How Digital Transformation Technologies Will Drive Innovation Opportunities

This content relates to : DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Jagdish Sheth

Emory University 

There are enormous opportunities for innovation, especially in marketing going forward, just because of the rise of the digital age. I think the impact of the digital age, will be far greater than the industrial age by any way you measure it. What the digital age is going to do are two things. Very simple, two-dimensional map you can create from where we are to where the world will be for research opportunities. Innovation opportunities.

Everything physical first becomes digital first. Think about that, the valuation of the same department store on the brick and mortar is nothing compared to the valuation of their online, like Macy’s online, If they spin that one out, the valuations, ungodly almost, because it is now part of the technology valuation, Silicon Valley. So, people will be incentivized, companies, to actually push, consumer preference from physical way of doing things, go and do digital way of doing things. Majority of the consumers are ready, fortunately, because of the lockdown that COVID taught us to improvise. And I can give an anecdotal example. You know I could not go to the …, people could not go to the doctor for a visit. So, the doctor has to come to the house. I was amazed to find that in 2020, there were 1 billion tele visits in America. 1 billion. That is now permanently changing because people say, Why should I get up and dress to see the doctor, drive in traffic, park in a parking place, pay for my parking, go to the clinic where there are patients, I don’t know what disease is there … Now I have created fear in the minds of the people. Let the doctor come by Zoom, to me. Internet people are doing telemedicine through Zoom calls. In fact, I’m finding that I have to wait longer for my Zoom meeting with my doctor than if I want to meet in person.

See the shift? Interesting. Same thing is happening in education. We are finding that it is possible to have annual conferences go from physical to digital and actually can accommodate a lot more people who can come because all of the travel and the cost and you know the transactional cost economics, again, are not in your favor. Now you can always have … So, physical first becomes digital first which says what is peripheral becomes core, what is core becomes peripheral. Which means, yeah, we will have meetings once in a while but not everything is in person. At the workplace, you see that phenomenon. And most employers are using this as an opportunity not to encourage people to come to the office. So, workplace is changing in the process. So, that’s one dimension. Anything online is better valuation, better capital dollars, maybe positive in terms of environmental impact, you know, like car congestion, driving, air pollution, whatever turns out to be. 

The second dimension in marketing especially is that marketing is organized around selling. Focus on selling. Through proper targeting, branding, positioning, you know, pre-sale, and  then post-sale. But marketing should shift or will shift toward servicing the customer. You make more money servicing the customer then selling the product. So, we find that all brick and mortar shopping centers are going to go from merchandise selling to service selling. They become service centers or they become entertainment centers. And some of them may become actually sports arenas. So the infrastructure is there for thousands of people to come together. There’s enough enclosed space, everything is there, except what you do in the space is not where you began the journey 100 years ago when we started having shopping centers in America. It’s, it’s used differently. Or if none of them work, you basically make it into a multi-purpose new community where people live there, they shop there, etcetera, tear down the infrastructure. Land is more valuable for redevelopment or repurposing, as we did with warehouses near the railroad tracks you know where obviously there are no railways coming. It’s all taken over by lorries, or trucks you know for example. So basically, those warehouses are made into fancy condominiums or fancy places to live. 

I think that’s, that’s it. So, those are the two dimensions on which one can do research. One can bring a cross-cultural perspective or transnational by looking at where the transition will be faster on the first dimension, physical to digital. And where the transition and transformation will be faster from selling to servicing orientation. I can conceptualize and I can see so many opportunities for research in marketing. And I wish I could be younger back again.    


Jagdish Sheth 

Charles H. Kellstadt Chaired Professor of Marketing, Goizueta Business School, Emory University