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Why digitisation is something marketers should not rush into

Too many brands are rushing into digitising their businesses, which ends up causing more problems than solutions, according to Vincent Gillet, vice-president of international marketing at Hertz.

Speaking at Tribal Worldwide’s Total Experience breakfast ‘The Digitisation of Everything’ held earlier this month, Gillet spoke of how the car rental business has evolved so its consumers can now open up their rental car just by using the Hertz app and without the need for picking up keys beforehand.

Accelerating the digitisation process

But he cautioned that the rise of digitally-driven brands such as Uber has also created an illusion that digitisation is something that can just happen overnight.

“You have to be mindful of the fact that changing a legacy IT system isn’t a quick fix and could take up to ten years,” he explained. “You also need to really think about the impact of digitisation on your consumers and ask whether digitisation truly makes their life easier?”

He added: “If you’re an Uber it’s easier to grow fast digitally, but if you’re a bigger legacy company then getting the right bricks and mortar infrastructure in place can take a lot longer. Businesses have to be patient and prepared to do it slowly to get it right. It’s a transition and not something that’s instant.”

A whopping 80% of companies believe they offer brilliant customer experience, yet only 11% of their customers actually agree. And the invite-only event, which was part of Tribal Worldwide’s Total Experience programme, is all about addressing this issue by bringing together thought leaders from the world of marketing to discuss ways brands can better navigate the digital landscape so they can make the customer experience more seamless.

One way they can do this, according to Gillet, is by believing in the mantra of “digitise, humanise, and then premiumise”. And one area he said Hertz was actively working on was using its cars’ cloud data to see which drivers were the safest and then rewarding them appropriately.

Impact on the future of work

However, he also admitted that by digitising its business model, and also taking into account the rise of electric and driverless cars, there would naturally be job losses at a human level within the car industry. “We have to adapt to this reality,” he added.

Yet Mark Geden, the head of strategic planning at Tribal Worldwide, who was also taking part in the discussion, said brands don’t have to lose staff through digitising their businesses and should instead be looking at how they can move them into other areas that will improve the customer experience.

“Digitisation is not always about making a cost saving on ROI or driving efficiencies, it should also be looked at as a way to transform a brand!” he advised. “You automate the boring bit and then move your employees to a place where they can enrich the customer experience. Mechanisation shouldn’t be looked at something that will mean people lose their jobs, but more a chance to move them into more customer-centric areas.”

Kristy McCready, director of marketing at HomeServe, added digitisation won’t make sense for all businesses and some should think carefully before they risk alienating their customers. “You should digitally enable your company, but to make it solely digital is a big risk, especially if it doesn’t make much sense for your service.”

How is digital transformation changing marketing?

She also spoke about the rise of marketing teams having commercial accountability: “You can’t have a marketing function that doesn’t have commercial accountability too. Marketers have to be driving the bottom line or they are just in the business of writing words and creating pictures.”

Another hot topic of discussion at the event was how marketers can effectively measure ROI from digital marketing campaigns. Lauren Kopsch, digital marketing manager at The Ivy Collection, said her business had added codes to press releases so they can properly measure their success.

“It means you can follow and measure the click through, and use that to work out how many people are reading the digital campaigns and actually ending up going to our restaurant.”

Meanwhile, British Airways’ head of digital design Nikki Barton warned that too much quantification might be stopping creativity. “It’s important you don’t take so much time trying to quantify a marketing decision that you don’t actually achieve anything,” she added.

Yet sophisticated measurement tools mean nothing if a brand isn’t resonating with consumers. Nora Maguire, head of digital marketing at Chinti & Parker, concluded: “As marketers we now have an abundance of different tools to measure traffic, which are linked to specific marketing campaigns. But if people don’t know your brand then you can do this to all the ads in the world and buy all the keywords you like; it means nothing if people aren’t getting excited by your brand. Digitisation is important, but creating powerful brands that consumers love still needs to be the number one focus.”

See above for the video round-up of the event with key take-aways. To hear about future Tribal Worldwide London events, provide your email address below.

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