Digital Transformation Success Requires Baby Steps - Modern Distribution Management

Log In

Digital Transformation Success Requires Baby Steps

First, identify common failures that keep distributors from succeeding.

Today’s digital technologies have transformed consumer expectations, and distributors are under mounting pressure to adapt to these new demands. For example, websites optimized for mobile use and instantly available customer-support chatbots are now taken for granted as expected features. Many traditional businesses must go through digital transformation (DX) in order to compete effectively with digital-native brands that have mastered these and other e-commerce capabilities. 

Addressing the Failure Modes of Digital Transformation

Although DX is merely the adoption of digital technology to transform your business, it is a very challenging process in practice. More than 80% of DX initiatives fail to create lasting business transformation. 

So, how can you ensure your distribution company falls into the 20% who achieve long-term success? First, we must identify some of the most common failure modes of DX and address each and every one of them. In a presentation at MDM’s upcoming Digital Distributor Summit, I will provide a dependency analysis that reveals insights into how to address these failure modes and in what order.

Reverse Engineering a Successful Digital Strategy

Second, we have to understand why every business must transform itself digitally now. The defensive argument is simply to remain competitive in the market and survive. However, an offensive perspective here could provide greater insights, because it forces companies to think strategically about customers. And this will reveal the end state of DX, which is digital re-invention of the business. This very challenging, but by visualizing what the final stage of DX might look like, we can then reverse engineer that desired outcome. And I will provide a framework to do so, using what is known as the 4-gears model

The de facto norm of traditional business is a 2-gear model based on acquiringcustomers and then monetizingthem. In this digital age, as customers have shorter and shorter attention spans and quickly shift focus in the digital world, the need for the 4-gear model evolved. Proposed by Geoffrey Moore in his book, “Crossing the Chasm,” this model adds engagement to build and strengthen customer relationships, and enlistment to recruit the customer to advocate or market on your behalf.

The 4-gears model reveals the organization behavioral challenge of DX and explains why so many DX initiatives don’t last. However, it also reveals an approach that enables distributors to maximize their chances of success by taking baby steps toward the final state of DX.

A Business Imperative

Successful DX must go beyond the initial adoption of digital technology to change the process, people and culture of the entire company. 

In my Digital Distributor Summit presentation, I’ll discuss why DX is a business imperative today, the risks of not transforming your business and how can DX help you compete more effectively. Using the 4-gears model as a framework, I will help you visualize the final state of DX so that you never lose sight of the destination. This is an important step, because instituting DX is a multi-year journey.

I’ll also address the question of “Why change now?” by examining many other technology-driven business transformations in history. This is very hard, especially for large enterprises. But I’ll share an example of a customer-centric digital strategy that paves ways for long-term DX success. And, you’ll leave knowing how to apply behavioral economics to increase the success rate of your DX. 

I hope to see you in Denver. For more information on my session, “Digital Transformation Success – One Baby Step at a Time,” taking place at 9 a.m. on June 19, visit

Related Posts

Share this article

About the Author
Recommended Reading
Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Sign Up for the MDM Update Newsletter

The MDM update newsletter is your best source for news and trends in the wholesale distribution industry.

Get the MDM Update Newsletter

Wholesale distribution news and trends delivered right to your inbox.

Sign-up for our free newsletter and get:

  • Up-to-date news in a quick-to-read format
  • Free access to webcasts, podcasts and live events
  • Exclusive whitepapers, research and reports
  • And more!


articles left

Want more Premium content from MDM?

Subscribe today and get:

  • New issues twice each month
  • Unlimited access to, including 10+ years of archived data
  • Current trends analysis, market data and economic updates
  • Discounts on select store products and events

Subscribe to continue reading

MDM Premium Subscribers get:

  • Unlimited access to
  • 1 year digital subscription, with new issues twice a month
  • Trends analysis, market data and quarterly economic updates
  • Deals on select store products and events



You have one free article remaining

Subscribe to MDM Premium to get unlimited access. Your subscription includes:

  • Two new issues a month
  • Access to 10+ years of archived data on
  • Quarterly economic updates, trends analysis and market data
  • Store and event discounts

To continue reading, you must be an MDM Premium subscriber.

Join other distribution executives who use MDM Premium to optimize their business. Our insights and analysis help you enter the right new markets, turbocharge your sales and marketing efforts, identify business partners that help you scale, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Register for full access

By providing your email, you agree to receive announcements from us and our partners for our newsletter, events, surveys, and partner resources per MDM Terms & Conditions. You can withdraw consent at any time.

Learn More about Custom Reports

Request a Market Prospector Demo

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.