Doug Bannister's blog

Data Drives Decisions

The modern world runs on data. It is the most significant and valuable commodity on Earth, and is the reason Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The core business of these and other tech titans is amassing and consolidating data that can then be sold for use by other companies such as advertisers. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion isn’t merely a play for grocery dollars. It offers the online company a brick-and-mortar presence in which it can explore retail analytics, customer traffic management, and other data driven experiments to gain insights into in-store consumer behavior that can be transferred to online applications.[1] While data is at the heart of business and technology, many organizations are unable to leverage these silos of wealth and make them useful, due to challenges in consolidating and sharing the information. Unlocking the power of data is key to creating a competitive advantage and the reason for the rise of chief data officers within organizations. A Fortune 1000 company is estimated to generate more than $65 million in additional net income through a mere 10% increase in data accessibility. For retailers, big data has the power to increase the operating margins by as much as 60%. Currently, less than 0.5% of all data is ever analyzed and used, leaving a lot of money on the table. It’s no wonder that last year 73% of organizations either had invested in or had plans to invest big data.[2] Achieving real-time data access and figuring out how to derive value from it is a major consideration for organizations in any industry. Most businesses understand that data can enhance productivity and efficiency, while cutting costs to boost the bottom line. It can also be used to gain actionable insight into consumer behavior and improve the customer experience.[3] The lifespan of a Fortune 500 company is shrinking, and those unable to harness data to their advantage will find themselves losing the battle against data savvy competitors who have harnessed its power to their advantage. The future success of an organization rests in its ability to consolidate information and share it across the business in real-time for maximum impact. Connecting people with data isn’t a nice idea it is a business imperative. From customers to employees to visitors to partners, access to relevant real-time information will have a bigger impact than perhaps even the data itself!     [1] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/296075 [2]https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/09/30/big-data-20-mind-boggling-facts-everyone-must-read/#1148846c17b1 [3] http://www.information-age.com/value-data-driving-business-innovation-acceleration-123466598/  

Defending Against Disruption

Defending Against Disruption: Why Business Leaders Must Be Digitally Literate If you are a business leader, there is one term you should be obsessed with: exponential growth. Technology is screeching upward with rocket-like intensity, and unprepared organizations will be left behind. Technology is a little bit like King Midas; everything it touches is transformed. However, it isn’t always possible to predict the next wave of innovation. Decision-makers who are technology savvy and digitally aware have a better chance of rising with the trend, rather than being swamped by it. In fact, the most competent companies in the world should be the most worried about digital disruption. Often, these organizations have established systems and processes that they are reluctant to change with disruptive technologies, even when the business benefits could be significant. While these leaders believe they are doing what’s best for their companies, they are inadvertently the source of organization wide failure when faced with digital disruption. This means that leadership should not only be aware of the latest digital transformations, but also be prepared to embrace them before it may be obvious to do so. You understand the importance of being digitally literate, but now what? There are many ways in which leaders can educate themselves in order to become digitally literate. Start by surfing the media. The media – whether social media, the internet, or even the newspaper – is a consistent and up to date source. As a Founder and CTO myself, I am very familiar with the difficulties of making time among the many other tasks that require my attention throughout the day. That being said, I understand the importance of keeping myself updated and aim to read a minimum of two articles per day. Social media is a great tool to help find these articles. Follow some business or technology visionaries and scroll through your feed whenever you find yourself with a spare minute during the day. You will be surprised how much you learn without having to carve out time to do so. Second, do some research. When a new technology catches your eye investigate it further. Think of the standard questions - Who, What, Where, When, Why. Who could use this technology in my organization? What would they use this technology for? Where can this technology be used – across the organization or individual departments? When does it make sense to roll out a new technology – now or wait until it is more proven or tested? Why does this technology make sense for my organization? Lastly, be open to new technologies. While some new tech may seem farfetched, try and think; how can I use this in my organization and what would it look like? This does not mean you have to jump in head first with an enterprise wide installation, begin with a pilot. Approaching technology with an open mind can reap great benefits, and is sure to surprise you in the long run. Yes, it is true that not every new software or hardware device that comes along will be the game changer. But, as a business leader, it is important that you are unafraid to experiment with the latest and greatest to see if the upside really exists. Especially if that upside involves digital communications and attracting more customers.

