everyone was fighting for their area at budgeting cycles to a truly collaborative effort, where we are asking ‘what can I do?’ to help the entire business succeed as one team and have that customer-centric mindset.”

Design everything with the customer at the heart of the business

“Multiple agile teams, aligned to the customer journey, were formed at Electrocomponents to develop customer features six times faster than before. Most impressive of all was how these customer features were developed under an approach called ‘user-centric design’. Pain points were redeveloped with customers at the heart of the design process (via user experience research labs), then A/B tested before being passed to the agile teams to build. These teams were building and releasing new customer-tested features every two weeks.”

Guy Magrath, Director at GHM Digital Ltd

For more information on user-centric design and developing products and interfaces with the customer at the heart of the process see Econsultancy’s guide to User Experience and Interaction Design.

5.3.1 Cross-functional teams

Small, cross-functional teams can be an engine for business agility, helping to break down organisational silos while enabling better interdisciplinary collaboration and faster delivery of value. Econsultancy’s Digital Transformation: Agility and Innovation Best Practice Guide describes how to set up teams for success. In addition to leadership support, teams will need the right tools, access to data and fast customer feedback loops.

In the report, former Boots Marketing Director Helen Normoyle describes how the pharmacy chain’s marketing team adopted agile ways of working. The team started with a vision to create more joined-up customer journeys and break down functional silos. It then focused on building ‘the enablers’ (technology, skills and mindset), and went about changing the team structure to support an agile approach by creating small, cross-functional squads. These teams were aligned around customer need states and brand pillars.

Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation, Technology at RM, underlines this need to have cross-functional teams to deliver digital transformation. For us, it is the way we operate with customers: understanding their needs and business goals intimately and working with them as a team that has no barriers. It is about becoming a diverse cross-functional community of people that share a common goal and purpose. It is about understanding that purpose and having a digital mindset which is not just thinking about what tools to use, but really trying to understand customers’ needs.”

5.3.2 Test and learn

Within a digital environment, the ability to ‘test and learn’ improves considerably due to scalability and speed of insights. One of the ‘6Ps’ of successful digital transformation according to Senior Media Director at GSK Jerry Darkin is ‘pilots’.

GSK has therefore ‘really pushed’ a pilot, test and learn approach to empower its team across all markets, he says in an interview with Marketing Week.[77]

We want them all to be testing and learning new platforms and new approaches every quarter, and then we come together every quarter across the region for a ‘scaling call’, where we share some of the pilots we’ve run and what’s worked, and what hasn’t. We’re trying to build that into our DNA.

Betsy Wilson, VP, Digital Marketing and Brand Management at UPS, describes how her paid search teams developed test-and-learn scenarios based on revenue outcomes from using to ship a package. The teams came up with a hypothesis and ran this against an audience in a specific country, and if it worked, they were then able to roll this out to other countries. Wilson notes: This was a great opportunity to demonstrate our approach to our CMO who promotes ‘test and learn’ and ‘fail fast’ and how we are doing that.”

For guidance on how to apply key agile principles to marketing, as well as ecommerce, see Econsultancy’s Digital Transformation: Agility and Innovation Best Practice Guide.

5.4 Data transformation

The more a company knows about their customers or prospects, the better they can serve them and the more relevant the experience and communications can be. Data is key to gaining deeper client insights and using those insights to develop a better and more personalised experience. Companies need to be in a position where they can leverage data to better understand their customers and their market as a whole.

Companies should focus on implementing insight ecosystems, where they can take insights about their customers and their behaviour from the data they have collected and use it to transform themselves while tweaking their sales and marketing strategies at the same time. Data is at the centre of it all,” says Anthea Lamont, Managing Consultant Brand and Content at Capgemini Invent.

Data is one of the key ingredients of digital transformation. Econsultancy’s Digital Transformation and the Role of Data report discusses the need for data transformation to take place before digital transformation is fully possible. Data also underpins the design of better customer experiences and more personalised communication.

The report suggests adopting a data-as-a-service (DaaS) model, which is a framework that essentially splits data access and usage from where the data is stored. Bringing data together and freeing it up for multiple uses across the business enables speed and ease of access, while helping to provide that single view of the customer. DaaS data agility is a substructure of digital transformation, acting as a reinforcement to solutions enabled through digital transformation. The report discusses the DaaS Transformation Model and explains the step-by-step journey to how data is enabled as a service.

Applying the learning

Consider how different types and sources of data can be brought together and made accessible to teams across the organisation, from product development to marketing to operations.

