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Digital Transformation of Business and Communications - Part 1

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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 this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about how digital technologies are transforming businesses in every sector and what shifts he expects to see amongst these key stakeholders.

Doug: How has the technological and digital transformation over the last 25 years impacted your business?

Jean-Pierre: It has a huge impact. Everything we do now, even if it's consumer packaging or retail environment or corporate identity and branding programs, digital is a core element of that experience. It's obvious. Consumers today use their mobile phones to connect with most brands. Most retail environments are being challenged to engage with customers, competing with online, and so digital plays a really important role in being that link between online consumer behaviour and the physical environment. So every project has a digital experience component. It's at the core of what we do.

Doug: One of the things I find in our business is that as we move through these technological changes the core values of our company stay the same. Do you see similar kind of things?

Jean-Pierre: We've seen a major shift. It's a mindset. Clients put value on where they spend their money and where they allocate their capital. For many years, the capital allocation was on hardware: screens and media players. Very little attention was given to the content or the software driving that content. I would say it's only in the last five years that we've noticed a shift in focus by our clients for many reasons. One of which is that they've already deployed a digital platform and they're looking at how to get a better ROI on this investment. It's not about saving money on hardware. It's about engaging with customers and driving more sales that's going to deliver that ROI. So our clients are shifting their attention towards effective content management. And it's about time because to us, content management is really the core of the value that digital provides for the retail environment and for corporations. Content is the element that's actually going to change behaviour. It's not the size of the screen or how many lumens go through that screen. It's really what message are you communicating with that content, and we're seeing that re-focus towards content management.

Doug: How well do you find your customers are implementing digital?

Jean-Pierre: I was just reading a quote this morning by Cisco ex-president Mr. John Chambers, and he was saying that 70% of companies have embarked on a digital transformation. However, only 30% will actually achieve effectiveness in that transformation. I think that's really representative of our work with our clients. Every single assignment that we do, specifically in retail brand transformations, has an important digital component. That client clearly identifies the need to develop that digital component and is willing to make an investment until they need to sign the cheque and deploy the digital platform. We have worked with banks that did a Request for Proposal 10 years ago and they're still trying to justify the investment for the hardware. The great news is the cost of hardware is coming down dramatically. As well, its intrusiveness in the retail environment is disappearing.

With the cost of digital technology dropping we're seeing more and more eagerness to invest, but it's still a challenge. It is still a heart attack, "Wow, I didn't realize it was going to cost this much and I didn't realize the national deployment was going be in the millions." I think to a certain degree that those who haven't stuck their toe in the water, that ticket shock is enormous, but for those clients that have actually embarked on digital technology and the immersion of mobile and digital and online, they see a huge benefit to their business. They know that consumers shop online, and if they can make that connection from an online experience to mobile experience in the stores, they're going to retain that customer in their shopping, and, so, it's just a matter of time. The number one question that clients ask us every time is, "Can you demonstrate an ROI on the investment we're going to make?"

The good news is with much more deployments in the marketplace and the establishment of benchmarks, we're getting closer to being able to justify numerically the ROI of an investment in digital.