Another MarketingTO for Xi Digital

Published on 24 Apr

Digital transformation, a topic that we don’t think enough about, was the theme of last night’s MarketingTO. Due to some heavy traffic, our marketing team made it just before the first speaker of the night. However, there was still some time for light mingling and pizza (provided by Pizzaiolo). We also couldn’t resist trying out the photo booth, provided by Tribute Kiosk Inc, before making our way to our seats! See photo below.

photo, photograph, photo booth, marketingto, xi digital, digital agency torontoThe hosts of the evening were, Alexandra Panousis and Kristi Karens. They introduced the topic of digital transformation by explaining how it’s actually the number one concern for CEOs in 2019 and 70% of companies fail to ever digitally transform. The main issue is that there is usually not enough talent or passionate employees at the top. In addition, “digital transformation,” is a huge buzz word in the industry at the moment and many individuals truly do not understand what it even means. Digital transformation is ultimately not about technology. It’s about passionate employees, customers, and talent. They mentioned that it’s best to figure out what your company’s goals are first and then place them in line with your digital transformation goals.

Depending on your industry, transforming into IT or digital marketing may not make sense for you or may not be worth the capital investment. Figure out your business plan and future path before figuring out your primary digital transformation goal. For instance, if you are an auto body shop, you may want to invest more money into automated machines for inspections vs. spending all your budget on online advertising. It’s important to discuss where the ROI will lie with your company prior to implementing plans for digital transformation.  

Before moving onto the first speaker of the night, the hosts allocated some time for audience announcements. This occurs at every MarketingTO event and gives attendees a chance to get heard. The reason we are highlighting this moment is because our organic search director, Jessica Bennett, announced that we are currently hiring a Google Ads/PPC expert. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to apply for the position.

Speaker #1: Jules Cowan-Dewar, Sr. Director of Marketing, Indigo Books & Music

Cowan-Dewar’s presentation was about digital transformation in retail. She outlined her top “hits” and “misses”. Her first hit was about how you shouldn’t “knock the side hustle”. She explained how a large portion of Indigo employees are millennials with “side hustles” and clarified that employers should embrace them. An employer can actually benefit and learn a lot from an employee’s side project or passion as he or she could bring back this expertise to the company. She then proceeded with outlining a “miss”. It was about “chasing the shiny things”. She explained how people are always failing or falling down because they are chasing shiny things instead of focusing on what’s attainable.

Her next “hit” had to do with hitting the online before the offline. She said that a lot of businesses are starting online first before opening up a physical store. This is done to see if a physical store, which would cost a lot more money, would work. Companies are succeeding by using digital learning first before moving on to the physical.

Many brands are growing their online presence first and figuring out their target audience before purchasing physical retail space.

Companies like Allbirds, Warby Parker, and Glossier have all grown their brands through social media and have earned a cult-like following. When they opened their pop-up shops, opening days were a huge success as they already had their followings. They had lineups for blocks just to get into the store. This is a great example of how companies can learn from their online audience and experiment with trial and error before investing more capital into an actual brick and mortar store. 

Cowan-Dewar also spoke about Target expanding into Canada. If they had learned about their target audience prior to opening up their stores in Canada, then they could have learned about the right merchandise to stock for the Canadian market. In this case, it turned out badly for Target and they ended up leaving the Canadian marketplace.

Speaker #2: Timo Oluschinsky, VP Marketing at RB & Fil Lourenco, VP, Digital at Havas Canada

people, presentation, marketingto, digital transformation, xi digital, marketing agencyOluschinsky and Lourenco covered the night’s theme by tackling digital transformation in categories under destruction. They went into detail about consumers and digital transformation aspects such as self checkouts. They also mentioned that being a “first mover” in digital transformation isn’t always the best strategy. This is mainly because of ROI and taking risks. Being a pioneer is great but it’s also very risky and can lead to failure. On the other hand, being the first in digital transformation can have a lot of benefits and may be a risk you are willing to take.

The speakers also explained how voice search is the next big wave. Products like Alexa and Google Home are taking over. They estimated that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice operated. Marketers and agencies all over the globe are going to have to start adapting and growing to fit this wave.

Speaker #3: Shruti Shekar, Video Producer & Reporter at MobileSyrup

marketingto, people, presentation, digital transformation, xi digital, marketing agencyShekar discussed the topic of digital transformation through a journalist’s perspective. She started by describing how digital transformation is actually a very “creepy word” and how companies are always trying to improve to catch up with the advancements in technology. In addition, she explained how all the advancements that are occurring right now are actually part of the second wave of transformation.

She gave the example of how companies have to keep adding to their brand in order to still be relevant and profitable. For instance, Uber, had to go beyond just being a transportation app. The company decided to create Uber Eats to keep up with digital transformation. In other words, they had to digitally transform to keep their consumers interested.

Speaker #4: Bala Gopalakrishnan, Chief Data Officer at Pelmorex Corp

Gopalakrishnan’s presentation focused on the Weather Network, its history, and its digital transformation over the years. He explained how the Weather Network went through 30 years of digital transformation and had to adapt in recent years by putting their app on Apple TV, Roku, and more.

Knowing Your Audience’s Value is Key!

The Weather Network kept hearing from users that ads on their app were annoying, so they released an ad-free version for $3.99 per year for users to subscribe to. However, when launched, the subscription was barley picked up. They believed that at such a low price, users would subscribe right away and their experience on the app would be more enjoyable.Yet, they were wrong. They learned their lesson when they realized that they didn’t truly understand their customer value and target audience. Always do your research!

A Niche Market is Better Than Expanding and Not Performing Properly

As the largest player in the weather industry in Canada, the Weather Network felt dominant as a brand. However, when expanding internationally into other countries like Spain, they learned that what they did in Canada may not necessarily work for global audiences. They learned their lesson. Do your research and don’t be over confident that the expansion will go as smoothly as it did in one place with a different audience.  

Tips From The Panel

  • Find people who are passionate and will help you transform
  • Know your audience
  • Understand the customer and consumer market
  • Get experience before even thinking about digital transformation

Fun Facts From MarketingTO: Did You Know?

  • Organic reach is less than 5% on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram
  • Voice search is becoming huge and it will make up 50% of all search by 2020
  • Huawei headquarters in China is a huge campus and has a whole facility dedicated to digital transformation for other countries
  • Innisfil, Ontario is using cryptocurrency to pay for property taxes


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