The Next Generation of Emergency Notifications Has Arrived

Why do we continue to rely on the old siren-based system of sending emergency notifications? Advances in technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) provide numerous ways to enhance the traditional siren. When an emergency happens, people need to be informed as soon as possible, but also understand clearly what the emergency is. Sirens simply do not provide anything other than an alert that there is a possibility of danger. Real-time data can make all the difference between panic and rational action whenever an emergency occurs. Why Digital Communications are So Important A digital communications platform can ensure people get the information they need whenever there is an emergency. Sirens, in many instances, have become more of an annoyance than a true sign of a life-threatening situation. A frightening aspect of siren-based systems is that they can easily be hacked, raising the possibility of mass chaos. In April 2017, all 156 tornado warning sirens in Dallas, Texas, activated simultaneously during the middle of severe weather season. Thousands of residents panicked as the sirens continued to go off on a night when skies were clear. According to The Dallas Morning News, officials with the city’s Office of Emergency Management blamed the activations on a computer hack. Not only are sirens antiquated and vulnerable to attack, they provide no information about the nature of an emergency. Digital communications on devices like digital signage and mobile phones, on the other hand, deliver real-time data that adds context to an alert, allowing people to quickly take whatever actions are needed to stay safe. Calm Instead of Chaos There are several different scenarios where an advanced, data-driven emergency notification system can be a major benefit. When severe weather is approaching, facility operators can send informative messages directly to staff members as well as building occupants. These messages, delivered directly to mobile devices, can tell people exactly how to take cover so they can be secure. If an area needs to be quickly evacuated, such as a large office building or a retail store, real-time information will detail exactly where exits are located, and which exits are safe to use so people can leave in an orderly manner. If an office or campus lockdown occurs due to a threat of violence, a digital communications system will let them know when it is safe to leave the area. There are many factors that go into determining how someone will react to traditional alarms. According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, someone hearing a fire alarm at home will react a great deal faster than someone in a public building. If they are in a shopping mall, and don’t have additional information providing context to the alarm, they will very likely continue with their activities. Perhaps even more important is that according to Security Magazine, a crucial component of security notification systems is bidirectional abilities; it’s critical that messages aren’t just sent, but actually received as well. By using real-time digital communications, facility operators will greatly improve the chances that emergency messages will truly resonate with their intended recipients. It’s Time to Implement a Digital Communications System for Your Facility The safety of everyone inside your facility must be your top priority – it is not only a moral responsibility, it could also be a matter of liability. By going beyond the traditional alarm or siren system, you will be in a much more favorable position to minimize any potential harm and create a safer environment.

Digital Transformation - Keep Pace or Lose the Race

Keep Pace or Lose the Race: Is Your Digital Strategy Ready for Tomorrow’s Marketplace? Companies come and go every day—that’s just the reality of business. Not every company lasts for decades, and even fewer last over a century like Ford, which was founded in 1903. The kiss-of-death for a company is an inability to keep up with technology. It might sound surprising, but the life span of a Fortune 500 company today is significantly shorter than it was 25 years ago. Research in Motion, Nortel, and perhaps most spectacularly of all, Blockbuster, are all casualties of a failure to stay ahead of the technology curve. In fact, in its bid to remain viable, Ford itself recently replaced its CEO amid a tanking stock price. Investors view the automaker as lagging behind Google, Uber, and Tesla in developing technologically advanced, autonomous vehicles for the future.[1] Today’s business climate is dominated by companies that embrace technology and data to transform industries. Think AirBnb, Alibaba, Amazon, and Lyft. We live in a digital age, and leveraging digitization is the only way for a business to thrive in such a competitive landscape. Powerful digital communication tools can enable organizations to easily collect, process, and deliver targeted real-time information to optimize its operations. Digital communications allow for effective message dissemination and extends real-time, customized information to everyone within a company. It’s critical that CEOs and C-suite executives encourage the wide adoption of digitization within a company. It’s a transformation that must involve every team and department to maximize success. Many organizations are slow behemoths, unable to nimbly respond to the fast pace of technological change, often resulting in poor customer experiences. Equipping people and processes with the right technology improves customer satisfaction, inspires innovation, and delivers greater value to all parties. A successful digital platform is one that improves employee engagement, reduces costs, boosts productivity, improves safety, builds brand awareness, and elevates the customer experience. It will also allow employees and partners to better connect with customers to achieve business goals. When effectively deployed, digital tools will reduce costs by optimizing inventory levels and eliminating the distribution of printed material. Digital communications enables organizations to share information while adding value and improving the customer experience. No matter your business, the perfect digital tools will free up time, labor, and financial resources so that you can focus on your core mission.   [1] https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/22/15673900/ford-fires-mark-fields-promotes-jim-hackett-ceo

