Many businesses were moving towards digital transformation but this transformation has been sped up by the Covid pandemic. Worth some $469.8 billion in 2020, the market is expected to grow to $1,009.8 billion by 2025. That means many organisations are looking closely at what their digital strategy is or are moving to develop one.
As technology has made rapid advances in recent years, a digital strategy has become more important to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Digitalisation can change every area of your business, from customer service and marketing through to HR and manufacturing.
Digitalization has further increased the globalization of the workforce. Organisations that don’t have a digital business strategy, or have one in its infancy, need to move quickly to ensure they keep up with their competitors.
What is a digital strategy
A digital strategy uses specific digital initiatives to help achieve certain objectives. A business can apply a digital strategy to any and all areas of their company, from enterprise level that can include customer intelligence (CI), optimising sales and service, to customer-facing areas such as websites, social media, and apps.
One thing of importance to note is that digital strategy differs from IT strategy. It’s not so much about what you use as how you use it. While you may already have added things such as mobile apps, a hosted PBX system, analytical tools, or improved websites, to what extent have you changed your strategy to embrace those additions?
As consumer expectations rapidly change, so must the way you develop your digital tactics to meet them. That means knowing what expectations your customers have and seeing how you can implement – or adjust – digital strategy so they are met efficiently.
If you have already embarked on a digital strategy, then you have existing data on how well it has been working. That’s not to say you should just replicate previous strategy as there may have been developments you can integrate to improve it. You can think of your situation as coming to a fork in the digital highway.
In one direction lies the decision of replicating your current strategy to include any new processes and functions. This is what your IT strategy did as it introduced automation and integration across various functions such as CRM (customer relationship management), mobile call recording, supply chain and inventory management, and so on.
In the other direction lies a complete transformation of your strategy and your business. While many businesses did consider this, it got lost in the confusion of where IT strategies should end and digital ones begin. Overcoming these roadblocks and moving forward is essential to making your digital strategy work. It’s an area where a SAP integration platform can be of great use.
Why do you need a digital strategy?
While some may see adopting a digital strategy as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, in this case those neighbours are your business competitors. Having a good digital strategy unifies your online and offline approaches and ensures that they are consistent, both with your objectives and with customer expectations.
It also lets you bring together all your different channels under one coherent objective. That means you can plan all channel activity and identify points where channels intersect. In turn, you can see where channels supplement or complement each other and plan marketing activities (for example) to work within that roadmap.
A good digital strategy can make your business more efficient and reduce opportunities lost, which can happen when you don’t have a clear overview of how your channels overlap.
Whether for website traffic or Instagram growth, it can also help you to identify previous successes through better data analytics so you can make informed decisions about any future changes. When you have clearly defined objectives, coupled with the right data collection and analysis tools, then you can better judge the success of campaigns through clearly set-out benchmarks and KPIs.
Why a digital strategy is important to a modern business
The digital transformation has been swifter than expected in recent years, something that has left many businesses lagging behind. It’s gone from being a minor consideration to being a company priority. This is true for a wide range of businesses from ecommerce giants to relatively small manufacturing organisations.
It is now more important than ever before that organisations recognise the importance of digital strategies. In fact, according to statistics, digitally transformed organisations are likely to contribute around $53.3 trillion to the global GDP by 2023, which is more than half of the estimated total. 70% of businesses have some sort of plan to digitally transform their business or are working to formulate one.
Developing your digital strategy
It’s one thing to know your organisation needs a digital strategy but another thing altogether to actually implement one. If you’re completely new to the idea of a digital strategy, here are five steps to consider:
1. Planning and assessing
There’s little point in planning a journey if you don’t know where you want to go. That means your first step should be identifying what it is you want to achieve. That can include identifying consumer expectations, as well as different demographic groups, their locations, and the value they bring. There are five main factors you should think about at this stage:
- Your presence; how wide is your brand’s social footprint and awareness?
- Your influence; what messages do you want to adopt and present?
- Your perception; how do your customers perceive you?
- Your reach; how many people are discussing your brand online?
- Your resonance; how do people react to conversations about your organisation?
Once you have completed this stage, you can segment your customers according to age, location, average spend, or which channels they prefer to use. This allows your marketing teams to identify what motivates your customers in an omnichannel world and adjust tactics accordingly.
2. Create then launch
Once you have some idea of how your customers think, how they prefer to interact with you, and what they want to hear, you can create a strategy and formulate the message you want to convey. Before you do, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I want my message or story to say to my target demographics?
- Why will my customers care about this story?
- Will the message or story I create invoke positive emotional responses?
- Does my story connect to the customers’ emotional needs?
- Is my story likely to lead to positive actions in regards to my business or brand?
By developing a message that answers those questions you can use social channels to convey the benefits of your products or services. These narratives are the engines that drive your interactions with customers.
3. Choosing the right platforms
While you are in the creation phase, you need to decide which tech and which platforms will best suit your overall strategy. With platforms, your decisions may well be based on their age and lifestyle as well as the type of business you run.
For example, let’s say you sell a multi-line phone system for small businesses. From your earlier investigations, you may decide that platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube may reach your target audience. You can then choose to utilise those platforms as your primary ones, though that doesn’t mean others are excluded. Six main questions can help with this decision:
- Where do your customers look for the products and services you offer?
- Are there particular social platforms they use?
- Should you launch your own branded blog?
- What is the purpose of those social platforms as well as the tech you use?
- Do those mediums integrate well with your mobile strategy?
- How do you stand out from your competitors?
- Should you adopt a freemium strategy?
4. Engaging with and cultivating customers
Once you start your strategy, you need to ensure that your message and presence is consistent. Consistency makes it easier to track any KPIs you set in the development phase. Some ways to maintain consistency include:
- Create a timeline that shows your different efforts across various platforms. This can help you identify benchmarks.
- Ensure your brand’s story is the same across all channels utilised to help with brand awareness.
It also pays to remember that some channels are outside your direct control. That means you should track anything related to your brand or products when discussed by influencers or bloggers. They can be essential components in your digital strategy and your interactions with them can help you find success.
You may not meet all your goals in round one. This is why evaluation is so important. Ideally, you want to build a feedback loop where you analyse all your data to move towards meeting your goals. This is where KPIs and other metrics come into their own as they highlight what parts of your campaigns and strategy work and what don’t.
However, you should not just be monitoring internal data but what people are saying about you on social platforms. That can include everything from reviews – which you can also use as marketing material – to comments made on yours and others’ posts. Ongoing evaluation means that, over time, you can improve different aspects of your strategy.
Technology and digitalisation can be of enormous benefit to your organisation. From localisation quality assurance to inventory management systems, you can streamline workflows as well as improving productivity and efficiency. It is unlikely that there is any business out there that would not benefit from some form of digital strategy.
Even something as simple as free eSignature software can improve your results and make things easier for you and your customers. Planning and assessing your needs, and those of your customers, is crucial to making any progress in today’s digitised marketplace. Without a solid digital strategy, you may never keep up with the Joneses.