Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The widespread adoption of home internet connections in the 1990s led to online banking services becoming commonplace. That was over 30 years ago. So why are loan companies still flaunting a “digital transformation” and “digital-first” approach as if it means something today?
A recent ad for a student loan company may have renewed my distaste for these meaningless buzzwords, but it did highlight an important message I want to get across to all businesses that are still using this provocative terminology.
The digital revolution has already happened
There’s no doubt that the world underwent a period of digital transformation. What started as widgets evolved into apps that are now home to countless services and companies. Meanwhile, the powerful tiny computers we keep in our pockets have become the driver of approximately 72% of online sales.
These significant milestones define the term “digital transformation.” And it’s the reason a loan company calling its online process a “digital-first strategy” is, frankly, unworthy of sharing labels with the most impactful innovations the world has seen so far.
Businesses chasing buzzwords like “digital transformation” don’t need to go so far as to fire their marketing team or question their corporate values. But with that being said, it is time for them to shift their focus to something that more accurately reflects the meaning these companies are looking for when they opt for these terms.
Digital buzzwords fail to express what really counts
Even if we agree that digital transformation represents something much more significant than any one company’s project or strategy, some leaders still hang on to slightly more specific terms like “digital procurement” to explain their processes. While it might feel like a step in the right direction, it’s actually a perfect example of how many companies still fail to recognize what’s really worthy of attention.
“Digital” is already here and here to stay — it’s the data behind the digital interfaces that now matters more than ever. Businesses should ditch the focus on digital and instead delve deeper, paying attention to the rise of data collection, management and utilization that’s helping the world’s largest companies compete at an unprecedented scale.
When Amazon, one of the world’s largest companies known for pioneering speedy delivery, began selling fresh produce and pantry items, it seemed as though many people assumed Walmart was done for. Yet, Walmart invested heavily in data transformation, helping them better meet consumers’ needs.
Now, Walmart has cornered approximately 20% of the online groceries market, beating out Amazon. That’s the power of data transformation.
Shifting the focus to data has a business-wide impact
When businesses move from tossing around terms like “digital-first” and actually start exploring avenues in the realm of data transformation, it’s not merely a change in terminology. When shifting to a data-first model, businesses unlock a world of opportunities that have the potential to impact every element of business.
Data transformation informed strategic decision-making for Walmart, ultimately empowering the mega-company to compete with one many times larger than itself and it’s winning. But, in addition to using all of that data behind the scenes, Walmart also used it to completely overhaul the customer experience.
Airbnb is another excellent example of using data to shape a customer’s perception of a company. The business competes with hotels and other booking sites around-the-clock, yet it manages to come out on top because of how it uses data to ease the customer journey and add value to the booking experience.
Airbnb does this by identifying in real-time when a user is hesitant to reserve a stay and offering a discount or reminding them that an area is already almost completely booked for the month they wish to travel. While highly effective marketing tactics, these examples of big data at work have also made Airbnb one of the most responsive, user-friendly apps of its kind.
But how can you unlock the value of your company’s data internally and externally to sharpen your edge?
Driving your point home
No matter how succinct, witty or charming you’re trying to be, the messaging your business shares should always have clear meaning to anyone that comes across it. That’s why you should tread on the toes of digital transformation, and it’s why you should instead narrow down on what you actually mean.
By moving away from vague buzzwords that begin with “digital” and getting more specific about what’s going on in your business relating to data, you’ll find that fewer people will roll their eyes when they read about your company. As a result, you can genuinely resonate with your audience, foster understanding and get people interested in what your business is trying to accomplish.