It's Time To Rethink Mobility In The Workplace

  The digital workforce was a revolution in itself, but the mobile workforce takes it to a new level. What does mobile really mean? Mobility is often associated with a physical device - the mobile phone. However, a mobile workforce is more than just employees running around with mobile phones. A mobile workforce has access to real-time information wherever they are on any device and the ability to communicate back in real-time. Many organizations have a workforce that works virtually or is dispersed across many locations. How do you ensure these employees are getting the right information at the right time on the right device to perform their job? Whether it is corporate news, new policy updates or real-time Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or even individual tasks, information is the most valuable when it is timely, relevant and engaging. -Advertisement- The most successful organizations will be the ones that recognize the value of putting information at the fingertips of the employees, customers, vendors and partners. The rewards will be numerous from time savings to increased sales to improved satisfaction to company agility. Enterprise mobility is a strategic concept, and not simply a matter of buying the latest devices. Rethinking enterprise mobility requires understanding the tools needed, the ways people consume information and how that ties in with overall corporate objectives. Here are some areas to consider when thinking about enterprise mobility: Mobile Devices Mobile devices, whether phones or tablets, make sense for a huge range of industries. Sales professionals can always be reachable, while technical personnel working in the field can receive important updates in a timely manner. Field technicians can log their work with ease and accuracy, and employees can take care of mundane office tasks without necessarily being in the office. Whether you provide phones or tablets for your team, or have a "bring your own device" (BYOD) strategy, enabling your team to accomplish important tasks on the go is a cornerstone of enterprise mobility. However, another point of consideration that is almost as important as the device itself is what type of information will your employees need to have access to on their mobile device? Will they need to provide real-time updates back on the status of tasks and projects or share key information from the field? Are there corporate resources like expense tracking or vacation requests they need to access when out of the office? A digital communications platform enables organizations to share information in real-time with people regardless of where they are and on any screen is a critical piece of software to have. Videoconferencing One of the drawbacks to a dispersed and mobile workforce is that it can be harder to corral everyone for important meetings. Fortunately, videoconferencing technology has advanced to the point that even smaller businesses can afford it - and they're often the businesses that benefit most. Videoconferencing saves on travel expenses, makes scheduling meetings easier, and is now mobile-friendly, so your busy and scattered workforce can "get together" virtually more easily and cost-effectively than ever before. Videoconferencing makes working virtual still feel like you are part of a team! Digital Signage You might not think of digital signage as being integral to enterprise mobility, but it is. When you have a mobile workforce getting information to the right people at the right time is extremely important. Perhaps it is displaying important corporate messages when they are arriving and leaving the office on a videowall in the lobby or departmental KPIs on a screen in their area or safety notifications on screens throughout the office, regardless digital signage is a great way to make sure the information is seen by people on the move.

Death to the Refresh Button!

