One of the most common questions I received regarding my book, "Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation" was about the base framework a company should have in order to succeed in digital business.
First, you may think it depends on the size of the organization, however, the truth is that the basic digital offering looks very similar if the company has 50 or 5,000 employees. We meet companies that have websites, apps, social presence, and a digital marketing program, but not many that have automation, personalization, or even multi-channel experiences. The basics today are maybe not that basic anymore after all.
To succeed in digital business there are more things you need than just your digital channels.
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The first step as always is to clearly define what you want to achieve. These are not your digital goals, but your overall business objectives. We no longer think of digital business as a discipline but as a native component of everyday life. Do you want to increase revenue, become more efficient, or create brand awareness? Everything in your organization will have to contribute to your objectives and you need to be able to measure their direct impact in order to prove ROI.
Resources are another key element to creating a successful digital strategy implementation. Do you have the skills today to create, maintain, and measure your digital strategy? Do you have the right partners to help you accomplish your goals? Do you have the funding and internal support to accomplish your tasks? All these questions need to be answered with a clear "yes" in order to succeed.
If you have your objectives straight and your resources secured it’s time to evaluate your digital channels and make sure that they are contributing to your goals.
So, which channels should you focus on?
One way to look at it is through the famous digital maturity model, which describes the stages of maturity a business can have across their digital offering.
A basic offering such as a website, social media channels, paid search, and email list would be what any company has today. The term "basic" doesn’t qualify the complexity of each of these elements. You could still have an amazing website or the most engaging social presence. This suggests that just because you have a basic offering it doesn't mean you have to move to the next phase in order to improve your digital offering. You may as well spend more time and effort on your basic offering to make it perform better. Remember, the availability of resources is key.
The tactical stage of the digital maturity model describes how to more effectively utilize your existing digital offering. For example, you may consider segmenting your customer database and creating more tailored communication for each segment. What different customer types do you have? Maybe you have not only customers but partners, employees, and suppliers with whom you interact online?
In this stage, you would also start focusing on owning your media channels rather than only paying for them. Organic search and SEO would be something you’d start focusing on more and more. What is important to remember is that by adding these capabilities you will have to ramp up on resources as you will need more skills, time, and effort to maintain your existing basic offering as well as your new tactical initiatives. Of course, this applies at all times when you move from stage to stage.
The optimization phase is when you’d be focusing on integrating your digital channels. While your website, social media, SEO, and marketing may have been running in their own silos at this stage, the integration of these channels mainly means to share and exchange data between each seamlessly. How can you remarket to your website visitors on your social channels? How can you track your customers across your mobile application, social channels, or the web? Based on this data, you can become more sophisticated with your segmentation tactics and implement rule-based personalization as an example. Further, we should not forget about taking more of our services online, and if you haven’t done so already, then any form of potential e-commerce integration or exposing business services online should happen at this stage naturally.
In order to optimize the effort and resources required, but also in order to improve the overall customer experience and of course conversion rates, the next phase is focusing on automation. This means that you will trigger dialog automatically based on user interaction. Imagine one of your existing customers is visiting your website after three months. Automation would trigger email workflows or personalize the experience for this particular customer in order to take away manual reporting and follow ups.
The goal is to push more customers down your purchase funnel in order to increase conversion rates and sales. Due to the amount of available data during this stage, predictive personalization becomes a viable solution to improve your digital experience overall.
The final stage is to integrate the offline and online world and to have a single view of the customer across all channels to create truly personalized, one-to-one engagement. This means no matter which digital channel I interact with I will have a fully tailored experience, and not only this—each channel will know my interaction with any other channels. I can seamlessly move from social channels to the web to mobile and continue my journey.
So, where do you start?
While it depends on where you stand in your digital journey, the most important part is to evaluate your existing digital offering. It’s never about just creating new initiatives or re-working your existing assets, but it’s about continuously improving your existing offering. Therefore, companies need to learn how to naturally improve and iterate their digital offering. A culture of innovation is required to accomplish this and the resources, as mentioned, need to be available, trained, and secured.
Another important aspect of digital success is to always include the customer journey in your efforts. A good understanding of how customers interact with your brand will reveal potential opportunities on how to improve your digital offering. Where in the customer journey do you have gaps that you could improve through digital solutions? How can you make your customers' lives easier?
Your digital offering doesn’t mean you get to neglect quality or contributions this offering adds to your overall objectives. Improving digital maturity requires more attention toward the resources and processes we implement rather than the technologies and tools themselves. We have all the technology we need today; what we need is new ways of increasing the efficiency of how we roll out and continuously improve digital business as a whole.
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