European Digital Transformation – Turning the Tide in 2021?
By Kerry Young on Feb 9, 2021
The pandemic accelerated digital transformation, but not every market advanced equally. On one hand, digital commerce in the U.S. accelerated by four to six years due to the pandemic, and a small number of China-based companies currently own 44% of global ecommerce.
On the other hand, the consensus is that European digital transformation significantly lags behind, making the market dependent upon foreign innovation. So what roadblocks is Europe facing? And how can the region keep pace in the digital marketplace?
Is the Battle Already Lost?
In a recent opinion piece, Forrester VP Thomas Husson argues that European companies have already lost the battle for digital consumers and must make big changes to recapture them:
“[CMOs and European business leaders] must hit the refresh button now: accelerate a digital reboot via customer obsession, increase investment in emerging tech, be pragmatic and realistic by auditing the real risks of their dependency on non-European platforms, and take more control of their data.”
Essentially, European companies need to focus heavily on digital transformation investments to catch up with their competitors around the globe.
Where Is Europe Missing the Mark?
Primarily, European companies are held back by underinvestment in their digital and data landscape. As the pandemic hit, ill-prepared enterprises were unable to pivot.
For example, British retailer Arcadia Group collapsed into administration last November. Its top brands were struggling pre-pandemic due to poor online presence. Once the pandemic started, they were quickly outpaced by nimbler competitors who have a stronger foundation of digital investments.
Richard Lim, chief executive at research consultancy Retail Economics, stated that Arcadia’s “demise was accelerated because of an online proposition that fell way behind that of their competitors. Years of underinvestment in the digital channel severely restricted their ability to trade successfully through this hugely difficult period.”
Conversely, competitors that already prioritised digital investments are coming out ahead. Obviously, this includes online-only competitors, like Asos and Boohoo, this last one recently acquiring department store Debenhams, but closing all its physical shops. However, other competitors — like Zara, a primarily brick-and-mortar business — invested early and heavily in digital business, helping them thrive as ecommerce soared. With a well-oiled ecommerce engine, these companies have created digital experiences that keep customers coming back.
What Can European Companies Do to Turn the Tide in 2021?
The outlook can change for European companies if they adopt some key strategies in the new year.
Merchants need to focus on ways to boost agility in an ever-changing digital landscape. The constantly evolving nature of ecommerce presents unique challenges that simply can’t be solved by putting out fires as they flare up.
You must empower your company to accurately analyse the landscape and adapt as needed. This capability requires an overall philosophy shift toward enhanced digital agility through better and more easily accessible data.
Build Initiatives Around Customer Obsession.
In addition to digital initiatives, European companies must make customer obsession a reality. Promoting a deep customer relationship requires developing an effective digital and data strategy and investing in technologies that enable those initiatives.
To foster customer obsession, your company must deliver what your customers crave. How do you do that? You need to understand them.
Compiling, organising, and leveraging customer data helps businesses dig into customer desires beyond the surface-level. Demographics alone aren’t enough. Customer obsession requires that you understand your customers on a deep, nuanced level and create personalised customer experiences that draw them in. In combination with emerging technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), managed data can help companies predict what online customers want to see, and deliver precisely what they’re looking for.
Take Control Over Your Data.
Gaining ground with digital customers requires that you take control of your data. Too often, important information is siloed in individual departments or databases, making it nearly invisible to key decision-makers in your company.
Multi-domain Master Data Management (MDM) software provides a centralised view of your data, improving its visibility and making data-driven analytics possible. MDM gives companies the agility they need to quickly adapt to customer desires. Additionally, emerging technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) are powered by multiple domains of data working in unison. If customer obsession is the goal, these captivating interfaces really move the needle.
Europe, Your Digital Transformation Can’t Wait
European companies have operated in a vacuum for too long. As U.S. and Asian companies gain digital momentum, the European market can’t wait. Now is the time to focus on agility, providing an exceptional customer experience, and taking control of your data.
Ready to advance your digital transformation? Winshuttle EnterWorks is a flexible multi-domain data hub that provides the foundation for success in today’s digital economy.
Find out How Brands can be “Future Ready” for Digital Transformation in our recorded webinar featuring Forrester, or learn more by downloading our Digital Transformation eBook, that examines what business drivers are fuelling the automotive industry’s growth and evolution.
About the author
Kerry Young joined EnterWorks in 2006 when Ennovative, Inc., the multi-channel publishing software company he co-founded, was acquired by EnterWorks. He directs EnterWorks’ operations and leads EnterWorks’ professional services and consulting organization, ensuring effective customer implementations and ongoing success. Mr. Young brings more than 25 years of technology and business management experience to EnterWorks, having served as CTO for a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, and earlier as VP, Information Technology for Marshall Industries, a $1.7 billion industrial electronics distributor. He previously managed information systems for a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Mr. Young holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from California State University Fullerton.
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