The Three C's of Digital Transformation Explained


Digital Transformation is everywhere, but few people know what it is, let alone why it’s good and how to achieve it. 

This whitepaper produced by Acquia and Digital Clarity Group describes digital transformation as a manifestation of disruption. Netflix toppled an entire industry (sorry, Blockbuster). Likewise, mobile banking apps have changed the banking experience from an in-person one that is annoyingly closed on President’s Day to an open-anytime-and-anywhere one.

In other words, digital transformation is about change. But change for change’s sake doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Change for the better means a game-changing improvement that redefines what normal is. But to do that and make it stick, there are some must haves. Consumers are smarter and expect more than ever. That’s where the Three C’s come in, as defined by the Digital Clarity Group.


As in design, everything is in the details. Anyone can build a house, make a suit, or create an app, but the details are what separates run-of-the-mill products to loyalty-generating experiences. 

Consistency is what ties an experience together. It makes us feel comfortable and in control—we know what to expect. But it also provides the context for surprising moments we might not expect. This is where brands truly come to life through digital. It’s not the logo or the ad that customers experience, it’s clicking the lost password link. It’s reading the subject of your onboarding email. It is the seamless transition between marketing and e-commerce to product and support.

Case in point, I’m a big movie buff. I love my local Alamo Drafthouse. It’s a movie theater that prides itself on kicking out noisy jerks and making it easy to show up, have a beer and enjoy a show. No ticket lines, no saving seats, no annoying in-theater ads. 

The Alamo’s ”you-focused” experience extends online. When I go to the site or the mobile app, I am able to pick the exact seat I want. I can use the app to scan my tickets at the theater, or just bring my card. I get emails about classic movies from the 80s and cool promotions. The only lines are for the bar, which I’m ok with. The web can’t solve everything. 

The point is that the experience is consistent between the digital properties and the in-theater experience. The Alamo’s “A” logo doesn’t mean anything, really. But what I associate with it is a consistently awesome experience. Seriously, if you have one near you, go there.


Coherency of experience is really about common sense and avoiding irritating things that don’t help a user. People expect things to follow a pattern and be predictable. Users want to know that if they leave halfway through, their progress is saved and that if they make a small mistake, they can go back and change it. That’s the way humans think about things. The amazing thing is, so often human creations like websites and products lack this basic characteristic. 

The classic example is the robot phone support system. You know, the one that asks you for your 16-digit account number, then your 9-digit social security number, then your birthday, only to spit you out to a customer service rep that asks you all the same information again. Didn’t the robot just ask me that? Don’t you have that on your screen? Arg!

In the digital world, lack of coherency often manifests itself in the gathering of input. Turbotax is the prime example of this. Their entire business revolves around coherency. How many times do you log in and out every year as you collect documents and painstakingly work through the nightmare that is doing taxes? But in the midst of that horror, Turbotax shines. The product not only keeps your place, but it anticipates your problems. It uses a small amount of input (basic questions) to make recommendations later, and always double checks your work.

Very coherent experiences are dangerous to competitors within a market. They make all others seem nonsensical and downright crappy by comparison. That’s why coherency is such an important part of digital transformation.


Everyone is talking about contextual these days. Personalization is here and there’s more to come as more and more of our behaviors become codified, quantifiable and actionable. Is it creepy? Kinda. But similar to the robot phone example above, context is really about making some guesses about you to make whatever you’re trying to do a little easier, or a little more relevant. 

For a long time, and still very much today, a lack of context is what make everything on the web so...busy. There’s stuff everywhere to look at. Stories you don’t care about, ads about things you don’t want, products you’d never use. A whole profession (information architecture) evolved as a way to organize all the stuff you probably don’t care about in a logical way so you can hopefully find what you are looking for. What if you didn’t have to find anything? What if the right stuff simply came to you? 

Google is the king of context and continues to build their entire empire around the idea. Google Maps knows where you work and when you typically leave and lets you know what the traffic is like. Your email self-sorts based on aggregate data and your personal habits. Search results cater to your location and profile when logged in to your Google account. 

Make no mistake, context, in Google’s case, is absolutely tied to profit. The more personalized an ad, the more likely you are to click, it’s that simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also good for the user. Time is precious. Attention spans even more so. If Google wants to data mine my emails to filter junk I don’t need to read, have at it. Or narrow restaurant results to what’s open now with driving distance based on my phone’s GPS, all the better.

Privacy aside, users are expecting more and more contextual experience that put them in the driver's seat for more convenience, relevance and control.

Wrap Up

The Three C’s of digital transformation, as Digital Clarity Group states them, are not rocket science. They are the aspects of any product or service we’d cite when raving to a friend about a recommendation. The larger point is that digital transformation is happening now and everywhere. The standard for customer experience keeps rising and the ones who adapt are going survive.

As for the rest...well, ask Blockbuster.