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Digital Transformation Of Business And Communications - Part 2

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As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part 2 of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about what is driving digital transformation in businesses and the potential ROI from it.

Doug: What do you think is really driving the digital transformation within businesses? Is it primarily the customer focus - "let's provide this better experience for our customers?" Is it more internal-facing - "we want to improve productivity of employees?" Or is it reducing cost? There do seem to be several.

Jean-Pierre: I would say all of the above. It depends on the industry or category you're competing in. It's about being relevant to your customers, and if your customers are digitally-enabled and digitally-focused, then having a digital platform, whether it is mobile, web, or a tablet, enables them to be smarter on their feet with customers who have done all the research ahead of time.

How do you leverage big data? Today most large organizations have spent billions and billions in establishing and building infrastructure for big data. The problem is that the last foot in the sales process between big data and the customer experience is lacking. It's about finding that link. This is where mobile and digital technology are playing a pivotal role. It is enabling the salesforce to provide things like just-in-time inventory analysis. If a customer is looking for a TV, they can tell immediately if that TV is in stock, they can tell if it isn't, which store is closest, and they can actually capture that sale by having the TV sold and delivered to the home on the same day. So you're seeing organizations asking, "How do we build relevancy for brands when the consumers' focus is digitally-oriented?"

Doug: How have you seen digital transformation affect your business?

Jean-Pierre: Well, the reality is designing has always been digital. When I started the business, we had markers, and we had this thing called Paste Up, and we had typesetters. Then, some guy with a computer that was called an Apple really disrupted the industry. I believe we were the first industry to go digital because we replaced typesetters with Mac computers and software like Adobe InDesign. So, we were always digitally-enabled as an industry. However, the connection between our digital enablement and our clients focus on digital only happened about 10 years ago. It's much more of a transformation of how we look at business opportunities and business challenges. Now, we have a whole component to solving our clients' problems by looking with a digital lens at what that customer's digital path to purchase is. How does that link to the conventional path to purchase and what are those key moments of truth that digital can play a pivotal role? Yes, it's transformed our business, but we've been on this journey for about 20 years.

Doug: It is often difficult to show a pure ROI because things change slowly or so dramatically that now we're doing things a completely different way - so how do you show an ROI on it? What are the benefits and advantages that you're showing to customers to say, "Here's what you can do differently, here's what the digital solutions will allow you to do"?

Jean-Pierre: Let's turn it around, I would say one of the benefits to the organization is the ability to communicate effectively at the moment of purchase. Consumers buy emotionally; they don't buy functionally, they don't buy rationally. Consumers are irrational, and we all know that. The beauty of digital technology is that ability of connecting emotionally. Pictures connect to our hearts, visuals connect to our hearts. Not words, not sound. Pictures. So, there's a real opportunity for brands to connect with consumers emotionally when they're making their purchase decision.

For consumers, it's simple. They're looking for knowledge or answers and they're looking for cues and clues that will help them make the right buying decision. Today, the big challenge for consumers is complexity of choice. We have too many choices. Our stores are too big. Look at the average supermarket: When I grew up it was 20,000 square feet. Now they are 100,000 square feet. The average supermarket back then had maybe 12,000 products. Now they have 100,000 products. Shopping has become a challenge because we have too much choice, and digital provides an opportunity to cut through clutter and help that consumer to make that buying decision either before they visit the store or during their shopping in the store. It also helps make the staff better educated and better enabled to answer the questions consumers have when they're trying to make that buying decision.

We see that being a true ROI. Maybe it's not a return on investment, but then I would challenge--look at where the money is being spent today. It's being spent in advertising. Trillions of dollars every year spent on advertising, in social media. They haven't proven an ROI for both those models but they're spending billions and trillions of dollars hopefully connecting with a consumer, hopefully making it work, and the reality is the place to connect with consumers is at the moment of purchase. If we know the consumer's making irrational decisions and they're impulsive in those decisions, we know that it's emotionally-driven. That last split second in that buying decision is the most pivotal. It's not the TV commercial. It's not even the online platform. It's that moment of purchase, and that's where digital plays a very critical role.

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