Why do we tolerate this ancient relic? We live in an era of instant gratification.  Apps summon everything from rides, to food, to dates at the click of a button.  Our inboxes push notifications at us in real time and there is a constant stream of data in the palms of our hands.  Consequently, we’re accustomed to having exactly what we need exactly when we need it. But do we really get what we need when we need it?  Is what we get current?  Is the information accurate right now?  We all suspect it’s not.  So when monitoring data that could change at any time, we press the refresh button to get an update.  And a few seconds later we press the refresh button again.  Has that plane landed yet?  <Refresh>  Did my team tie the game?  <Refresh>  Are those results in yet?  <Refresh>  Has that traffic accident been cleared?  <Refresh> It shouldn’t really surprise us that technology exists to eliminate this.  After all, there are self-driving cars and trucks on the roads.  Then what’s the deal with the websites out there?  Why is it that the refresh button still persists and occupies a prominent place on our web browsers and in our lives?  The answer lies, unsurprisingly, in the history of the development of the Internet and the way systems, until recently, had to be designed in order to function.  The good news is that technology moves forward and we now have different ways to design systems to eliminate the need for the refresh button.  Get ready to raise your expectations. Stateless Systems are Old School Early servers on the Internet had to work in what is called a request/response manner.  If a client needed some information, it would reach out to the server and request it.  The server would then respond with whatever information the client asked for.  If, later on, the client wanted some more information it would come back again with another request and the server would issue another response.  The refresh button arose rather naturally from this process to re-request the information to get an updated version.  Similar in concept to the redial button on your phone. It was necessary for a server working in this manner to forget what it sent you the last time you made a request.  After each response the connection was dropped.  This vastly simplified the programming and reduced the hardware requirements for operating a server.  We call this design “stateless” because the state of the connection is discarded after each response.  Think of phoning an airline, asking if a flight has arrived, getting the answer, and hanging up.  Five minutes later you call again, request the same information, get a response (likely the same one), and hang up.  Repeat.  Redial.  Refresh.  When you finally hear the flight has arrived, it’s stale news and already out of date. This is how the vast majority of websites on the Internet work today. Stateful Systems are Here With the advances in web-based programming and the increased performance of computer hardware and storage, it has now become possible to design web servers to be “stateful” and maintain connections.   An airline agent operating in a stateful manner would stay on the line until the moment the plane touched down and then say “the flight you asked about just arrived”.  Instant data updates, nothing is stale, vastly reduced bandwidth, no need for a refresh. Stateful systems can push real-time information to users rather than waiting for them to pull updates.  Since these systems remember who you are and what you need, they only feed you information that is relevant to you at the moment it changes. To be fair, creating a stateful system is more difficult than creating a stateless one.  This means more expense up front.  As time goes on however, new software tools and libraries are coming on the scene and removing the excuse. Does this Really Matter? At Omnivex, we’ve dedicated the last 25 years to presenting information to users in the most effective manner possible.  We know that showing out of date information is often worse than showing nothing at all.  If a bank is displaying the wrong exchange rates they can lose millions.  If users rely on a website that isn’t accurate, they’ll leave.  If a town learns about an inbound tornado or tsunami five minutes late, that’s unacceptable. Truthful, real-time data is becoming increasingly vital as we advance in technology and expectations.  If there is a better way to deliver updates, our position is that the benefits of this far outweigh the effort to add it to the software. A leading cloud services provider of a cutting-edge platform has actually placed a refresh button onto the toolbar of their brand new web based monitoring dashboard.  As if the one built into the browser wasn’t enough. The constant need to refresh undermines the great technological strides we’ve made as a society.  Why are new, innovative systems still tied to outdated communication designs?  The result is an unnecessary and potentially harmful lull in information delivery. It’s time to eliminate this anachronism from our lives.

