Accelerating digital transformation and driving growth in the cookieless era

Over the past year, brands have had to relentlessly transform, adapt and reinvent alongside the unprecedented changes that came with the pandemic. For many businesses, digital transformation has been at the forefront as they’ve navigated into a digital-first economy at rapid speed.

Earlier this year at Adobe Summit, digital business leaders from 7-Eleven, Telstra and Tourism Australia participated in a discussion to talk COVID-19, digital transformation and the future of marketing in a world without third-party cookies. Here are the key takeaways.

Lessons on keeping business moving during a pandemic

The global pandemic has driven the rapid shift to digital commerce and technologies, while the plight of customers in on-and-off-again lockdowns has forced organisations to adapt quickly and learn to engage with increased personalisation and empathy.

According to Jenni Barnett, Executive Director at Telstra Digital, 70 percent of Telstra’s customer-facing staff were sent home overnight during the first lockdown last year, substantially reducing customer service capabilities in their call centres. As a result, the telco made the decision to prioritise calls from its most vulnerable or in-need customers, such as those experiencing domestic violence or who had medical conditions.

Telstra had to rapidly build digital experiences that could effectively substitute in-person customer services. “We couldn’t take calls from other customers, so we had to steer them into digital,” Barnett said.

“The work we had put in over the previous 18 months meant we were able to update customers in real-time whenever they needed specific services.”

Barnett noted contextually relevant, personalised customer service and sales messages were seeing good uptake among the telco’s 6.3 million digitally active users, 4.3 million of whom use Telstra’s app.

“You do see the business outcomes,” she said. “In terms of sales personalisation… when you look at behavioural data and offline data as well, you do see up to 5x incremental conversion rate, so customers are interacting. It’s all behind a login and it’s very contextual to the customer.”

According to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, “Personalisation is going to drive business growth and brands that can deliver on this expectation will be the new winners in the digital economy,”

Telstra is now doubling down on personalisation using AI and machine learning to help scale its program by identifying the next best actions to present to individuals.

Why brands should ‘lean into’ privacy regulation and ‘cookieless’ targeting

The growth in digital commerce and personalisation illustrates what is at stake for brands that want to deliver tailored messages to customers online in the soon to be approaching era of marketing in a cookieless world. And while the cookieless approaches and timelines announced by big tech companies have been unpredictable, brands are still making moves to form or expand direct relationships with consumers to collect first-party data and the consent to use it.

Tourism Australia, which has historically relied on third-party cookies, is taking a cooperative approach to collecting authenticated data from its users.

According to Head of Digital Strategy and Transformation Paul Bailey, Tourism Australia is working on creating a “unique industry-wide identifier” that could be used by state and national tourism bodies to track visitors — with their permission — to personalise content and ultimately drive conversion.

“If we look at the guardrails and go, ‘How can we be better?’ or ‘How do we have more empathy for the customer?’ we’ll be better at what we do,” Bailey said. “We should lean into [privacy regulations] as brands and as marketers.”

7-Eleven’s Head of Strategy, Innovation and Business Development Stephen Eyears shared that they were initially slow to embark on their digital transformation journey, but this reaped an unexpected benefit. “It was always about first-party data for us,” Eyears said. “We didn’t have a big cookie jar to start off with.”

Customer expectations of personalised experiences are at an “all-time high”, according to Suzanne Steele, Managing Director at Adobe Australia and New Zealand, noting that businesses need to stay ahead of the regulators on issues such as privacy and regulation.

“Don’t wait for regulation,” Steele said. “Deliver real-time personalised experiences and use the data to understand the impact of doing that. Have a data-driven operating model so you can then apply rules and scenarios around what happens next with that interaction.”

Board approval key to pursuing digital transformation during a pandemic

7-Eleven had consciously educated its board about the business benefits of its digital transformation program, ensuring it not only supported the required investment but is involved as requirements evolved, Eyears said.

The convenience chain, which has launched a fuel price lock app and experimented with a cashless store, continues to invest in its digital transformation and first-party data strategy throughout the pandemic.

For Barnett, educating the board about the world of digital has been fundamental to Telstra’s transformation journey as ‘digital can be hard to understand,’ she explains. ‘We are lucky that our board is committed to educating themselves.’

Barnett notes that leaders must work with the board to outline a clear strategy and roadmap for transformation to ensure alignment at all levels of the business.

‘At the end of the day, we need to come back to the business and customer problems we are trying to address, and how technology can underpin that.’

For more on how Telstra, 7-Eleven, Tourism Australia and other brands are taking customer experience to the next level, watch Adobe Summit on demand now.

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