Opinion

If your brand becomes irrelevant, don’t expect loyalty to save you anymore

With an enormous wave of digital transformation on the horizon, brand change is imperative. For marketers who see this as a time to consolidate and drive economies of scale, you’re delaying the inevitable, writes Alex Thoma

Amazon Prime has launched in Singapore. Awesome. For us as consumers at least. Maybe not so hot for a lot of businesses on our fair island.

And we’ve been in a fair few conversations recently where marketers still think that e-commerce in Singapore is a passing phase and grocery delivery is the only thing that will stick longer-term. This is wishful thinking at best. Businesses with the ability to adapt and change into new opportunities – potentially new sectors – will thrive. Those of us that stand still will not. 

Because the likes of Amazon have the ability to change at pace despite their size. They do this by rapidly experimenting, testing and validating new opportunities. This is what it means to ‘transform’ – a word that has become loaded with confusion as a direct result of consultancies trying desperately to become agencies that can deliver digital solutions – and agencies trying desperately to become consultancies capable of big thinking.

Unchallenged the likes of Amazon will become fully self-aware and wreak havoc over Singapore, shortly followed by entire region. And while this apocalyptic vision of the future may be a touch over-dramatic,  it does illustrate the point that digital transformation is a red herring. When I talk about transformation, it is simply the ability to adapt and change your business quickly and effectively.

The likes of Amazon and Google have been pilloried in the press for treating workers poorly, bad data practices, tax avoidance and ad safety concerns. Yet despite this they are greatly loved. There is no mass revolt, the people want their cat videos and rapidly delivered parcels, who provides that service is by the by.

More than 70 per cent of millennials say they would be more excited about a new financial service from Amazon, Google, Square, or Paypal than from their bank, according to McKinsey.

Amazon is already planning to disrupt what they’ve already disrupted. And ‘innovation’ opportunities are everywhere. Blockchain in retail, hyper personalisation, AR and VR – the list goes on. 

But with all these buzzwords in the ether, where do brands even start? What is going to be effective now if a business invests in change or new products and services in reaction to this changing landscape?

Well there are five fundamentals here that need to be in place before embarking on a ‘transformation journey’.

Think customer-centric

Greater customer satisfaction delivers higher returns to shareholders. Everything needs to be geared towards delivering great experiences.

Data but not for datas sake

Be clear about what needs to be measured and what can be done with the insights. For example, airlines unifying data specifically to hyper-personalise experience to bridge the gap between experience and operations.

Great experiences

Amazon Echo Look connects your hand phone to a standalone hands-free selfie machine that captures what you’re wearing and using a combination machine learning with advice from experts in the style space will recommend different outfits and items to users.

And around 70 per cent of consumers are willing to opt into in-store tracking and mobile push notifications if properly incentivised by retailers. So the opportunities to connect spaces can enhance a retail experience by bringing digital to a physical space.

Think big. Start small. Scale fast

 A blue blood consulting firm will sell you macro-economics, full-time teams over months to deliver eight volumes of models and expensive to implement recommendations.

Love the HiPPO

The highest paid people in your business, (although this might well be you), have wisdom and vision. Use it. You will need senior buy-in to navigate choppy political waters, to make fundamental changes if required, to quell dissent and most importantly guide. Not managing the HiPPOs can kill change.

Change is imperative. If you become irrelevant, loyalty will not save you. If you focus on CSR, good luck and bon voyage. If you consolidate and try and drive economies of scale, you’re delaying the inevitable. Embrace change by thinking big, starting small and scaling fast.

Alex Thoma is the digital transformation officer at APD Singapore 

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