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Digital Transformation: A hot topic for retail

Before the pandemic, digital transformation projects took a long time to complete. The process has always been long and complex, and that hasn’t changed… But when the pandemic hit, businesses had to adapt quickly and make huge investments in technology in just weeks, all just to make it possible to work remotely and do business exclusively online. This acceleration caused a revolution within the eCommerce sector, and we saw the brands that got ahead quickly flourish (like our client, Big Bus Tours), and the ones who weren’t fast enough, perish (Topshop). 

Now we have moved out of the pandemic, into what appears to be a recover period, digital transformation isn’t so much about sheer survival now. However, if you’re selling online and haven’t made much investment into improving your technologies over the last 2 years, then you could be seriously lagging behind competitors. Digital transformation doesn’t just mean creating a new slick website (although it helps!), by overhauling your digital processes, you can improve customer engagement, create efficiencies in your operations, and enhance your brand’s image. But how should you actually get started? 

How have other eCommerce businesses digitally transformed? 

Big Bus Tours, is the largest operator of open top bus sightseeing tours founded in May 2011 after “Les Cars Rouges” and the “Big Bus Company” merged. The company operates in 23 cities of 11 countries with more than 150 buses around the world.

BBT have been a client of JH for a couple of years now, they joined us when they were at  the beginning of their digital transformation journey. Since then, the business has delivered and executed an incredibly successful DT implementation that has seen their revenue grow by almost 200% since April 2021.

We interviewed Dave Knowles, Chief Technical Officer at Big Bus Tours, to learn from his perspective what the main do’s and don’ts are when a business embarks on a project that involves wider-scale technology overhauls. 

Below are the top considerations that eCommerce businesses should keep in mind: 

Slow down to scale up

Back in February 2020, Big Bus Tours put a halt to their two-year digitization project. They were working on several initiatives simultaneously; none of which were going as planned. They found themselves facing an endless queue of projects and tasks. Sound familiar? 

Although they were succeeding across the board, their digital processes were doing more harm than good. So how can you actually take a step back when you’re growing quickly? 

Prioritise based on pillars

To help with the company’s digital transformation, Big Bus Tours decided to scale back and reconsider its priorities. They identified what should take precedence according to their four key pillars, all of which outlined what needed to be achieved as a business. By doing this, they could align all their digital strategy with their core values, ensuring that everything fed into their business and customer-serving goals. 

When Covid landed, they were able to pivot their digital approach and establish a common baseline standard across the organisation. They delivered the core build of their platform and achieved a global rollout. They also managed to replace their integration platform which was a massive capability shift for them.

“We’ve adopted modern cloud platforms with very clear platform accountabilities in terms of what they’re doing to the business.”

Dave Knowles, CTO, Big Bus Tours

Get clarity on what you actually want and need to achieve. Look at how technology is expected to contribute to your objectives. 

Get Human

Big Bus Tours also scaled back by moving from many suppliers to six core partners, including us, JH!

“We’ve been able to really let those guys in. We know what we do, and we’ve aligned ourselves to our partners and delivery processes. Now we can be really rapid in terms of how we come to make changes to our platforms, having taken products to market, having changed our prices, etc. We’ve now got 10 active projects, rather than 20.”

Dave Knowles, CTO, Big Bus Tours

For the Big Bus Tours team, it’s really about bringing all those human elements into the digital presentation because the customers expect it anyway. It’s about meeting that expectation. And translating the needs of their customers to promote better conversion.

“And it’s a two-way discussion: what does the customer need from us and what do we need from them? That really drives our roadmap. It’s what we use to build our pillars.”

Dave Knowles, CTO, Big Bus Tours

What are some of the tangible benefits of digital transformation?

“From a functionality point of view, (digital transformation) has given us access to functionality and data that we wouldn’t have before.”

Dave Knowles, CTO, Big Bus Tours

BBT are still very much in the process of analysing their data post-DT. But so far, all key metrics are on the up. BBT have seen a 128% increase in site traffic, and a 178% increase in transactions on site.

Key Takeaways

  • Talk to your customers and partners
  • To scale up, sometimes you need to scale down first!
  • Focus on what’s feeding the key pillars in your business
  • Ensure the technology you implement supports your key goals
  • Build a resilient (yet flexible) roadmap