How Going Digital Will Transform Employee Engagement

  The success of an organization is dependent on its employees. Engaged employees are enthusiastic and committed to their jobs. They understand goals and objectives of the organization and are committed to its overall success. Engaged employees are less likely to leave the organization to pursue other opportunities. The Bureau of National Affairs cites “US businesses lose $11 billion annually as a result of employee turnover.” There is no debating the economic benefit of employee engagement. Results include higher productivity, better employee retention, a positive, more creative environment, and generally a better place to work for everyone. So how do you improve employee engagement in your organization? Here is your 5-step guide: 1. First, Take Care of the Basics Employee engagement isn't always easy to define, but you (and your team members) know it when you see it. Studies by the Dale Carnegie Institute have found that there are three key influences on employee engagement in the workplace: Employee relationships with the immediate supervisor Confidence in senior leadership Pride in working for the organization Are these three influences positively affecting employees in your organization? 2. Put Digital Communications to Use in the Workplace Employee bulletin boards, memos, and announcements over the public-address system have been used for ages to communicate to and among employees but there was no guarantee the information was reaching the right employees at the right time. Digital communications on devices like digital signs, videowalls, tablets and mobile phones, incorporate the best of these traditional communication channels with the best of technology. Most people associate digital communications with customer-facing communications, but employee-facing digital communications can be remarkably effective too. Not only can you notify people of emergencies quickly, you can communicate personalized real-time information in a manner that's efficient and often entertaining as well. 3. Make Content Appropriate to the Audience One of the best things about digital communications is that you can do as successful television networks do and tailor content to the audience and their needs. Consider a digital screen in a warehouse - a message welcomes the morning shift to work and reminds them to finish their safety training by the deadline could precede a message from HR about the changes to the benefits plan. At their station personalized information about the orders for the day and key statistics from the previous shift can be pushed to their mobile phone or screen in the area. Digital signage in the locker room could thank the departing shift for their work, showcase key stats from their shift, and provide real-time updates on weather and traffic for their drive home. 4. Use Digital Communications for Employee Recognition A terrific use for digital communications and devices like digital signage is employee recognition. Content could include coverage of formal awards people have earned, or even information from the company social network. Giving employees a way to submit positive information about their peers helps maintain a positive work environment, and when employee achievements are tied in with brand philosophy, both are amplified. 5. Consider Creating a Corporate Social Responsibility Channel Some organizations improve team cohesiveness even more by using digital communications to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). Most consumers today expect businesses to focus on the world we live in as well as their own interests, and this, of course, carries over to employee attitudes. For example, using digital signage to communicate CSR initiatives and highlight relevant accomplishments on both the employee and corporate level can help employees take pride in their organization. Digital communications is far more than a way for businesses to communicate with customers. It's also terrific for communicating with employees and gives companies lots of opportunity for doing so in an entertaining and effective manner. Not only can devices like digital signs and mobile phones be used to inform employees quickly in the event of an emergency, they can be used for countless everyday applications as well, including deadline reminders, employee recognition, and information about how the company is striving to make the world better. Using digital communications toward better employee engagement helps create a more cohesive workforce, with better morale, and hence a greater willingness among employees to give their best effort. It's fast, flexible, more environmentally friendly than printed materials, and offers endless possibilities for programming content.

The New Face of Retail in 2017

What a difference a year makes. Just last fall I wrote about how retailers needed to rethink how they attract and retain customers. The article highlighted the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT), and how new devices equipped with sensors that can communicate with each other has enabled retailers to create new, personalized shopping experiences for consumers. While still relevant, this approach was thrown a major curve ball earlier this week in the form of an announcement from Amazon about its Amazon Go store. As noted in this recent article “With the debut of Amazon.com's Amazon Go, consumers don't have to think about their phones or downloading multiple apps or even picking up a specific brand. By contrast, Amazon's system, which only requires one app download, a smartphone, and an Amazon account, democratizes the playing field and allows consumers to move seamlessly through a store. Er, well, Amazon.com's store.” The Amazon Go concept reminds me of a discussion I had earlier this fall with Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency. He spoke to me about how digital has forced organizations to rethink their business models. In one example, he highlighted how Loblaws, a market leader in the supermarket category in Canada has invested in a loyalty program that rewards behaviour. The company is exploring offering consumers the choice to order groceries on their phone and pick them up at a drive through. Ultimately, the goal is to eliminate anxiety and friction points, such as long line ups, for shoppers. Amazon Go takes the elimination of friction points to a whole new level. It will also cause a number of bricks and mortar retailers to speed up the pace at which they; rethinking their own business models. 2017 will be an interesting year for the retail industry. The IoT technologies I highlighted last year will continue to play a leading role and are critical components of how Amazon Go and other retailers will be successful. I believe that we will also see more players like Amazon.com shaking up the bricks and mortar retailers. How will this all play out over 2017? It’s hard to say for sure but I know it’s going to be an exciting year for retailers and consumers!

