Digital transformation imperative: ecommerce impact and opportunities

[WP Import] Digital transformation imperative: ecommerce impact and opportunities

Your product feed management solutions matter more than you think.

Ecommerce wants to get on board with digital transformation imperatives. Here’s how marketers, IT, and C-level can get on the same page about feed-based marketing.
The true focus of the digital transformation imperative for businesses is to look beyond the “cool” and “trendy” tools and get to the core of what it means to be future-ready. MIT research scientist George Westerman described this dilemma with somewhat embarrassing precision:

Digital transformation, when done properly, is akin to “a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.” When done wrong, “all you have is a really fast caterpillar.”

Despite great efforts, many modern ecommerce businesses will remain caterpillars forever. There’s no clear path to success, and few departments are willing to take the lead. The reality is, retailers can’t accurately see the future. In order to move forward, IT, C-level, and marketing must work together to find sustainable solutions.

The key blocker: lack of alignment

Digital efforts often use the “trendy” tools--the tools that make marketers into “really fast caterpillars” instead of butterflies. This is largely because organizations have either no overall alignment and transformation plan or they have the wrong people calling the shots. In order to move forward, ecommerce businesses must take two important steps:

  • Dispel the myth that “digital transformation” is only for IT
  • Get C-level to completely and wholeheartedly support promising methods

Marketing: get on board!
Let’s start with the easier of the two: dispelling the myth.
Some facts seem obvious. The sky tends to look blue; customers these days have high expectations; anything with the word “digital” in the title is IT’s problem.
It’s true, IT will play a huge part in a company’s digital transformation, but they aren’t completely in charge. More importantly, marketers should be less willing to hand over this kind of power. The center of ecommerce is the customer journey, and digital transformation will impact that.

“77% [of respondents] say their IT and marketing teams could be better aligned to deliver on their digital transformation efforts.”-Progress, *A Report on the State of Digital Business*

It’s time marketers got excited about the data behind their modern ads. Delivering a great omnichannel experience requires great product data. That’s why product data isn’t just for IT. In many ways, IT must answer to marketing.
Problems at C-level

Sometimes, those who should be leading the charge don’t step up to the plate. This seems to be exactly the case for many businesses trying to push new digital efforts.
Almost 50% of the Progress Report on the State of Digital Business respondents suggested C-level should be the key stakeholders in digital initiatives. Yet, those same respondents also said that C-level leaders were the most hesitant to take on such roles.
When those at the top can’t push their own digital transformation imperative, confusion and disorganization trickles down throughout the organization. Executives must start taking an interest in growing each department’s digital expectations and toolkit. This includes carefully weighing and supporting new initiatives.
Think long-term performance

A solution’s importance shouldn’t be defined by its newness or whether or not it’s used by a competitor. Every solution should be weighed in possible returns. Aim for the right tools for the right problem rather than the coolest, cheapest, or most obvious options.
It’s not enough to have just anybody in charge of the decision making. To drive great, sustainable results, locate the right people with the right knowledge.
Deloitte found that 40% of managers and executives believe their company needs to improve digital strategy and innovation. Only 13% named technology development and deployment as the main concern.

The modern playing field

Even for an experienced ecommerce executive, it isn’t always obvious what constitutes the “right” or “best” decision in digital transformation. However, there is one fact all ecommerce businesses (especially their marketing teams) know for certain: Omnichannel isn’t a buzzword.
Customers are experiencing the omnichannel at this moment. They know what it’s like to have a great, coherent experience across all devices. They don’t want to lift a finger, and they don’t want ads that aren’t perfectly personalized. It doesn’t matter if you’re Amazon or Local Jane’s Coffee Shop, customers hold the same, high expectations.
The question at the center of the modern ecommerce digital transformation imperative should be, how can technology enhance the customer journey?
Modern marketers juggle numerous needs when considering their next steps. They’re left wondering how they can:

  • Generate and deliver personalized ads
  • Prove ROI in a decentralized selling process
  • Achieve high performance at scale
  • Keep costs down while using more unique tools

There are several different marketing initiatives to address these problems: A/B testing tools, data tracking and analytics, automation of simple tasks. However, among the most important tools in this kit is the product data feed.

Feed-based marketing

You want to reach users on Instagram, on Google search, or any one of the highly unique and diverse channels on the web? That will require a data feed. Feed-based advertising is what enables channels like Google and Facebook to serve ads to their users. This method is already commonplace among most ecommerce businesses. However, as these users and channels develop, so do the feed management solutions.
Product feed-based ads use feeds of simple product data to generate and deliver ads.
Resulting ads vary by channel. For example, a Google ad should be largely professional while an Instagram ad may be colorful and emotional. However, no matter which of these channels you choose to export to, the data is largely the same. That means, just by managing and optimizing a data feed, marketers are pushing ads to numerous sites.
These ads can be dynamically created based on user data, product margin numbers, or almost anything else. This makes them one of the single most ideal methods for reaching customers on a regular basis without eating up marketing’s time and budget.

Locating the right tools for feed management

What's your goal with feed-based advertising? Most online retailers, regardless of industry, country, or type, are looking to expand feed-based ads on all levels. Marketers want to successfully list on the most valuable sites. IT wants a tool that’s secure and easy to integrate. Executives want clear results.
Whether you’ll need a specialized tool to manage your feeds or your team can manage it all in-house will depend on several factors. To just get started, you’ll need only a simple file of product data. However, in order to perform any kind of optimizations (really, any at all), you’ll need an external tool. Many businesses will opt for an agency to manage this process for them, especially to get started.
Key questions to consider before moving forward:

  • How much time and resources can be spent managing data feeds?
  • Who will best manage your feeds?
  • How will you create and manage compelling creative and images?
  • How can you optimize and drive greater ROI through these ads?

When comparing different feed management solutions, you should clarify exactly what you need. For some businesses, a basic tool that simply moves feeds to different channels will be plenty. However, these might not meet your needs in the long term. If you want to get products to market faster and optimize ads efficiently, you’ll need a tool that offers speed and smart editing tools.
On top of this, it’s important that marketing be comfortable using the software. IT can support, but only marketers have the magic touch that turns numbers and data into click-worthy ads.
We put together an easy list to get you through the feed management software evaluation process. You can find it here.

Your first step: internal alignment + homework

Any ecommerce business that wants to take full (or even moderate) advantage of modern technology and prepare for the future will need a data feed management tool. In order to move forward with such digital transformation imperatives, you’ll need to align different departments on the exact needs and expectations. Most importantly, marketing and C-level will have to have a chat. Whether it’s the details of your next feed management tool or the overall goal of your marketing initiatives, you should find a clear answer to each of thee questions.

Questions to answer

__Top level__ __Marketing__
How will these functionalities drive results? What functionalities can we not live without?
Will these results affect the bottom-line? What would the ideal results be?
Can we afford to re-allocate the funding and resources? How much time, resources, and funding is reasonable for the ideal tool?
Will this support long-term digital initiatives?
Can we save time and resources in the long-run?

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