“We have a customer data platform that allows us to access all our information about our customers and for this to be used in our everyday work. Getting a focus on data as a strategic asset is key.

“All of what we do around digital has to be driven by understanding the customer, who we want to target – existing customers, prospects or competitors’ customers. From a targeting perspective, data is critical, and when we think about our own customers or lookalikes, our first-party data is key for us.

We have a centralised team with data scientists that carries out customer data analytics and modelling. Companies can choose whether to make this function centralised or have specialists [embedded in separate] teams. We have both, a shared service and some teams have analysts in them. You need to have the analysts embedded in teams or available to them.”

Betsy Wilson, VP, Digital Marketing and Brand Management, UPS

When planning a transformation and beginning the journey towards the DaaS model, Econsultancy’s guide to Digital Transformation and the Role of Data suggests using the 6Ps framework. This can be used alongside those of the IT and product teams, who will have more detailed frameworks specific to data schema, taxonomies, infrastructure and operating models.

The 6Ps framework for data transformation

  • Purpose: Understand the business focal point today.
  • Plan: Map out strategies to make them tangible.
  • Process: Build frameworks to execute decisions.
  • People: Set expectations.
  • Partners: Hire vendors to work with.
  • Pillars: Ask the right questions to understand more.

For brands to thrive in the medium and longer term, they must revisit their digital transformation plans regularly with a view to upscaling digital infrastructure. An Econsultancy article[78] describes how Royal Brinkman, a platform for horticultural products, set out to create a digital infrastructure[79] that would give its customers the same experience online that they normally enjoyed from the company offline.

The article describes how this was accomplished in large part by building a personalised online portal called My Royal Brinkman which used real-time data to give customers easy access to information like their order history, customer-specific pricing, tailored payment methods and applicable shipping options. The new online environment also allowed Royal Brinkman to begin running personalised promotions, such as personalised banners, on the site as a way of adapting its offers to different customers. Thanks to the digital platform and the customer focus, the company increased its revenue and customer loyalty.

The data that digital can provide can create new opportunities for companies to engage their customers. Wendy Loke, Head of Marketing & Communications Asia Pacific (ex Japan) at AXA Investment Managers Asia (Singapore) Ltd, discusses how, with data, “you can look to improve the customer journey. Digital forces you to rethink things, it’s not just about replacing physical things you can no longer do, or do less of. It’s about thinking about how we could be more integrated into customers’ lives to increase engagement and increase our mindshare.”

5.4.1 Driving insights to create value for customers

Suzanne Picciano, Business Excellence Manager, Marketing at Boehringer Ingelheim, discusses how they have had to respond to their customers’ evolving needs throughout the duration of the pandemic: “We’ve responded in a number of ways by optimising the capabilities of data, analytics and insights. Our teams have become more data and insight-driven to ensure we’re delivering the right experience and content to our healthcare providers. With that, we also had to invest in our people’s development and nurture mindsets and skill sets to be able to plan and execute aligned to this goal.

“A key benefit from our digital transformation we are seeing internally through providing the right tools, capabilities and skill sets is our organisation is embracing a digital culture and becoming even more data and insight-led,” she says.

Data underpins the design of better customer experiences and more personalised communications with the aim of creating better value to the customer.

Beatriz Montoya, COO at Simply Business notes how data has always been and remains key to the business: All our product development is driven by customers’ needs which we identify through our data capabilities, and all our decision-making is based on data points as much as possible. At a time of unprecedented change and challenge as Covid hit, that data-centricity was a great support. For example, we were able to introduce machine-learning lead scoring into our contact centre to cope with the increased demand which has been transformational, as well as knowledge tools to support our teams.”

As discussed in Econsultancy’s Digital Transformation and the Role of Data report, a key benefit of DaaS is that the democratisation of data empowers digital transformation to even greater heights. Data acts as a bedrock for innovation and can be used to build end-to-end solutions that may have not been previously possible before digital transformation, including online and offline tracking. This is a beneficial outcome both inside the business and for customer-facing solutions. In marketing, DaaS enables:

1. A centralised, holistic view of customers and their relationship to the business, products and services, as well as to the wider industry.

2. The tracking of the touchpoints customers have across lines of business.

3. The building out of metadata for wider context about the touchpoints tracked to create new solutions, products and services.

4. An understanding of customer history which can be built out to create profiles of customer preferences.

5. Prioritisation of valuable customer segments and where to focus strategies around audience segments and types.

6. Predictions around customer behaviour and actions, with the eventual aim of influencing favourable behaviour or actions from the customer through prescribed marketing, product and service prompts.

