The world is changing at a rapid pace, with businesses moving faster than ever to incorporate technology solutions into every aspect of their operations. As companies compete to keep up with the commercially beneficial opportunities available, it’s important bosses understand how to drive digital transformation.
Exactly what is digital transformation?, we hear you ask. Put simply, it’s the process of making business activities more efficient through the use of technology. It could involve anything from adopting cloud-based software to improve in-house work and data storage, to focussing on search engine ranking positions and communicating with customers via social media.
The number of solutions technology can provide is growing day by day; we just have to know how to implement them successfully into our businesses. Of course, digital transformation has an added layer of complexity when it comes to franchising. It will impact the legal relationship between franchisor and franchisee, so progress must be carefully considered.
Digital transformation is not just about throwing technology at the problem. It relies predominantly on technology, people and processes. Unless there is a change and an adaptation across the three pillars, you haven’t got any transformation at all.
—Alan Talbot, Air Malta CIO
How to drive digital transformation
Digital transformation can provide benefits across various business areas, from operational efficiency to culture and customer experience. Whether you choose to upgrade your existing processes or completely overhaul your operations, you’ll need to create a strategy, appoint tech-literate leaders and empower your workforce to adopt new habits.
Here are some of the basic tasks you’ll need to tackle when taking your franchise digital:
Create a digital transformation team
If you’re going to roll out your strategies consistently across the franchise network, you’ll need to appoint a dedicated tech team. They’ll be responsible for overseeing progress and uncovering any problems in good time.
Make sure your website is attractive and mobile-optimised
One of the first steps in any digital transformation strategy is to get your website up to scratch. Spend some time giving it a refresh, checking it’s easy for your customers to find the information they need, no matter the device they’re using.
Set up or enhance your franchise’s social media profiles
Almost every business stands to benefit from having an active social media presence, so make sure you and your franchisees are giving your profiles enough attention. You should be focussing on the main platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and interacting with customers on a daily basis, showing them you’re approachable and eager to help.
Think about whether your franchisees can set up individual profiles, and how you’ll make sure they’re consistent across the network. As the franchisor, you’re within your rights to establish detailed requirements for franchisees’ social media usage.
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This step might seem slightly complicated, but most software packages and tech platforms will help you collect usage information. Once you have access to the statistics, you can use them to inform your next business decisions and make further improvements to your customer experience.
In the UK, there are several laws relating to data processing and storage, so make sure you uphold these throughout the franchise. You might like to create and distribute a franchisee handbook to help your partners avoid legal problems.
Set up an e-commerce store
You might think this option is only open to franchises selling physical products, but it can work well with service-based companies too. You could offer online consultations, tutorials, learning courses and digital products, or even branded merchandise.
You’ll need to spend some time planning your e-commerce platform to work out how it will operate and benefit franchisees across the network.
Invest in cloud-based software
Often, cloud-based solutions can be more convenient and efficient than businesses’ in-house software, so making the move could be a good idea. Using online packages should also save you a lot of space when it comes to storing data too. You might like to invest in software packages, ongoing subscription services or a hybrid of the two.
Not sure where to start? Take a look at our round-up of the top cloud-based tech solutions.
Digital technologies are enabling radically new ways to deliver value to customers, altering competitive landscapes and changing the underlying economics of markets.
—Andrew Annacone Managing Partner at TechNexus
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Get on top of SEO and digital marketing
Search engine optimisation (SEO) sounds scary, but it’s fairly simple once you know what you’re doing - and it brings huge rewards for franchisors who prioritise it. Read our SEO guide to get started.
Also, if you haven’t yet taken the time to develop a unified marketing strategy, make sure you capitalise on the digital tools available to attract even more customers.
Develop a tech training scheme
Tech literacy will become increasingly important in the coming years. Franchisees and their employees must be clued up on how to use the digital solutions you introduce; in fact, you could seriously damage your performance and reputation if they’re not.
The people in your network may be anxious about the changes you’re making, but a comprehensive ongoing training scheme should help them develop the skills they need.
Prepare to manage two different systems
Digital transformation takes time for any business, so you’ll have two systems running in conjunction with each other for several weeks or months. This outcome shouldn’t be a problem if you plan for it ahead of time, so brief your franchisees and employees on how they should handle the transition.
Let digital transformation reshape your franchise
Many franchisors worry about digital transformation because they think they’re already far behind their competitors - but this is rarely true.
Of course, some of the most profitable, high-profile businesses have been able to throw money at the problem and introduce technology into their operations early on. But most franchises spend a significant amount of time experimenting with various digital solutions before finding the right formula.
And, as the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.
You can find more guidance on achieving digital transformation right here at Point Franchise - why not start with our guide: Is Your Franchise Model In Need Of A Digital Transformation?
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©