If you're still dragging your heels on digital transformation, let me tell you a story. 

Back in the mid-1980s, when I was working at a major city daily newspaper, someone brought up the emerging threat from this thing called the Internet.

Almost everyone in the room laughed.

Nearly a decade later, as recently as 1994 — while news reporters and broadcasters and nearly everyone else was still wondering "What is the Internet, anyway?" — the seeds of the demise of multiple industries had already taken root.

Companies, brands, even industries that failed to embrace the emergence of the Internet, from media companies to well-known retailers like Blockbuster and Borders Books, were doomed to extinction.

Over the course of a few short years, no one was laughing anymore.

See What I Mean?

I won't insult your intelligence by drawing parallels between companies that failed to join the Internet revolution with companies that are stalling on digital transformation.

You connect the dots. And then do something: The warnings are all around.

St. Louis, Mo.-based Perficient, a digital transformation consulting firm serving large enterprise customers throughout North America, argues that business success in a digital age requires new technologies, new strategies "and a psychology that embraces both."

Today’s competitive markets demand that companies evolve faster, become more efficient and focus on memorable customer experiences, the company maintains.

Yet only about one in four companies have a sound digital strategy. And nearly as many concede they're clueless — and lack confidence in their internal abilities to implement such a strategy, recent Forrester research found.

What's the Risk?

"Without a clear digital vision, without new skills and investment in IT, without an awareness of the crucial roles Big Data and the Internet of Things play in today’s marketplace, and without a plan to implement all of that, businesses with big dreams in 2016 could see their industry profiles fade or even vanish by 2017," Perficient states unequivocally.

Kevin Cochrane, CMO of Jahia Solutions and one of the keynote speakers at CMSWire's inaugural DX Summit in Chicago last November, said we're at the dawn of probably the most exciting digital wave we've ever seen.

"This is going to fundamentally transform industries. It's going to fundamentally disrupt markets and those that do this right are those brands that are going to win," he continued.

"Seamless digital customer experience is not only a possibility: It's an imperative.

"We've all invested, over the course of the past 20 years, in various versions of our website that were very pleasing, engaging and interactive — and, to some extent, they targeted to our different audiences.

"But it's always been a single point, siloed interaction that they've had with us on the dub-dub-dub channel or a single point siloed interaction that they've had with us when they call in to the call center or a single point siloed interaction with us when you go into a physical store or engage with someone in the field."

It's time to go beyond the status quo — to connect customer insights with digital technologies to transform the customer experience and deliver significant business value.

'Reshaping the Landscape'

Dimension Data, a London-based global solutions and services provider, noted that digital transformation is high on the corporate agenda this year because it’s reshaping the competitive landscape.

Ettienne Reinecke, Dimension Data’s Group Chief Technology Officer, said social, mobile, cloud, analytics, the Internet of Things and bimodal IT are all converging to enable the transformation of organizations to digital enterprises.

Reinecke said the digital transformation conversations that Dimension Data’s teams are having with organizations revolve around four themes: data at the core of the transformation, hybrid cloud as mechanism for agility, workspaces for tomorrow and cybersecurity.

Listen to the Data

As digital customer experience grows from a concept to a reality, so does the importance of data.

Just last month, the second annual Global Review of Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (registration required) revealed data is playing an increasingly central role as a pillar of marketing, advertising and customer experience practice around the globe, with 81.3 percent of marketers describing data as important to their efforts, an increase from 80.4 percent in 2014.

More than 59 percent called it "critical" to their efforts, up from 57 percent in 2014.

The study, conducted by GDMA (an alliance of 27 independent marketing associations around the world) and US research and consulting firm Winterberry Group, also found 74.1 percent of marketers remain confident in the value of data-driven marketing and advertising (DDMA) and its potential for future growth.

The Global Review’s findings were compiled through an online survey of 2,938 advertisers, marketers and other industry participants, in 17 countries, between July and September 2015.

GDMA claims it's the largest study of its kind undertaken by a global consortium of marketing associations.

Jodie Sangster, Chair of the GDMA and CEO of the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) in Australia, argues that there is a strong relationship between digital transformation and need for better measurement and attribution methodologies.

"Improved measurement capabilities along with an appetite for more skills and training around analytics are a global requirement and should be a key focus of our industry in order to continue to foster growth and innovation,” she noted.

Risks and Responsibilities

The volume and variety of consumer-generated data from all this digital transformation is mind-boggling. But while data holds potential to create unprecedented business value, it also poses risks and requires marketers to accept greater responsibilities about its use and protection.

"Consumer data protection and privacy is your number one competitive differentiator in customer experience. And customer experience is the only long-term competitive advantage that you, as a brand, will ever have," Cochrane said.

So Now What?

Change can be difficult. But it is not as difficult as helplessly watching your company or brand lose to a succession of competitors.

So let's approach this whole digital experience thing together. On the heels of our successful DX Summit last year, CMSWire is already planning the second annual event. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, keep reading CMSWire — your go-to source for all things related to digital experience. And watch what our experts at our first summit had to say: There are a dozen interesting videos on the playlist below.

Title image by Alexandre Perotto