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Digital Transformation is More than just Going Paperless

I have a nine year old. He has several gadgets and gizmos (I know, surprise right?) as well as access to others. Most have touch screens. All are, as you might guess, riddled with fingerprints and sometimes smeared with a greasy residue with origins I am afraid to discover. No, I don’t want to hear theories on its origin, thank you. The ones that come to mind are scary enough, trust me. 

So it’s no surprise I keep on hand some “stuff” to clean the screens. And I’m almost out.

I told myself, “Self, next time you're at 'big box store' make sure to pick some more of that up.”

Seemed like the thing to do at the time. Turns out it wasn’t. I searched high and low and found absolutely no sign of the bright orange bottle of stuff I wanted. I searched aisles and endcaps and finally gave up in disgust.

Because an extended scavenger hunt through 179,000 square feet (a little over 4 acres) of stuff isn’t how I want to spend my limited free time. At least not physically searching for it. Online? That’s easy.

Now, this story isn’t about how brick and mortar is going to be completely obliterated by their digital counterparts because search is easier. It won’t. The moral of this story is that the two co-exist and therefore have an impact on each other. Big digital store can promise me overnight, but big box store can promise me right now. That’s means sometimes they win. But big digital store makes it easy for me to find what I need and that means sometimes they win. The problem is that if big box store falls too far behind big digital store that it’s going to lose out more and more often. Big box store needs to find new ways to compete so it doesn’t become little box store and that’s where digital transformation comes into play.

More than Just Paperless

Digital transformation means more than just slapping up a web site or API-enabling services. Organizations must think outside the box (pun intended) in order to provide the same level of convenience available with their digital counterparts. That means, for retailers, searches and lists and value-adds (savings! coupons! specials!).

That may mean employing RFID or QR codes to help me find what I’m looking for. Keying products to aisles in the store (something Walmart promises with its app, for example) gives me an easy way to access that information is increasingly critical when competing against today’s digital search-enabled options.

menards-screen-shotDigital transformation is not just about eliminating paper. It’s about enabling more satisfying experiences that lead to higher conversion rates. For big box store, that means more in my shopping cart.

Digital transformation is a route to growth. Too often we read only about digital transformation and APIs opening up new revenue streams. And while that’s absolutely one way digital transformation leads to growth, sometimes it just means enhancing an existing process and addressing those pain points that prevent customers from purchasing, signing up, or otherwise engaging with your business. Another great example of this in action is Menards (it’s like a Lowe’s but it’s totes Midwest). They have an app, and it’s pretty awesome looking.

Augmented reality? Barcode scanning. In-store map. This is sweet stuff. Just what you need to navigate and find out how many 2x4s you need to build that new deck – and where to find the lag bolts you need – with a modicum of effort.

Organizations that operate on the mindset that the longer you spend in big box store, the more purchases you’ll make may want to dig a bit deeper into the impact of digital on people and their habits. We not only want it, but we want it now, and the notion that we’ll buy more while we wander the aisles in search of X is no longer as appealing as valid as it once was.

Digital transformation is not just “going paperless” and it’s also more than making services like photo-printing and pharmacy refills easy. It’s also about augmenting existing physical experiences to improve customer satisfaction and bring us back the next time we need to find that stuff that cleans our gadget screens.
 

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