Digital transformation consulting is a multidisciplinary field involving strategic, technologic and organizational planning and fundamental digital changes to the business models and cultures. It’s also a new space that’s still being shaped, and one where perspectives also differ widely. Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, in a recent conversation with Capgemini Consulting, shed light on what digital transformation means for Burberry. I enjoyed the interview and want to share a few key insights here for you.
- Focus: “…we decided to target our marketing spending on the millennial consumer, in their 20s, and with a clear focus on emerging economies, where the average high net worth customer is typically 15 years younger. And we communicated and engaged with this younger customer using their mother tongue: digital, which would also give us the greatest reach for our limited marketing budget. That’s when the digital transformation started for Burberry.”
- Commentary: I like calling digital a “mother tongue”, as it highlights how for some digital is their first language, a means of experiencing experiences just as authentically as in any alphabet. There’s a famous folk story of a man who spoke many languages. His peers were unsure which was his mother tongue and he would not say. They devised a way to discover the answer. They poured cold water on him in the morning before he woke. He started swearing immediately, and they concluded that the language he was swearing in most be his mother tongue. Picture the same situation with our digital millennials. If you pour water on a millennial in the morning, before they woke, they would share the experience via text or social, likely snapping a photo of the perpetrator in the act. So, it passes the mother tongue test.
- Integrated: This interview also captures Burberry’s insight seeing digital transformation as an integral part of the overall brand experience, from creative concept and online execution to in-store experiences, data capture and insights. As the CEO says, “Our vision was that any person, any constituency, needing to interact with Burberry would come on to Burberry.com and enjoy exactly the same experience as an in-store customer. We wanted them to come into our world – Burberry World – and be able to visit all the different parts of the business as they would do in our HQ, just like customers experience every facet of the brand on Burberry.com.”
- Right investments: To make these changes come to light, Burberry invested in organizational change: “We’ve created three new departments in the last two years: a social media department, a mobile department, an insight and analytics department. We recently brought in an SVP of Customer Insight.” All of these initiatives are governed by their “strategic innovation council.” They also invested in a younger marketing workforce with an average age of 25.
- Customer Service: They’ve made big investments in customer service, “with the new Burberry. com website, you can click to call or click to chat with them, 365 days a year, 24/7 and in 14 languages. It will be 25 by the end of the year.” I like how the CEO has described their social listening in the context of customer service rather than cast the effort as social insight.
- Unasked & Unanswered: There are several unasked and unanswered questions I would like to hear more about, which include:
- What were the areas of resistance Burberry encountered while making these digital, transformative changes?
- Many of the choices made seem like necessary evolutions for their business. What were the real risks associated with these decisions? It seemed risky not to make them.
- Did the job descriptions of their most senior people change as a result of this digital transformation effort? What kind of learning or retraining was involved?
- Which businesses did Burberry based this initiative upon? Did they consult with businesses in other industries while digitally transforming?
The white paper is insightful, and I recommend you read it. It’s a good fifteen-minute plane read. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
H/T: I learned about this case study via The MIT Center for Digital Business