Insights | By Howard Tiersky

How to Cheat at Digital Transformation

In the race for digital success, sometimes the most successful brands seem to have the odds stacked in their favor. It almost feels like they’re cheating; they have a bigger budget, access to more resources, a more experienced team, better technology, etc.  

But in fact, there are two even more fundamental advantages that make all the difference, and if you achieve these, all the rest will come as a result of the subsequent success. Then you too will seem like you have an unfair advantage.

CHEAT 1: KNOW WHAT YOUR CUSTOMER PLANS ON DOING

Imagine a game of football. What would be the most impactful way to cheat? Knowing exactly what the opposing team was planning to do in advance—their intentions (pass, run) and their plan (how they will go about it) would be an incredible advantage.

It’s the same with customers. It would be priceless to know what their motivations are when interacting with your business, what causes them to browse your shop, add an item to their cart, abandon their cart, etc. If you knew all of these things in advance and developed strategies that invoke that behavior, you could dramatically increase your chances of winning them over.

And in fact, you can do this, and it's amazing that more businesses don’t.

Conducting customer research can enable you to diagram out a customer journey map that shows you the sequence of activities your customer has over the course of their interaction with you, what causes them to come to a decision, and what factors influence that decision. The best part is that everything is discoverable and can be built through effective customer research: interviewing the customer, observing their behavior, etc.

While your customer is certainly not your enemy, on the “field of play” of business, the way you beat your competitor is not by engaging them directly but by winning the customer. You can do this by knowing exactly what your customer plans to do and why, which will allow you to formulate a great strategy to win them.

CHEAT 2: KNOW HOW YOUR CUSTOMER WILL RESPOND

But of course, even though knowing what the opposing team is intending to do in advance is a major advantage, it's still possible that your strategy to overcome their approach won’t work. After all, there are many ways to respond to a given strategy in the field, so you might pick the wrong one. Also, they could still win if they successfully react to your move.

Similarly, while understanding your customers’ intentions will make it far more likely you can create a strategy that will align with their needs and desires, you might still make suboptimal decisions and not get the full benefits you are hoping for.

This can be largely solved, however, through our second “cheat,” which is prototype testing. 

You can prepare something as simple as a mock-up or something as sophisticated as a functioning simulation that almost mirrors your final product, introduce it to representatives of your customer segments, and observe how they use it, what it makes them feel, what they’re thinking about as they use it, and if you’re getting the behavior that you want.

It’s important to test it out with multiple customers (at least 10–12 for each customer segment) to identify patterns, make adjustments to your prototype based on their feedback, and run another test. When you do that through your prototyping and iteration process, you can come up with a digital experience and know exactly how the customer would respond to your product, which increases your chances of winning them over.

It’s like a game of football: if you not only know the other team’s initial strategy but can try out different possible ways to run the play step by step, learning how the other team is going to react to each move you make, you can become pretty invincible. This is how my son Joseph becomes a master at video games, playing the same level over and over, learning where the monsters are and how they will respond to each attack. You can’t really get these advantages in football, but you can in business, so take advantage of these ethical and legal “cheats” and you too can be perceived as having an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

In my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, I walk you through how I help my clients conduct customer research to create customer journey maps and then prototype and test possible products, iterating the results to winning outcomes. You can access the first chapter for FREE here, or purchase the hard copy here.

Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM`s
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.
Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM's
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.