Editor’s Intro: The digital transformation of business continues to pick up steam and is hardly seen anymore as an option anymore. One of my favorite books on the topic is by David Rogers of the Columbia Business School, called The Digital Transformation Playbook. Ajith Sankar gives us a thoughtful and useful point of view on the role that market research can and should be playing in various steps along the road to digital transformation.
The Digital Transformation Imperative and Challenges
If there is one major business megatrend that overshadows every other trend today it has to be digital transformation. Every organization – big or small – has this on their radar. Digital transformation is the very basis of the new phase of evolution of global commerce – or as some call it, Industry 4.0.
Organizations have realized that it is no longer a question of whether they want to digitally transform or not. The only questions are around the pace of transformation, the strategies to adopt to drive digital transformation, and how to address the challenges that are inevitable as organizations are on this journey. It is abundantly clear that digital transformation, as it moves out of strategic discussions and presentation documents, poses significant challenges to an organization. These challenges have multiple dimensions and are present across the organization’s functions. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach, and organizations today are increasingly moving towards having dedicated teams to drive the digital transformation agenda.
How can market research help?
While market research itself is witnessing the effects of digital transformation, the practice can play a key role as an enabler of digital transformation. Here are some of the areas that are still arguably unexplored by organizations in terms of making the market research department a key stakeholder in the digital transformation journey.
Market Research as a Key Enabler of Digital Transformation
1. Drive digital transformation programs
There are specific digital transformation programs where market research can play a key role. The most foremost among these would be the programs around digital customer experience. Numerous studies have indicated that gaining a visibility into the digital customer experience (DCX) is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to the overall digital transformation agenda for any organization.
Customer experience has always been a key discipline within market research, and market researchers are clearly the most equipped in any organization when it comes to assessing and tracking customer experience. They have the tools and experience to do that.
Having said that, digital transformation also implies that market researchers have to think beyond traditional quantitative primary research surveys to really track and measure the digital customer experience. It calls for embracing digital transformation within the market research practice of customer experience measurement by leveraging other data sources. These data sources include social media intelligence, digital transactional data, customer support interaction data in the form of web, voice and text, etc.
Case in point: For one of the leading global technology infrastructure companies, Course5 implemented a DCX program which looked at deeper analytics of customer services interaction data (call center transcripts – text and voice, online customer support interaction data) along with service feedback survey data to provide a true 360-degree view of the customer experience post-purchase. The program helps clients take actions with speed and precision, leading to steady improvements in service satisfaction and eventually product satisfaction.
2. Assess readiness for digital transformation programs
Lack of readiness of the key stakeholders is one of the major reasons for failure or slow uptake of digital transformation plans. Often the large organization does not fully understand the digital transformation agenda that is decided by the C-suite. With global business ecosystems becoming highly interconnected, it is also critical to have external stakeholders such as suppliers, distributors, technology partners and others also align with the digital transformation plans of an organization.
Organizations should leverage market research techniques to do a comprehensive assessment of the organizational readiness as well as external stakeholder readiness.
There are a multitude of options are available for organizations to assess their “digital readiness”. One key feature in almost all of these programs is a structured market research survey which usually covers areas such as organizational cultural readiness, technology readiness, and partner readiness. The results of this survey can then be analyzed and compared with set benchmarks.
3. Measure success of digital transformation programs
There are enough proof points to suggest that digital transformation is an evolving process. The rapid pace of technological changes driven by AI and automation means that digital transformation plans would need to reevaluated and recalibrated to keep pace with these changes. It is also critical for an organization to measure the success of the digital transformation programs so that they can make these strategic adjustments.
Today, not many companies are able to measure the actual success of their digital transformation programs. Traditional financial KPI’s provide some indication; however, by themselves they are not effective as a measure of the success of digital transformation programs. While a good part of these “digital KPI’s” come from web analytics platforms and digital interaction points, organizations also need to get feedback from multiple stakeholders on the impact of digital transformation on them. This is where market research studies come in.
The forces of digital transformation are already causing significant disruptions and driving new opportunities. Market research as a function can play a key role as an enabler of digital transformation. Organizations that leverage market research to drive key digital transformation programs such as DCX, and also leverage market research to assess and measure the readiness and success of digital transformation programs, will definitely have an edge over others. Being a key player in the digital transformation space also opens up new and unfolding opportunities for the practitioners of market research.