Making inroads into digital transformation with Scania: Insights from the Adobe Summit EMEA

In 2015, Swedish manufacturer Scania decided to overhaul their digital capabilities. Two years on, their Head of Online Erica Zandelin reveals the benefits and challenges of digital transformation, and provides some useful advice for brands in the same position.

As the past decade has shown, when it comes to digital disruption, no industry is safe.

“The auto industry is poised for more change in the next five to ten years than it’s seen in the past 50″ – Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

The ‘connected car‘ remains a furnace-hot topic for traditional manufacturers looking to appeal to today’s digitally native consumers. But digital ways of working are revolutionizing more than just products – they’re changing the way companies operate, too.

Scania is one those companies. A household name in the auto industry, they’ve been around for over 100 years. With a presence in markets all over the world, Scania manufacture everything from long-haul trucks to tractors and fire engines.

But despite their excellent reputation, until very recently their digital capabilities simply weren’t up to scratch – as Erica Zandelin, Head of Online Governance & Solutions at Scania, revealed in a talk at the Adobe Summit EMEA:

“We asked ourselves…what can our customers do online? Can they compare our products and prices? No. Can they buy a Scania mug? Yes. Something was wrong here…we were not operating in the digital age.”

Scania decided that drastic change was needed. So in 2015, they committed to a complete overhaul of their digital capabilities – in time for a major product launch (the ‘Next Generation Scania’) the following year.

How does did Scania prepare for digital transformation, and what insights could they give to brands thinking of doing the same thing?

Understand your audience

Outlining the process chronologically, Zandelin explained that the first step in their journey was to understand exactly what their customers wanted from them online. Extensive surveys, interviews and market research revealed that a truck configurator had the highest demand, and was the largest point of differentiation between their website and their competitors’.

This insight formed a core part of the new design, and in 2016 the new site was launched with a state-of-the-art truck configurator in 17 different regions. Zandelin says that today the tool garners over 500 configurations a day which, she says, ‘helps [to] connect the dots between sales and marketing’.

The interactive tool is particularly useful for social media promotion, helping to drive Scania’s audience to their website and turn them into leads.

Have a digitally mature team

“Digital transformation is not just about tech… It’s about people”, says Zandelin.

She emphasized the critical importance of having digital talent across all functions of the business. From Scania’s HQ where new strategies were developed, to the communicators and web editors that managed the regional sites, to the IT team that handled implementation.

But in order to make digital transformation a success, Scania needed a cultural shift too. Mark O’Donoghue, COO of digital learning provider AVADO, spoke on this topic earlier this year:

“There used to be a big trend in hiring CDOs and Chief Digital Directors. But where you create siloed functions – ‘that’s where we do digital’ – that’s kind of missing the point. There may be functional areas of tech that need specialist teams, but if you keep it over in the corner, it never becomes something owned by the organization.”

For Scania, buy-in from senior management – both financially and ideologically – was key to success. Luckily, the strong deadline of a product launch provided a clear sense of purpose for the different teams to rally behind.

Use the right tools and technology

It’s still early days for Scania’s new digital capabilities, so their tech stack remains fragmented: “One size doesn’t fit all… but ideally we’d have one tool that could support everything”.

Their tech teams still use Google Analytics and a collection of tools to handle email marketing, marketing automation, and social listening. But with personalization and targeting a growing trend for ecommerce, the need for a more advanced and better integrated suite of tools is becoming increasingly apparent.

Zandelin provided some insight into the challenges associated with the relaunch. Content generation, for example, started a full year in advance of the go-live date, with teams working on content for the website and social media, as well as for a live, multi-channel webcast of the launch event in Paris.

“I really think you need a skilled agency to help out,” Zandelin concluded.

Measurement and analysis was another area of focus, with Zandelin emphasizing the importance of letting digital capabilities co-operate with each other – including CRM data, website data, social media, and paid search.

Going forward

Improving digital capabilities allows brands like Scania to access a wealth of data that wasn’t previously available – from analytics on their global and regional websites, to online campaigns that can be managed centrally before being pushed locally, to improved visitor feedback.

But as with any large organizational shift, it takes time – as Zandelin says, “We’re right at the start of the journey”.

A data-driven approach is the name of the game going forward, she says. Gathering data to generate insights and testing; scaling if it works, taking a step back if it doesn’t.

Rounding off her talk, Zandelin returned to the importance of the ‘why’: communicating a clear purpose that your organizations can get behind when driving change.

Related reading