Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Digitalization is unquestionably the future — an engine for expanded growth, more sustainable models and virtually endless opportunities to surprise and delight clients — but there are a few critical things to consider when shifting a business to a digital format.
1. Push boundaries, while being thoughtful of clients
It’s always good to disrupt the market, but remember to also hold out a hand to bring clients along with you. If you move too fast and leave them feeling confused or out of the loop, you will lose their trust, and business. For my private jet booking company Mirai Flights, we migrated a complex booking system into a single-click smartphone app. This was a significant change in format and functionality, and some clients naturally felt apprehensive. Suddenly, could they truly confirm all flight details in a single tap? To many, this seemed too good to be true, so we made sure to explain the process thoroughly and ease the transition over a period of time, rather than throwing customers in the deep end and trust that they’d keep up.
This is true for any industry. When creating new solutions, don’t get so wrapped up in innovation that you forget the people you’re doing this for.
2. Anticipate clients’ needs, and address them collectively
Whenever possible, gather as many related services as you can onto a single platform. This level of convenience will set you apart from the competition. For instance, if you run a flower shop, think of what else customers might need in a digital sales space: calligraphed cards, chocolates, balloons, gift cards and rush delivery are all related products and services that would be convenient to include in a single shopping platform. Perhaps a special request box during checkout, or access to a 24/7 chatbot that helps put together gift selections? The key is to put yourself in the client’s shoes and think of anything you would want. For us, and for others in hospitality businesses (such as hotel booking sites), it’s common to have a chat window where clients can leave special requests or ask for personalized assistance. Such requests can range from transporting pets to accommodating food allergies, and team members are immediately connected to these customers to meet needs.
Related: Reshaping Your Business to Meet the Digital Age
3. Remember that personalization trumps digitalization
Transitioning to a digital model should make your business more personal and customer-centric, not less — digital access should be used as a tool to deepen relationships with clients. Many banks, for example, use it to provide varying levels of personalized customer service: Online banking apps allow clients to have as much (or as little) human interaction as they wish; they can complete routine tasks and discover new products or services tailored to their needs without ever leaving home, but can also access a human representative via the app if they need assistance but don’t want to wait in long lines at a branch.
Regardless of your industry, never forget that digitalization needs to be a tool for providing better, more personalized services.
4. Leverage information for better service optimization
There are many digital tools available that allow businesses to accumulate the valuable data that constitutes a customer profile, including stored preferences, answered questions and previous transactions. Leveraging data like this effectively allows you to develop ways of providing better service, and capitalize on them. This also means developing better omnichannel experiences — learning how to manage the customer’s journey through the digital landscape and actively seeking opportunities to create a more effective, optimized service.
Related: Does Your Business Need a Digital Transformation?
As an example, our app saves a detailed client profile. Whenever we are notified of an empty leg flight, we can immediately send notifications to customers who fit the profile of that flight. For instance, someone who is flexible with flight times and aircraft choices can be notified right away when a flight opens up. For Mirai, we combine the digitalization of operator systems and client data to create a streamlined, effective solution that benefits both the aviation industry and the client. Taxi companies and ride share businesses like Uber follow similar principles in matching people with the most efficient routes, passing along the resulting savings to clients.
5. Apply a green business strategy
Digital tools are critical for creating a more sustainable model for businesses across virtually all industries, and are a key component in creating circular economies and reducing carbon emissions and overall waste.
The UN Environment Programme has noted that we’re facing tandem planetary crises of climate change and pollution, and digital technologies are ways of addressing both. For Mirai, the goal was to eliminate the inefficiency of empty flights and encourage thoughtful consumption, while, say, the film industry’s move toward more digital copies of films resulted in reduced distribution waste. Many corporations, meanwhile, are moving toward digital-focused workspaces, in part to eliminate the need for paper, ink, staples and other single-use items that create massive amounts of refuse.
Related: Examples of Environmentally-Friendly Business Ideas
Digitalization is a perfect strategy for companies that want to deliver a more optimized, personalized client experience. Not only will it help you reach a wider audience, it will also help you run a greener business and keep you competitive in today’s fast-paced market.