Storytel is one of the world’s largest audiobook and ebook streaming services and offers more than 1 million titles on a global scale. As interim CMO, Cecilia Kroon has been at the forefront of the company’s digital transformation journey.
I've always been a reader. But since I’ve had kids it’s been harder to make time for it. Audiobooks are a solution for me as they allow me to listen here and there while going for a quick run, clearing the table, or commuting to work. It’s really helped me bring more stories into my life.
And that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve at Storytel; making the world a more empathetic and creative place by offering our customers the right story at the right time. Digital transformation has been fundamental to this mission as it helps us better understand our customers' expectations and needs.
When we first took the digital marketing maturity assessment by Google and Boston Consulting Group a few years ago, we thought that, as a tech company, we’d naturally perform well.
However, the rapid expansion of our business had made it more challenging for us to build an organisation that was truly digitally mature. Once we realised that, we knew we had to make some significant changes if we wanted to keep our competitive advantage.
What followed was a long process, but the various steps we took to transform both our organisational and technology setups have helped us future-proof our business and increase paid subscriptions by 100% over three years.
Here are three key lessons we learnt along the way.
1. Start by involving the right people
Before we started, one challenge we faced was that there wasn’t enough alignment between our local markets. This translated into different strategies and ways of working, and meant that learnings didn’t sufficiently travel across markets.
To solve that, the first step we took was to appoint one measurement owner for the whole region. This was key to making sure the whole organisation was striving towards the same objectives.
We were also lucky that when we started in 2019, our CCO and CEO were on board with our plans almost immediately. They understood how digital maturity could help the company grow and really helped us prioritise it. As soon as you have leadership on your side, it becomes much easier to drive change across different layers of an organisation.
We’d have regular meetings with our CEO and CCO to discuss the progress of our journey and identify where we needed help. This investment often meant people were excited to be part of it, which proved invaluable whenever we needed resources from other teams.
2. Transformation is step by step
I had to learn the hard way that digital transformation takes time. I was so eager at the beginning that I really wanted to speed up the process, but that’s just not how it works. You have to take it step by step – and once you’re on the trajectory, you can see the benefits starting to unfold.
Google’s Digital Maturity Benchmark centres on a framework called the five A’s: analytics, assets, audience, access, and automation. And you really need to be on top of all of them for optimal results. You can have the best technology setup, but if you don’t pay equal attention to your organisational structure then you’re still lagging behind.
Doing the assessment helped us understand in which areas we were doing well and where we needed to improve. We learnt we needed to work on our organisational structure and analytics, and that provided us with a clear roadmap of next steps to take. If we hadn’t cracked that first we’d never have been able to get to the level of digital maturity we’ve reached today.
3. Clear goals spark motivation
I won’t be the first to say that having cross-functional KPIs is the way to drive organisational change. But actually knowing what they should be can be a challenge.
At Storytel, the Digital Maturity Benchmark quickly became that focus point; we take the assessment twice a year, and each time we want to make sure we progress and improve. It’s rewarding for our teams to see that their hard work is paying off, and proof that we’re on the right track as an organisation.
Ultimately, our new setup helped us future-proof our digital marketing as it’s now much more focused on driving profitable growth. And that’s the route we’ll continue to go down, with more advanced dynamic creatives and lifetime value modelling next up on the agenda.
Breaking down digital transformation into bite-sized steps and sessions has mirrored my own approach to audiobooks. And just like a good read, it has broadened our minds and fuelled our imaginations.