7. The fostering of loyalty and minimisation of customer churn.

While having the right technology is important for businesses, it is key to have the data connected in order to generate insights. These insights are crucial for informing decisions and enabling the business to deliver the right experiences to customers and improve performance.

We continue to improve the data that we provide to third-party tools to make our marketing targeting more effective and with the launch of a CDP, powered by first-party data, we continue to drive marketing effectiveness,” says Beatriz Montoya, COO, Simply Business.

Top-performing B2B companies use predictive analytics to improve their insight-generation capabilities, deploying tools that help marketing and sales teams understand what offers, content and services to target to particular audiences and deliver real value. UST’s global survey for Forrester revealed that 87% of respondents were offering new or improved products and services that rely heavily on leveraging data and analytics and are also commercialising data or data science models directly.[80]

For more information on how customer data platforms (CDPs) can help marketers gains insights from data, see Econsultancy’s Customer Data Platforms Best Practice Guide.

5.5 Technology

B2B leaders are looking at how they can effectively apply the available technologies to the challenges they face, and which ones are most relevant to the customers and sector they operate within. Research based on interviews with 1,000 B2B transformation leaders shows that companies that leverage digital technologies and data to create value for their customers will create value for themselves.[81]

This is further supported by McKinsey research which suggests that as advanced technologies and analytics create performance opportunities, companies further along the digital journey are realising over 7% more revenue growth than industry peers, and nearly 6% more EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation) growth.[82] These 2017 survey findings provide a clear mandate for companies to act decisively, whether that is through the creation of new digital businesses or by reinventing the core of their strategic, operational and organisational approaches.

Companies should be curious and learn from others suggests Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation, Technology at RM. He proposes using the SAMR framework,[83] which was developed for the education sector and works well to help bring technology and digital into the classroom. It shows how things have to be done in a particular way,” he says.

The SAMR model

The SAMR describes the process of introducing technology in stages, moving from enhancement to transformation.

Substitution: Technology acts as a substitute. You don’t change the way you work, technology just replaces the tools, bringing efficiency and immediate benefits to the user.

Augmentation: Technology substitutes and improves. Technology helps the business get a little bit more done with the same resources, with functional improvements.

Modification: Technology modifies. Where you start making changes to the way you work, as technology allows for significant task redesign.

Redefinition: Technology transforms. Where technology allows for the creation of completely new things/tasks.

UST’s global survey for Forrester, which investigated the state of organisations’ digital transformation maturity, revealed that respondents identified as digitally advanced were accelerating the adoption of modern technologies such as cloud.[84] The study revealed that more than 80% of digitally advanced companies were using cloud services and a majority were adopting automation, analytics and AI and machine learning technologies. These advanced organisations were seen to have larger volumes of customer account growth, averaging a growth rate of 11%.

However, a top barrier consistently being highlighted in Econsultancy’s 2021 Digital Trends Report and in previous years centres around legacy systems. Legacy systems, where data is siloed, can break transformations. Data held by legacy systems has typically been purposely collected and housed in a very structured and restrained way for a specific (often singular) purpose. Data management is where much of the pain points around transformation can be found.

As discussed in Econsultancy’s Digital Transformation and the Role of Data report, strict, centralised data governance is required to prevent siloed legacy data ownership breaking transformations.

There is also a clear need for further investment in technology. According to responses from B2B companies in Econsultancy’s Future of Marketing survey, which looks at all marketers, only 6% of B2B marketers believe their current martech stacks are completely fit for purpose, and just over a quarter (28%) say their martech stack is completely or somewhat unfit for purpose.

This is having an impact on the ability of companies to deliver on the customer experience and there is a strong link between levels of martech stack integration and the ability to personalise the digital experience. Econsultancy’s Thriving in The New Digital Era: Digital Transformation in Manufacturing report reveals that of those with a ‘fair’ level of integration, only 4% claim their digital experience is dynamically tailored to each customer. However, where companies had an ‘excellent’ level of integration, the figure soared to 67%.

5.5.1 Live chat

Technology can be a key enabler in helping to move customers along the buyer journey. As discussed in an Econsultancy’s article on how digital is shaping B2B customer experiences,[85] live chat, in particular, has been a real asset, enabling companies to keep a line of support and assistance open to potential customers while they are in the consideration phase. Live chat allows sellers to be on-hand to answer any in-depth queries that require special knowledge, replacing interactions that would typically take place over multiple phone calls or lengthy back-and-forths over email.

