Digital transformation can’t be skin deep

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Every week, without fail, another large brand will make a lofty announcement about its intention to embark on digital transformation.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC) – not an organisation I must admit I was previously aware existed – global digital transformation spending is set to reach $1.8 trillion this year.

Whether you believe that particular figure or not, it is certainly a very large number.

A cursory glance at the business headlines over the last few days reveals Volkswagen, Huawei and Kraft Heinz are all engaged in huge digital transformation projects.

But despite all the noise, and the length of time this has been going on, it is surprising how few legacy brands can be said to have truly brought their operations into the digital age.

If you have had the misfortune of engaging with British Airways customer services or with the BT website recently you will know exactly what I mean.

No matter how much they use the latest buzzwords, if their ancient inflexible databases and dreadfully designed websites cannot cope with the simplest requirements, then digital transformation has surely failed.

But there are examples of brands that have successfully transformed into digital first businesses.

The BBC catches a lot of flack – mainly from those whose commercial interests are threatened by its existence (like the owners of the Daily Mail) or those who are ideologically opposed to anything that exists for the common good – but it is unarguable that the organisation moved swiftly to embrace digital with both arms and have made a good job of it. The latest iterations of BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds are mostly a joy to use.

Next is unlikely to quicken too many pulses with its middle of the road fashion and homeware ranges, but the brand’s adoption of digital is one of the industry’s most impressive.

In addition to developing its Total Platform, which powers the logistics of many other brands, Next has steadily invested in making shopping easier for its customers, such as dependable next-day collections, clear communications, and seamless returns, that collectively make other retail experiences seem clunky by comparison.

On a much smaller scale many independent takeaways have undergone their own digital transformation by forgoing a presence on the high street and opening dedicated “dark kitchens” on industrial estates, with lower rents and rates, and more space to prepare and dispatch orders, the overwhelming majority of which arrive via apps like JustEat and Deliveroo.


If you are looking to engage in digital transformation in your business and would like support from any agency with experience contact us – we’d love to discuss your goals. 

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