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Digital transformation for print: Four traps to avoid

In the final part of her series on the world of print, Nicola Narey looks at how print providers can keep on the straight and narrow

The march to digital is unrelenting, with $1.3tn spent on digital transformation in 2018, according to IDC estimations.

From Manchester United to the UK Government, all kinds of organisations are scrambling to adopt digital technologies – and the print industry is no different. Yet organisations need to ask whether digital transformation is a matter of technology alone, or of a wider state of mind.

For instance, ask a group of print service providers (PSPs) whether they have completed, or are going through, a “digital transformation” and you’d most likely get a full show of hands – and maybe a few eye-rolls from people who feel they’ve heard the phrase many times before. On the surface, this shows the print industry adapting in line with customers’ changing needs.

Industry analyst Quocirca reports 81% of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) believe the digitisation of paper-based processes will have an important role to play in driving their digital growth by 2025. Whether meeting new legislative needs or adopting new communications channels, digital transformations can be mission-critical.

However, for all the potential benefits digital can bring, and claims from those within the industry that they have digitally transformed, there are four common traps PSPs fall into:

1. Not realising how far digital can go

To make the most of the work they have put into adopting digital processes and updating back-end IT systems, PSPs should make sure they explore the full range of new options that are now available to them.

By taking the time to understand just how far they can progress things with digital, they will make the most of the time and money they invested in making the move, and make sure they are not left behind by digitalised competitors who will begin to offer differentiated services.

For instance, by fully embracing the range of digital channels available, from email to social media, you can create communications that meet all customer preferences – whether they want to use print, email, web tools or even automated social media updates.

2. Clinging to legacy processes

To enjoy the benefits digital transformation can bring, you must be willing to move on from old, print-first processes. This doesn’t mean ripping everything up and starting again, as businesses can certainly use the firm foundations they have built to date.

But being in the best position to benefit from the shift to digital means adapting one’s mind-set and approach in line with market demand and social changes. While organisations will be highly invested in legacy processes that have served them well over the years, they must of course be willing to evolve the services they offer in line with customer needs.

3. Seeing technology as an end in itself

It’s important to not lose sight of the reason digital transformation is taking place: to give a better customer experience. Of course you want to get the details right, but a system that is technologically perfect yet doesn’t bring a better experience for customers could have a harmful impact.

Some customers will not want digital communication at all, so analogue channels such as letters still need to be a part of the offering.

To ensure the digital transformation is built around customers, it’s crucial to take time to fully map the journeys people are taking; collecting information about their preferences and pain points. This way providers can ensure any new digital systems are planned and constructed with customers in mind.

4. Believing the job is ever completely done

It’s important to remember that digital platforms are constantly evolving. Customers will drive the adoption of new communication channels, expecting brands to interact with them across the same platforms they use for friends and family.

To keep everybody happy in the longer term, PSPs and communication service providers (CSPs) must be willing to invest time in understanding the platforms customers are using, and enable communications through them – building on top of the expertise they already have in place.

A digital state of mind

Digital transformations are such strategically important undertakings that it’s vital to ensure all the effort involved doesn’t go to waste.

The story doesn’t stop with a single transformation: PSPs and CSPs must be willing to continue a constant evolution of documents, in whatever new forms they take.

At a strategic level, businesses must ensure that they keep abreast of market shifts, and communicate through an ever-evolving range of channels. Then they will be in a position to keep customers happy, now and into the future.

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