Getting a grip on “Digital”

01/06/2017

Remember when Amazon first became important? Ecommerce was heralded as the final nail in the coffin for the high street, and while it’s still early days, the high street is still there! In fact, we are even starting to see newer emerging trends such as increasing demand for independent, boutique manufacturers and retailers both online and on the high street and those that are doing well are mastering both environments.

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Every pillar of your business, whether it is HR, Logistics, Customer Service, Research & Development, Product, Manufacturing, Retail experience or Marketing should be absolutely focussed on the customer – that’s just very basic business logic. Well if the customer is increasingly valuing things like real-time personalised communications with your brand, same day delivery, augmented brand experiences in the real world, then an entire business infrastructure needs to be built on digital technology, platforms and processes to ultimately deliver for the customer.

Disruption is nothing new

Failure to get a grip on digital within your own business can lead to disruption. Disruption is a word we throw around a lot these days, that is in and of itself completely meaningless (although it sounds impressive), but nevertheless the threat remains entirely the same. Businesses have been ‘disrupting’ markets for years, simply by coming along and being better than everyone else that was there before them.

The only thing that has changed is the pace at which this is now possible. Established businesses and start-ups alike both have the market conditions and access to the technology that enables them to innovate relentlessly to outpace the competition and take market share, or establish previously unconceived products that leave others completely irrelevant.

“Disruption = Meeting Expectations”

Put simply, disruption is achieved by meeting customer expectations, which as we have already established are on what is seemingly an exponential upwards curve. It’s all about knowing what your customers want and delivering it by whatever means possible.

Despite this, many legacy businesses are still struggling to re-imagine and restructure themselves for the age of the internet which as an issue in itself perfectly frames the broader challenge.

The rest of the world has already moved on to Mobile. Silicon valley VCs will no longer back a business model that isn’t mobile native, and with Sundar Pichai announcing at Google’s I/O conference in May that Google were already moving from a mobile-first business to an AI-first business, the wind has changed yet again with the potential for all sorts of devices, interfaces and systems set to dominate how we do things in years to come.

An entirely new type of consumer has emerged

The digital revolution has enabled people to be Hyper Connected and Hyper Informed, which in turn has left them Hyper Empowered. The smartphone has been a complete game changer, giving connection to networks and information anytime, anywhere. This means an entirely new type of marketplace where customers can seamlessly navigate between the analogue and digital worlds.

The expectations of the Hyper Empowered consumer have been amplified many times over as brands who are most effectively harnessing digital technology and data to improve their products, services and experiences show them what is possible.

Failure to deliver on these expectations means your customer can simply pick up their phone, search for something new, validate it via their social networks and be ordering from your competitors before they have even walked out of your door.

Success starts with customers

In planning for the future, it is hugely important to know where to start. Too often we are guilty of observing what is possible and trying to replicate it too quickly without having the right infrastructure in place to support it and do it properly. How often have you been to a conference, event, or read a blog and discovered the next big thing that will transform how we drive our business forward (think Augmented Reality, Virtual Personal Assistants, Chat Bots etc.).

Yes, these things have the potential to be transformational, but as tactics in and of themselves, it is the platforms they are built on that are all important.

There is one universal truth that prevails throughout all this noise and technological advancement and that is the success begins with understanding your customers. Without that basic understanding the rest is a complete irrelevance.

If you can understand your customers, then you can build data to record every interaction they have with your brand and if you can do this, then the technology to plug that data into multiple customer-facing channels and platforms is only a bit of development away. Then if you can do all of that, you have built yourself the platform on which you can deliver business performance.

For more key trends and insights to shape your own digital thinking you can access the Future Focus handbook from the event itself online.

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