Digital Transformation of Business and Communications - Part 4

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part four of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about the future and where digital transformation will lead us. Doug: Things are changing so fast. Do you think if organizations can tie a business process into that exponential growth to increase revenue or decrease cost they will be in a position to reap those benefits for years to come? Jean-Pierre: It's an opportunity to leverage consumer behaviour to your advantage. We're so connected to our phone. The first thing people do when they get up in the morning is check their phone. The last thing they do when they go to bed is check their phone. They check their phone every three to four minutes. When they go to the bank, when they're in the branch, they're checking their phone. They're not connecting with the digital signs because they're looking at their phone. So, there's a real opportunity to disrupt that behaviour and engage that consumer through digital signage - through large-scale digital signage and geo-fencing, things that connect to their phone. Those are the real opportunities that we see in the near future. Geo-fencing makes sense, so if you walk into a bank you would receive a message through their app. You get it now with Starbucks. You're close to this restaurant, that restaurant. But there's been this huge reluctance by retailers and manufacturers to leverage geo-fencing, and I just scratch my head. There is huge impact. In the petroleum business, there's a company that did a test and they increased sales at their store by 30 percent through geo-fencing and just reminding the customer of an offer or "Hey, come in and have a coffee." We're so busy in our lifestyle, we have so much on our mind every day. We have not just complexity of choice, I call it complexity of tasks. You get up in the morning, you have 20 things to do, and heaven forbid if your kids go to soccer or hockey, and you got another 30 things to do. We don't have time to think about anything else. Being able to offer it as a valued service, as a reminder about something you may have forgotten or something you may need - to me, that just makes sense. Doug: Where do you see things 25 years from now when you and I sit down to have this chat again? Jean-Pierre: There are couple of factors that are going to have a huge impact on our behaviour as consumers: how we buy, how we think of things. One is artificial intelligence. We have so much data and we don't know what to do with it. Artificial intelligence eliminates the human factor and through algorithms and learning processes, takes that information and customizes it to every individual. Today the consumer wants personalized service. They don't want mail that's been sent to everyone; they want an email that talks specifically to their needs. Reminders, services and offers based on their buying patterns and their behaviours. Artificial intelligence is going to provide that in spades. It's going to free up time. Look at the auto industry as an example. They are predicting that by 2025, half of the cars sold in the world will be self-driving cars, driven by artificial intelligence. So, you're going to see that movement impacting everything we do, the way we buy, the way we shop, the way we enjoy life. To me that is a pivotal technology. The second technology is what I'll call invisible technology. I believe that innovation happens when you eliminate steps and friction points in the way consumers live their lives. Think of Apple Pay, you don't need to carry your wallet anymore if you have your phone. Google Maps allows you to travel and never get lost. Eliminating these friction points or these steps is where innovation has succeeded at bringing value to consumers. One of those steps is how we absorb visual information. Now the technology is hanging a digital sign on the wall and building a network, but I believe all of that's going to go away. I don't know if you're aware of this but in Sweden, I believe, they will paint a wall and the wall will become an LCD screen. So the physical restrictions of digital signage will go away and it'll be whatever you want it to be. That will open up all kinds of great avenues for experiential and immersive experiences. We think of virtual reality and augmented reality as being kind of trailblazing. I view those as interim steps because you have to wear this clunky thing on your head. To me, immersive experiences are going to be real, they're going to be 3D - 3D and 4D projection screens where you're going to be in that space. We're just at the cusp of that technology. Doug: The best way to get information to a person is through their eyes and we have the ability to help our customers combine data with a visual experience. What do you think the future looks like for our companies? Jean-Pierre: It's a very exciting era for designers. When you start creating virtual experiences, you're no longer restricted by the power of gravity, the laws of gravity, and you don't need to be an architect to build a building now because you can build it virtually. You just need to have the right aesthetics and understanding of consumer behaviour, but you don't need to be an architect. So, you'll see a designer designing a building, see architects creating identity programs. You're going to see the tiers of design professions collapse. That will have a huge impact, and already has had a huge impact on our industry. If you go back 20 years we had typesetters. Overnight, that disappeared. Companies making packaging, that's gone away. Even printing now is going. Now it is customized printing, digital printing, the big print runs have changed to customized print runs. You're seeing a big shift from efficiencies of mass to efficiencies of personalization. I think that's going to play a really important role in how we deliver communication marketing materials. It'll all have to be personalized. It'll all be about, back to my original comment, what's the right content. What's the story we're telling to our customers, and how relevant is that story at that moment of purchase? How do we intertwine that story with the way they live their lives? How different is that story from their neighbour's story or their daughter's story or their spouse's story? That is where the real battleground will be won. It's about content and content management.

