A new consumer behavior exists that defies old school thinking.

Digital technology affords businesses new possibilities for interaction and creating customer experiences, and companies like Airbnb and Uber are frequently cited as examples of businesses leading the true digital business transformation. They are digital by definition, with few physical assets. For companies not born out of the digital revolution, though, it requires a great deal of agility to evolve and reinvent their marketing tactics, rather than just recreate traditional interaction online.

To address the topic of digital business transformation, The CMO Club recently hosted a Digital Roundtable Discussion. Led by The CMO Club’s Sandra Zoratti, members shared what they think brands must do in order to be the disruptors and not the ones being disrupted.

For Better or Worse, Digital Changes Everything

Today’s consumers are either online, or asleep.

With 1 in 10 retail dollars spent online, consumers are definitely making purchases; but even for those not buying, the internet is still being used for researching, reviewing, comparing and budgeting. So, when your customer does eventually arrive in the store, their purchase decision has already been made.

For brands, this is an opportunity to create and extend a digital fan environment. It could be an exclusive or open place where you can connect your customers and create a community.

Brands like the mobile network Giff Gaff have done this with customer service – facilitating a place where customers can help solve each other’s problems. They have eliminated their own internal customer service department, and proudly market themselves as ‘the mobile network run by you.’

For B2B companies, one member noticed that – as people get ever busier – many don’t want that face-to-face interaction. They appreciate an online transaction, only needing a phone call if something requires special attention.

Balance is Key

If you look at successful digital companies, many of them achieved success due to their location – whether that be a brick and mortar store or the location of their customers.

Think about Amazon: they are completely online, but they’ve established prime real estate all around the world by strategically branding their packaging and targeting customers in key areas.

Another company discussed was Warby Parker, a major disruptor in the eyewear industry. They effectively create a tangible experience through digital by allowing customers to select 5 items online, try them all for free, ship back what they don’t like and pay for only what they keep.

After discussing these examples, members agreed the key to digital transformation is balance.

For your business, that might mean having a real conversation up front to establish a relationship, then continuing an online dialogue, or integrating your internal customer service team across social media, personal chats and phone to recreate one-on-one interaction online.

One member said they now hold annual client conferences virtually – in addition to their physical event – where more than triple the number of people can ‘attend’ via live casting, much like the very digital roundtable this discussion was hosted in.

No matter how you transform, it’s important to focus on agility and future-proofing your company for the next wave of trends. And, if you ever need a lesson in what not to do, just look at some of the formerly top companies that are now obsolete.