AuthorPublished 18 Jan 2019 5 Min Read

In the last few years the digital revolution has bulldozed through the most stable of markets and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Companies who can change, and then keep on changing, will be the winners in the new world order – coasting along is no longer an option, even for market leaders. The road ahead is one of continual transformation.

Some brands didn’t keep up. Toys “R” Us, Maplin, PoundWorld, House of Fraser and Thomas Cook are just a few of the brands that faced difficulties last year. This sends a clear message: in times of heightened customer expectations, a more complex competitive landscape and economic uncertainty, companies can no longer get away with substandard product quality and an average customer experience.  

While some companies are failing, others are moving fast and shaking up the status quo. Here, we look at two of our favourite examples of digital transformation and customer experience design programmes that excelled with customer-centric solutions in 2018.

Customer experience excellence: a closer look at Monzo

Monzo was a favourite with millennials way before it formally launched, with hundreds of thousands of UK-based customers patiently waiting in a digital queue to become the next Monzo user. And it didn’t disappoint, generating huge buzz with its frictionless customer experience, transparency and emphasis on building a community. Now, with their plans to expand to B2B banking and a recent shift from pre-paid cards to current accounts, Monzo has finally become a fully-fledged bank. It’s a risky move, as such a shift involved a number of actions from the users that, although minor, could have posed a significant blocker. Yet Monzo got away unscathed, with over 1M customers now enjoying their current account. Of course, there is still a wealth of services only legacy banks are capable of fulfilling, but Monzo is certainly winning in its day-to-day banking offering.

So, what were the big changes in 2018 that made the king of UK challenger banks even stronger? One thing they do consistently well is their ability to listen to their customers and react, quickly.

Many of the ideas that started on their community forum are now some of Monzo’s most popular features. Introduced in late 2017, allow users to set money aside in ‘folders’, (with recent upgrades) schedule payments into them and automatically save spare change with Coin Jar. Joint accounts, 3D Secure payments, a web interface for emergencies, and new community-building solutions like Monzo Labs are ideas that show how brands can match product and customer experience design with real customer needs. People ask, and Monzo deliver. It’s a strategy that builds loyalty and make users feel they’re part of something bigger. Compare this to the legacy banks landscape, where there’s still a big disconnect between customer needs and the product strategy, and between service efficiency and actually building a relationship with each customer.  

This leads to another point – transparency. Talking about the things you’d normally discuss inside the company during daily stand-ups or weekly team meetings, rather than share openly with customers. And yet, since Monzo launched, this is one of the strategies that helped to build exceptionally strong relationships with the majority of their customers – despite not having a physical presence. With frequent updates on what’s been done, what’s planned, what went wrong and how they fixed it, their users are waiting for new releases with excitement – and hold the Monzo team accountable if there are any bumps on the road. The pressure to deliver is on. But it pays off (in a literal sense – their recent crowdfunding campaign reached a total of £20 million in record-breaking time

Redefining pharma with digital transformation: GSK case study

GSK is slowly moving away from the traditional perception of pharma brands as profit-focused organisations. Instead, they’re trying out a different path – being more agile, more customer-centric, more meaningful. The ‘fail fast’ approach is still more applicable to the start-up world, with big organisations rarely having the capabilities to deliver fast changes and iterate based on the outcome. But GSK shows that even in traditional industries like pharma, market giants can learn from more nimble, more adaptable players. To mark their effort to become more agile and innovative, GSK has recently launched a brand incubator to take on direct-to-customer brands. Their latest Medzy chatbot, built to help patients take their antibiotics correctly as part of the fight against antibiotic resistance, is currently testing in Dubai and is just one example of leveraging digital to meet rising customer expectations. Earlier in 2017, they also created a cold and flu tracker for their brand Theraflu, using search, social and weather data to identify instances of cold and flu across Russia.

So, why is their approach to digital transformation working? Because they’re focusing on holistic change: redefining their business models to compete with direct-to-customer brands, making crucial changes to company culture to allow for a more agile way of working, upskilling employees through training programmes to ensure every single member is on board with (and capable of delivering) digital change, and – finally – changing the way they think about customers to deliver solutions that ‘empower people to take care of their health’ and address real consumer needs in the pharma and healthcare market.

What are the learnings here? GSK has approached digital transformation as a totality of all internal and external actions, not just one simple tech solution that doesn’t really consider customer needs. GSK have made it their mission to understand their audience  – they know customers want unbiased healthcare-related content that will empower them, and data-driven experiences to help them make more informed decisions. The company is working hard to deliver digital transformation that will change perceptions of pharma brands, striving to create meaningful connections directly with customers.

Whatever the industry, a new kind of organisation is emerging – one that has micro-knowledge of its customer behaviours and can react to change instantly. One that is data-led and customer experience-driven, flexible and able to iterate continually to optimise its organisation, processes, technology and business models. One that knows that if it stands still, it dies. Monzo and GSK are some of today’s winners, while 2018 saw a number of well-known businesses fall by the wayside. For everyone else, only time will tell which group they’re going to belong to in the next few years.

At BIO, we worked with a number of companies to help them succeed in the changing world. To discuss how we can help, drop us an email at or sign up to our newsletter to get a monthly dose of fresh digital insight. 

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