Digital Transformation Of Business And Communications - Part 3

  As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part 3 of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about what industries are at the forefront of digital transformation. Doug: Do you see particular industries or areas where digital transformation has more of an impact, more of a benefit? Jean-Pierre: That's a great question. I would say there is a balancing act happening between being disrupted and leveraging digital technology. Industries that are the most prone to being disrupted, who are vulnerable to new technologies or new business models are also the firms that need to, but not necessarily have, embrace digital more effectively. I'll use banking as a great example. Talk to any banker today, it's not about omnichannel -- that's 10 years old. They were one of the first to develop banking platforms to create a digital online experience for their customers because they knew customers liked doing banking online. Now Fintech start-ups have developed technologies that allow you to transfer money and bypass filling out forms, eliminating friction for the customer in the banking industry. I think the banking industry is awake. They're not going to let themselves be disrupted by Fintech, instead they are embracing Fintech technology and it has a huge play in what happens in the branches. Less and less consumers are going into the branches. Those branches need to change their meaning and their value to their customers. It's not about transactions; it's about knowledge and empowerment. You are seeing the banks, the smart ones, slowly shifting their attention from transaction to knowledge and to empowerment. Where the teller now is enabled and empowered to talk about retirement plans, investment plans, and the financial security of the customer. This is a great example of an industry that has embraced digital, not because it's a nice thing to have but because it's a necessity for avoiding being disrupted. I would say general merchandise retailers, such as Canadian Tire and Walmart, that are selling commoditized items is another industry that needs to wake up when it comes to digital technology since they are all about the transaction. They are about selling to the consumer. It's about basket size and increasing the amount of products customers buy when they visit their stores. Digital can play a really important role at reminding them about things. "Miss Consumer, you know you bought toilet paper the last time you were here. That was a month ago. You may want to replenish." "I didn't think of it." Most consumers who go to a supermarket don't have a shopping list, so there's a great opportunity to drive in pull sales for stores like Walmart and Canadian Tire, but they are not there. If you go to those stores that shelf activation using digital technology is still not there. They still haven't figured out that basket size value, but the smart ones will. Now, it's all about big screens. It's not about shelf. It's about big screens creating a lot of excitement, which is great as it reinforces the brand is relevant. However, at the end of the day in that split second purchase decision -- digital plays a very minimal role, and it shouldn't. Doug: So, what you're talking about is a move from the large screens down to almost a personal experience at the shelf. Shelf displays can drive personalizing things and making things relevant to a particular consumer. Jean-Pierre: I'm back to my reference to advertising. You can spend trillions of dollars building an image of the consumer, and then in the last split second the consumer switches to another brand. To me, the model's upside down and the money needs to be spent in the store experience. It needs to be spent when the consumer is making their buying decision. Not online, not on the radio. Those are great to build brand awareness but when most consumers can be switched at the shelf level, that's where the real battleground is and that's where the money should be spent. That's where big data plays an important role: the connection between mobile devices and all shelf communication. This is where the real battle can be won and where the smart retailers are going to invest their money. It reminds me of a little story from about four years ago. We were hired to do the reinvention of OfficeMax. Online sales had huge impact on the performance of the stores. The stores were an average 25 to 27 thousand square feet. Our mandate was to create urban microstores, stores that were 17 to 20 thousand, even smaller than that. When we looked at digital signage, shelf signage, and we looked at the electronic ink -- sign elements -- and we costed it out. The client was very interested in having digital signage because it allowed them to change their pricing by zone, and then move very quickly at a competitive response. It was going to cost $300,000 for that in one store, so, imagine the multiple. The challenge still remains today and it is a huge nut financially for retailers to embrace digital. Those platforms today would be $100,000. I think it's more of a mindset by retailers. To say that flyers are their most effective marketing vehicle when, really, it is their stores that are the most effective marketing vehicle. Effectively communicating to the consumer at the shelf level is going to drive more revenue and more sales for them than advertising, radio, promotions and billboards. It's just a mindset. I think what digital has done is force organizations to rethink their business model. The business model before was "build it and they will come." What digital is providing is a platform for people to re-evaluate their business model. So, you look at Loblaws, a market leader in the supermarket category in Canada. They're smart. They're digital. They spent their money on a loyalty program that rewards behaviour. Not just purchase, but behaviour -- that is very smart. They're now exploring order on your phone and pickup at a drive through. They're exploring eliminating these anxiety points. I think most organizations now are being challenged through digital to re-evaluate their business model. If you're not re-evaluating your business based on digital and you're a retailer or a packaged goods company or a corporation, the odds are you're not going to be around long-term.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Doug Bannister's blog