Live chat can also be a tool for qualifying leads, enabling companies to discover whether the person browsing their website is a potential customer and determine what they might be interested in buying. This then allows them to target the buyer with relevant marketing messages or information.

Using chatbots to increase efficiency

CRM software provider HubSpot offers a live chat solution to customers as part of its suite of tools and makes use of live chat on its own website. HubSpot describes how it was able to increase the efficiency of its sales team by using the chatbot to segment out users who were looking for technical support, directing them towards the support team and help resources while funnelling other visitors towards the sales team.[86]

HubSpot realised that this solution was still only serving the 30% of the visitors to its site who were already users and customers, and not the 70% of its audience made up of browsers and potential leads. Non-support visitors were therefore presented with the option to try HubSpot’s free tools as an alternative to discussing features and pricing, an addition that improved the number of CRM signups by 7%, and the efficiency of HubSpot’s sales team by almost 70%.

The chat also now offers the option to ‘Get educational content’, which serves visitors who are interested in reading HubSpot’s blog content or accessing training through the HubSpot Academy.

5.5.2 Demonstrating improvements

Successful transformation depends in part on the ability to demonstrate improvements and effectively measure progress. Research from Wunderman Thompson shows that 38% of global B2B buyers identified ‘customer satisfaction’ as one of their top KPIs.[87]

A global survey conducted by Forrester for UST reveals that advanced organisations are focused on continuous improvement in terms of customer and business impact. It highlights how these companies integrate leading indicators of customer value and revenue growth with metrics for ‘soft’ variables like experience, culture and organisational impact.[88] The research revealed that in the year prior to April 2021, 94% of advanced respondents were shown to have connected digital transformation investments to changes in lifetime customer value metrics. The research showed they were also able to focus their transformation initiatives on improvements to profitability by tracking metrics like net value creation. In contrast, beginners, however, are shown to be hyper-focused on keeping costs low, instead focusing on short-term benefits like cost savings.

Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation, Technology at RM, describes the need to show how others are using digital tools for their benefit: Have evidence in outcomes, measurements, and explain how others could benefit if they invest in digital transformation.

In the education sector where we operate, the administrators and teachers are realising technology brings improvements to processes and opportunities to improve ways of working. Instead of having to create all their planning and teaching material each year and produce physical copies, they can now collaborate with teachers around the globe and create a teaching pack online which is so good everyone wants to use it, and then every year just tweak it. The amount of time saved, and the quality of the material, increases substantially.”

5.6 People and skills

The importance of considering the human capability side of transformation and innovation projects was emphasised by many of the experts interviewed for Econsultancy’s Future of Marketing report, highlighting that without investment in the skills and capabilities of employees, organisations will have difficulty finding future growth or stemming decline. In an interview for the report, Paul Morris, Chief Digital Officer of Alshaya Group, encapsulated this well: “digital transformation is a human transformation”.

Senior Media Director Jerry Darkin at GSK supports this point in an interview with Marketing Week where he discusses his 6Ps of digital transformation, warning that “people can also become the biggest barrier to change, but they are often a major accelerator when they are fully behind an idea and want to drive its success.[89]

Richard Robinson, Managing Director of Econsultancy, reinforced the importance of people when it comes to digital in Econsultancy’s Learning from a Crisis Best Practice Guide.

“It is no surprise that digital transformation of people was going to come, and the current situation has accelerated the need to radically upskill everyone digitally, transforming people in the shortest time possible. We have always highlighted that digital transformation is 90% people and 10% technology and for the first time, the focus is fully on the people. Now, whether B2C or B2B providers, all companies need to have very strong high-touch digital skills. There has never been an upscaling like this for some companies.”

To support digital transformation, Roberto Hortal, Head of Innovation, Technology at RM, describes the need for a competency framework. Referencing the Conscious Competence Ladder,[90] which was developed in the 1970s based around the conscious competence theory of learning a new skill, he says: “Unconscious incompetence, particularly at board room level, can be a big problem. Conscious incompetence establishes what we know that we don’t know, and what we need to do to design an organisation that becomes competent in areas identified as weaknesses. Organisations should be designed, not left to evolve randomly, since we, the people in the organisation, build our organisation. The need to embrace the principle of deliberate design is crucial.”

A number of interviewees for this report highlighted that the biggest challenges to transforming the business are often cultural, and it is key that there is vision and leadership at the top with everyone playing their role.

CMO at UPS Kevin Warren’s video message to UPS employees is a great example of setting out a clear vision for digital from the top across the business, highlighting how everyone can play their part and develop their digital skills.

