Disruption, Performance & Measurement, Strategy

Is product optimisation the key to Digital Transformation success?


The general view is that the product and service experience makes or breaks the brand. Consumers now have more choice than ever, tools to voice their approval or disapproval and historical competitive boundaries or geographies no longer exist with hyper competition now regarded as one of the biggest challenges. This post discusses the approaches adapted by contemporary and legacy brands when tackling product development and service.

Continuous improvement is a term entrenched in the technology and digital lexicon! The majority of progressive organisations (Facebook, PayPal, Google, Spotify) are comfortable with launching Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) with the intention of optimizing the consumer experience in real time, as users interact with their products and services – continuous improvement if you like. Access to real time analytics and implementing “agile” enables these companies to effectively optimize; hence we’ve seen the emergence of data and collaborative team structures. Getting this mix right establishes a clear competitive advantage.

The MVP approach seems to spook companies late to online product development, such as companies that predate the Internet boom. The thought of not having a perfect product launched on day one fuels high levels of anxiety. This is where traditional companies really struggle with digital products and invariably fall into the large bucket of companies that fail (70%) with digital transformation and tend to fold in years, outflanked by these more nimble and customer focused competitors.

Lets look at why product optimization and testing is key to delivering great digital products and experiences.

Testing and personalization must become second nature

One of the most progressive DTS partners is Compete Shark. This innovative tech player measures the volume and velocity of online content changes – product & offers – along with tracking the types of online experiments carried out by companies on their websites and/or mobile. This intelligence provides a really deep insight on how brands tailor their personalized content (offers and messages) to online audience segments with the ultimate goal of increasing conversions and retaining customers – increasing lifetime customer value metrics in the process.

From a cultural perspective, testing and experimentation data separates the good from the underwhelming. E.g. Many executives claim to have developed the operational nirvana – an agile organization, but at the same time irregularly run experiments or A/B testing for that matter. It’s safe to suggest they are not nimble or agile? Right?

UK & US lead the way in testing. Australia & Asia is lowly benchmarked

According to Kiran Kumar, Co-Founder of Compete Shark, Australia & APAC possesses a low testing and experimentation maturity profile benchmarked or compared to the US & UK. “However, as orgs recognize the need to be agile and customer obsessed we have seen a clear shift in priorities from the second half of 2016. In terms of execution, testing was historically out sourced to agencies (test & validate business case) and now brands acknowledge the need to bring it in house and therefore make testing part of their core competencies. “ 

Australia & South East Asia currently asleep at the wheel

When I was running e-banking at ING Direct (back in 2000) we would test 1024 variations of a landing page serving up different versions to multiple traffic sources using a ground breaking tool called MEMTRICS (later to sold to Accenture). E.g. Passive audiences (originating from banners) received varied messages and creative, typically would convert at lower rates and active prospects (from search) would convert at higher rates, typically showed more “rational” messages having already travelled further down the conversion funnel.

Fast-forward 15 years later and I’m concerned that this isn’t standard practice? Sure brands are launching MVPs and making some changes but not at the rate that’s required to delight customers. We know from best practices abroad personalization and customer service are crucial to winning. Despite Compete Shark’s comments relating to improvement there is still a long way to catch up and with competition emerging from well-funded offshore players things must change now.

Strategy development before tech investment

Way too many companies have implemented tools such as Adobe test & target, Optimizely and other solutions however their frequency and level of testing is very low. Given that these tools require reasonable size investments, including licensing fees and tech resource management is well in their right to be asking hard questions and demanding accountability! The DTS scoring approach flags this gap and frequency of occurrence and it is one of the most common challenges we observe with traditional firms that grapple with Digital Transformation.


As a result, DTS is seeing stricter governance measures coming into play, magnified by an increase in CEO & MDs driving digital transformation (>50% of initiatives) moving away from IT and CIOs. This coincides with customer first strategic imperatives and the reliance on digital technologies to facilitate better relationships and ultimately expected to drive revenues and profit margins.

“Retail Armageddon” might happen across most industries.

“Companies must pivot and evolve into software based organizations & platforms,” according to Paul Shetler, former Digital Transformation Officer to the to the Turnball government. Paul is adamant that product iteration and optimisation is the key to being successful in the digital age and ultimately surviving. I recently reviewed DTS research findings with Paul and we couldn’t believe that optimization and experimentation was ranked so low within the digital strategy dimension across APAC.

