Digitising the workplace can create a host of business opportunities, from increased customer engagement and improved productivity to a more efficient flow of data.
Here are four ways to begin to digitise your business, and stay relevant to your customers.
1. Digitise workflows
Digitising workflows eliminates multiple copies of the same document and reduces the need for paperwork.
It is particularly useful for mobile workforces. For example, Wilson Security replaced its paper reporting system with Panasonic Toughbook tablets and a custom Android app. Security officers complete an online form for the relevant site activity, which is then sent to the central server so security officers don’t need to return to the control room at the end of their shifts to write up reports.
Because the flow of information is faster, Wilson Security can respond to events faster, such as sending out a maintenance team immediately when graffiti is found, denying the authors much exposure.
But the real value of digitising data comes from connecting it with other data and sharing it, says Ryan Rosenberg, a vice-president at FileMaker.
“For example, think about the power of capturing customer information in a form, getting a signature, and updating the backend customer record database in a single step on an iPad, making the information instantly available across the business.”
2. Online presence
Major French department store Galeries Lafayette used e-commerce software from Hybris, with a multi-channel strategy including mobile devices and desktops. With 60 stores in France, and growing internationally, the retailer centralised product and customer information, accessible by all channels. The department store’s website traffic increased from 11 million unique visitors in 2011, when it began its omni-channel strategy, to 40 million last year.
To achieve a successful multi-channel online presence, make sure your webpage is completely redesigned for a mobile platform, says James Noble, managing director at digital consultants Carter Digital. There's nothing worse than a minuscule webpage with lots of scrolling and mistyping on tiny screens.
“People use their mobiles differently, so redesign the webpage according to what you want to highlight on the mobile platform.”
For online payments, Noble suggests having PayPal or eWAY built into websites, rather than using their third-party windows. “People don’t trust pop-ups, and they break the user experience. You also want to keep payment details on your website for better SEO [search engine optimisation] results. You don’t want to help generate traffic to a third party.”
He also suggests blogs as one way to drive awareness to a business as the author becomes known as a thought leader in their area of expertise.
3. Online engagement
Digitising an organisation demands a complete rethink of how a business engages with its customers, say the authors of the Forrester report Kickstart Your Digital Business Transformation.
Digital technologies are empowering customers, transforming how they buy products and engage with your business, so online engagement with customers is critical to gain insights into their changing behaviour.
Businesses can gain exposure and potentially pick up customers by joining conversations on Twitter and other social media.
Noble suggests finding popular Twitter hashtags in the area (using trendsmap) or hashtags related to current events.
“For example make comments related to Easter or the Ashes. You will pick up people that talk about cricket. If they like what you say, they might check out your website. But don’t self-promote, no one will listen if you talk about yourself.”
The key point is not to sell, but to connect, says Sean Callanan, founder of digital consultancy Sports Geek.
“(Sports) clubs have the ability to give fans a behind-the-scenes view with exclusive news and photos. Fans want that insider access.”
The primary goal should be to engage fans and emotionally lock them into the club to lift them from a casual fan to an avid member, he says.
Online communities also give customers an opportunity to raise issues where other people can respond, instead of raising issues with customer service, says Dan Bognar, vice-president sales engineering, salesforce.com
“Listen to what people are saying about your brand. Know who and how influential they are.”
Bognar suggests also building online community portals around employees and other parties that distribute your products.
Internal social networking tools such as Yammer are useful in the workplace, says Ben Gilchriest, digital transformation lead at consultancy Capgemini Australia.
“To find an expert in your organisation, posting a request on Yammer is much more efficient than sending an email around," he says.
Using off-the-shelf (iTunes, GooglePlay, Windows Store, BlackBerry World) business apps is an efficient and cheap way to tap into existing expertise and increase productivity.
Consider developing your own apps to increase customer engagement. Commonwealth Bank’s Kaching app was incredibly successful with its customers. It was downloaded more than a million times before it was replaced by a new app with no fancy name this year. Victoria Heritage and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have also developed interactive apps that engage and inform.
Your apps can also be a simple method to collect customer data, such as purchasing patterns, likes and dislikes. But this needs to be transparent to the customer, in line with Australia’s new privacy laws, experts say.
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