Taking everyone on a digital journey

“At UPS, we recognise that customers expect to do the things they want and to have frictionless experiences, be able to move between platforms and channels seamlessly. The only way to compete with digital disruptors in our market is to match these expectations and the only way to do so is through digital.

“We don’t want to just keep up, but to jump on digital and harness its power. We are providing a 6.5-hour course to provide employees of UPS with a shared language on digital and to demystify digital transformation and provide the tools and permission to start experimenting and becoming the disruptors instead of being the disrupted.

“Digital doesn’t mean throwing things away, but it is changing our ways of working. This is about keeping the best parts of our traditional capability combined with a digital-first mentality. It is about increasing your own digital intelligence – your DQ – entrepreneurship, curiosity and agility. Being customer-first, people-led and innovation-driven. Sensing the balance between satisfying customers’ present and future needs and meeting profitability targets.

“Uniting our strengths with digital is our competitive advantage. Our foundation, our strategic imperatives, our mission, our everything, it now starts with providing the best digital experiences powered by the world’s largest logistics network.”

Kevin Warren, CMO, UPS (extracts from video message to employees)

There is a clear recognition this vision requires a move to a customer-first approach, enabled by digital, which is now woven throughout UPS’s strategy. UPS identified a need to rapidly build a digital marketing competency in their marketing professionals to support this. In response, the company established a Digital Accelerator Programme, which is a custom course, co-developed by Econsultancy and UPS. The course aims to help raise the floor in digital across the global UPS marketing community which consists of approximately 1,500 employees (excluding junior or non-relevant roles). It combines internal vision with external best practice guidance on key areas of digital over six modules, and totals around seven hours of learning.

“It is as much about mindset as technical skills, says Betsy Wilson, VP, Digital Marketing and Brand Management at UPS, with the first module focused on customer-first thinking. “The course combines custom videos featuring our people, including Kevin Warren, our CMO, as well as our off-the-shelf content. We have successfully seen 100% of marketers globally complete the full course before the deadline of 16 weeks, which is phenomenal.

Technology is only ever as good as the people that use it, and the ability to be agile and transform is more than a process, it is a mindset. A framework for developing the right mindset to transform is illustrated by Econsultancy’s ‘10Cs’ model.[91] It defines specific characteristics that contribute to success as an individual, as part of a team or within the wider organisation. For further insights on what mindset means for organisational goals, see Econsultancy’s The Fundamentals of Modern Marketing Mindset Best Practice Guide.

5.6.1 Talent

As well as nurturing the right environment and mindset for digital transformation, companies need to consider what training and skills development is needed for teams across the business, particularly for sales and marketing. Organisations that do not invest in the skills of their teams risk undermining any transformational efforts. Investing in new skills also helps to show commitment to employee growth and development, as well as helping to attract the right talent.

A common theme running through the interviews was the challenge of attracting the right talent for digital transformation. Guy Magrath, Director at GHM Digital Ltd, reinforces this point: “Talent is right up there as a key priority. If you haven’t got talent working in a progressive culture, it doesn’t matter how great your technology, vision or capabilities are.  

“Everyone is facing significant talent problems. Digital has become more of a commodity and people are moving. There is greater importance on the working environment and how a person is managed, being clear on what the company is trying to achieve, not financially, but to make the world a better place. It is important to employees.”

Further insights on how Electrocomponents achieved this are covered in an interview Magrath gave to Econsultancy.[92]

LinkedIn’s Director of Market Engagement at the B2B Institute, Ty Heath, describes how the company talks about creating a unified brand where there is no separate brand for talent, customers, investors and others – there is just one brand, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is central to the story. 

“Managing your brand reputation includes leadership on the social issues that impact all your stakeholders. Strong brands attract better talent, and they have an easier time retaining that talent over the long run. The marketing model of yesterday was focused on customers with less regard for other stakeholders. Simply put, your consumer brand is now your talent brand, your employee brand, and your shareholder brand,” she says.

You can’t succeed without talent

“We’ve always placed huge importance on our employee value proposition (EVP). We won Best Company to Work for in 2015 and 2016, and we also became a B Corporation in 2017.[93] Our purpose is clear to all our employees and this does some of the work.

“One thing that is critical at the moment is decisions about the future of hybrid working – in our case, we are going for a highly consultative process, where we are providing plenty of opportunities to connect in the office but not forcing those who don’t feel comfortable coming in to be present, although we expect to have most people wanting to connect with their colleagues in the future.”

Beatriz Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business