At the end of the day if products and services don’t resonate with consumers they can easily take their business elsewhere. On a positive note there is a lot of upside if businesses adopt new approaches and get into a rhythm of testing and learning. The arrival of Amazon will finally put a lot of this inertia and complacency to the test. This is clearly happening in North America with the tales of destruction picking up speed every week:

This was summarized well on Paul Shelter’s blog:

“Macy’s has already said that it’s planning to close 100 stores, or about 15% of its fleet, in 2017. Sears is shuttering at least 30 Sears and Kmart stores by April, and additional closures are expected to be announced soon. CVS [a shopping centre owner] also said this month that it’s planning to shut down 70 locations. Mall stores like Aeropostale, which filed for bankruptcy in May, American Eagle, Chicos, Finish Line, Men’s Wearhouse, and The Children’s Place are also in the midst of multi-year plans to close stores.”

Its been well documented that we live in a world where hyper competition is the new normal. So to not optimize or test online is the equivalent of keeping your shop door closed on a busy trading day. Many pundits claim we now operate in the “ experience economy” so treat your customers accordingly and delight them in the process.






People & Culture, Performance & Measurement

Who is doing digital transformation well?



L’Oreal prospering in the “experience economy”

I often get asked which traditional company is doing digital transformation well? L’Oreal and Starbucks are the immediate organisations that come to mind. Both these powerhouse brands have been able to effectively embrace digital opportunities and make it work, integrating with the rest of their business with the common theme of strong leadership and a solid culture at the heart of their success. These respective brand leaders have transformed their traditional transactional models to align more with contemporary “experience exchanges” – synchronising both offline and online assets really well.

For the purpose of this post lets focus on L’Oreal. Continue reading “Who is doing digital transformation well?”

People & Culture, Strategy

Australian Diversity case studies from EnergyAustralia & ANZ Bank


At DTS we maintain a broad view defining diversity as age, gender, LGBTI, ethnicity and in the digital transformation context, talent, skillsets and experiences acquired from outside the industry and sector. DTS allocates higher competitive benchmarking scores within the all-important People & Culture dimension should a company demonstrate clear progress in these areas.

Recently, its been well documented that many high profile Silicon Valley tech giants are struggling with ongoing Gender Diversity issues, especially in relation to the composition of their boards and senior executive layers. According to Equilar, if the US continues at the current gender trajectory board parity will be achieved by 2055! Continue reading “Australian Diversity case studies from EnergyAustralia & ANZ Bank”

People & Culture, Strategy

People & Culture key to Digital Transformation success


PART 2 of DTS Research Series

Over the past 10 years businesses have fallen into the trap of leading with technology solutions when investing in digital transformation. Their haste has contributed to the fact that 70% of digital transformation projects fail or end up on the scrap heap.

The DTS Digital Experts research highlights just how crucial getting People & Culture right before you consider technology & platforms. Whether your just starting your transformation journey or you’re well on you way People & Culture is a strategic imperative and must receive the focus and investment it deserves.

Strong leadership and Digital Advocacy by Senior Executives was considered the strongest drive for People, Culture and Structure – and it was also the strongest of all the drivers we tested. “Digital Competency and Expertise” within senior management and broader roles, as well as, “Coaching & Development” in relation to digital technologies and business processes, was also ranked highly.

For a complete summary of the bespoke research contact




Neglect Employer Branding at your own peril!


A recent survey of Asia Pac’s digital experts (conducted by DTS) highlighted how lowly Employer Branding ranked in the overall measurement consideration set. At DTS we flag this as a significant risk as organisations embark on “customer first strategies”, transformation projects and attracting new talent becomes a priority. Continue reading “Neglect Employer Branding at your own peril!”

Performance & Measurement

How Asia Pacific’s best digital minds make Digital Transformation work

Before embarking on a digital transformation journey its crucial to define what success could look like and decide who will lead and drive your efforts.  Operationally, serious questions need to be asked: Who ultimately owns it? What are the benefit(s) : costs reductions, incremental revenues, improved efficiencies, better relationships with customers? In a new business landscape what comes first Strategy, Structure or People?

To help shape our propriety scoring framework, DTS recruited 38 of the very best digital subject matter experts across APAC. We surveyed them about what is business critical in their industries. Follow what the likes of Google, ANZ, Allianz, Carat, AnalogFolk, ComScore, Nielsen, Hootsuite, Sparkline and other companies had to share in our multi-part digital transformation research series… Continue reading “How Asia Pacific’s best digital minds make Digital Transformation work”


Disruption rarely happens on your terms

Most industry incumbents, which predate the digital era,  make the common error of trying to dictate how digital disruption is managed before they truely understand all the threats and opportunities. This typically occurs when leading with an “inside out” strategy. Put simply, leading with an internally focussed strategy as opposed to starting with the customer. Continue reading “Disruption rarely happens on your terms”