Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

digital transformation-min

Over the past ten years, an unprecedented rise in what we call ‘digital native businesses’ (DNBs) has rapidly transformed the business landscape across the globe.

Here in India, the digital native revolution is certainly afoot. In 2021, the IT industry grew 7.2% year on year as companies moved to the cloud, adopted AI-based services, and modernised their IT systems.

While we typically think of challenger technology companies as digital natives, older organisations are embracing the change, too. A very sensible move if they want to remain competitive.

I’ve seen countless examples of companies that didn’t react to change quick enough and were left in the dust of businesses that did. Today’s brand-agnostic, always-online consumers aren’t prepared to stick around for a poor digital experience.

So how do you transition from a traditional brand limited by legacy tech to a digital native company with a continuous competitive edge? While every company’s journey is different, there are three key themes that drive digital transformation success.

  1. Boost the customer experience

Digital native businesses are problem solvers. With the insights they glean from consumers, they know how to improve their products and services – and constantly exceed customer expectations.

One place where we’ve seen a customer experience revolution is in banking.

In the past traditional banks struggled to be agile; their processes lacked the flexibility to scale their services in response to changing demands. To open an account you needed to travel to your local branch. Bank branch opening times often weren’t convenient for people who work full-time. And that was before you were handed a mountain of time-consuming paperwork to sift through.

Then, banks like Monzo and Starling turned up to offer an attractive alternative. It’s incredibly easy to apply for accounts through their apps, which can be up and running in minutes, saving customers time and effort.

Real-time payment alerts, which were not previously possible in traditional banks, make it easy to keep track of spending. Travel also becomes stress-free, as innovation around overseas spending means you don’t have to worry about accumulating fees while abroad.

These digital challenger banks are reaping rewards in customer satisfaction. Research by Ipsos Mori found that Monzo received the highest ratings on quality, with 83% of respondents saying they would recommend them. The fact that the more traditional banks lagged on customer satisfaction is proof that the ease of use and personalisation digital-first banks offer are a hit with consumers.

Both Monzo and Starling consider elevated customer experience as a business-critical focus. When you compare a digital native one to a traditional one, it’s clear that the former exceeds on every level.

  1. Make data more accessible

Democratisation of data has become a buzz term – and for good reason. Retaining customers requires a solid understanding of data, but first, we need to ensure this data is fully accessible.

This is perhaps one of the biggest roadblocks companies encounter on their digital transformation journeys. Traditional on-premise legacy data systems make it difficult to get the most out of all the data. Sharing information from these systems is a sluggish process, resulting in costly siloes.

DNBs have transcended this. By leveraging the cloud, companies have complete visibility of their data, making it easier to share and work with between teams.

The events sales company Ticketmaster is a case in point. They spent years implementing technology enhancements, only to discover that the hundreds of interconnected systems created unneeded complexity. Software development in this context becomes a gruelling task and makes it difficult to interpret customer data.

The company transformed its data management processes by centralising data through a microservices architecture in the cloud. They’ve now got a bird’s eye view of customer activity that allows IT developers to be more responsive to customer demand, improving their strategic impact across the organisation. Innovation can happen faster – setting the company up for accelerated growth.

Cloud management platforms are the final jigsaw piece that allows organisations to connect their data. Legacy systems can easily be replaced with fast, efficient systems that are continually updated and improved.

  1. Prioritise agility

What gives tech-savvy start-ups and digital native brands their edge? First and foremost, they’re agile and adaptable.

The pandemic sparked business transformation across industries. New technologies were brought to the fore as companies adapted to remote working or changed their offering for customers in a virtual world.

However, it’s the companies that have continued innovating since 2020 that have seen the most impactful transformations.

Upscaling requires agility. The cloud provides the IT infrastructure to scale, meaning IT teams can continue to build on their products and services without having to purchase additional hardware.

American Outfitters showcased their agility when they launched Nuuly, getting the clothing rental service up and running in a matter of months. The legacy systems they had in place at the time were not up to the challenge, so they decided to build a new IT infrastructure that could adapt to customer demands in a sustainable, circular fashion.

A team of engineers created a real-time event streaming architecture based on Confluent Cloud and Apache Kafka. In just six months, the platform went live. With this strong backbone of IT infrastructure, Nuuly is taking on the world of clothing rental. The infrastructure can be scaled up and down depending on customer needs.

Digital native businesses set data in motion

Digital native businesses (DNBs) make digital innovation a continuous business function, empowering them to take on even the most established brands. They have one thing in common: using real-time data to connect with customers in an immediate way, giving them the seamless experiences that are fast becoming the norm.

Digital native car sharing platform SOCAR Malaysia adopted Confluent to create an event-driven architecture, where it has a better understanding of its users in-app. They explained that they’re now really analyzing user behaviour in the app and how that in turn leads to greater personalization. They’re now able to do things like see when a user looks at a more expensive car and then encourage them to take that next step by issuing a promo that’s custom to them in real-time.

Like SOCAR, by taking control of their data in the cloud, companies become digital natives with the adaptability and agility to future-proof their brands. At Confluent, I’ve seen with my own eyes the transformational value of being able to fully leverage real-time data streaming with the right platform.

No matter the industry, the sky really is the limit for digital native companies.


Written by

Deepak Ajmani, VP APAC Commercial Sales, Confluent

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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