5 ways digital will enhance your business

OPINION / 10th October 2018

Adopting a digital approach is not about buying new technology and plugging it into your existing mode of work and crossing fingers it will make your business efficient or will make you more money. It’s about using technology smartly to discover new ways of working, of interacting with your customers in innovative ways and pioneering new products and services to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

For some businesses, digital may completely change their value proposition. A good example of this is in the US. The Weather Company, which used to be a media company that broadcast weather forecasts on the radio, television or via its app, realised it was sitting on a vast and valuable source of data that had a commercial use. Instead of making money through selling adverts it started to sell its data to commerce and industry – to farmers, retailers and even food companies, who now use the information to gain a competitive edge (i.e. in the crudest sense, if an unexpected rainstorm is predicted mid-summer, retailers privy to the data can stock up on umbrellas – demonstrating to customers that they are responding to their needs at the right time, in the right place).

For other companies, digital can streamline and speed up antiquated ways of working and trading. We have seen this happen in the banking world, where investors can now buy and sell shares at a click of a button without the need for instructing a broker to do it for them. In other sectors, we are working with clients to help them introduce digital to improve their customer journey, increase retention or drive down costs.

One of our clients, Moat, a Housing Association, is adopting digital technology to move away from its paper-based legacy systems. Just one example of how this will happen can be found in its letting process. Currently, it is a manual and paper-based system processed at a physical office. We are working with Moat to turn this into a digital process from start to finish. From next year its rental customers will fill in application forms, organise appointments, finalise tenancy agreements, receive welcome packs and make their first payment online.

So, for those hoping that the digital revolution will go away, or those who think it won’t be relevant to them, these businesses will fall by the wayside along with former giants Blockbusters, Kodak and Nokia, because today and in the future, every successful business will be a digital business.

If you are still skeptical, take a look at these five ways how digital will enhance your business:

It will help you to get to know your customers

Your website, your app, your social channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) give off signals (data) as to who your customers are. Watch, listen and analyse what they do when they are on your platform, or third party sites. A quick look at Google Analytics (which is free to access) can tell you a lot about who your customers are, how long they stay on site, what they look at when they are there and whether they click to buy/sign up for more information. You can even find out what search term led them to your site. Social media sites will allow you to access data on a freemium model, so at a high-level, you can still see your engagement stats (for free, you have to pay for more indepth data insights). The fashion store Burberry has added a digital layer to its high street stores. It says that walking through its doors is like walking into its website – it  knows who its customers are, what their interests are, what they’ve bought before, so that they can tailor and highly personalise the shopping experience for them.

It will help you understand how customers want to interact with you

Mobile is in many cases now the primary device for people to access the internet on. This has changed the nature of communications. Three years ago Ofcom said the main communication channels adults used were the phone, email and social. Now, hardly anyone uses email, it’s all about messaging apps (WhatsApp), ethereal messaging (SnapChat) and sharing photos (Instagram). These are increasingly primary channels to reach your customers on; if you are not there, you are missing out on the chance to engage with your prospects.

It will enhance your productivity and efficiency

McKinsey estimates that 49% of activities that people are paid to do in the global economy have the potential to be automated. This should not be something to be frightened of, but rather see it as a way of enhancing productivity and freeing up labour for more skilled tasks. IoT and AI are just two of the technologies that will revolutionise the workplace in the next five years. Chatbots, biotech, voice recognition are some of the ways automation can improve productivity in your business.

It will help you to gather and analyse data

The digital world lives on data – without it, it does not work. So, it’s really important to know the data you have, the data you haven’t, and the public data you can have access to. It has been said that without data, you’re just another person with an opinion. Data allows businesses and business functions to be productive in a way we have never been before. A good example of using data effectively comes from the city government in the city of New York. In one of many cost cutting initiatives over the years, the city government cut back on tree pruning in its parks. Yet, on closer inspection of its data sets, the chief finance officer discovered that from the moment they cut back on tree pruning there was a spike in lawsuits related to tree limbs falling on people in New York City parks. One payout to a victim cost more than 3 years worth of tree pruning costs!

It will help you to understand your market and your competitors better

There’s a fundamental change going on in the world right now largely driven by the move from products to services, from ownership to access. People have become a lot less bothered about accumulating more products, and are much more concerned about being provided with experiences. You can see this with Spotify for music, Netflix for film, Uber for cars, Airbnb for hotels, WeWork for offices. It’s about using digital to access a service. Really important to note is that all those platforms are brands. And the brand is built around the user experience they deliver. Everything they do is driven by how good a user experience they are delivering. Your brand is your value. Value proposition – that a job that your customer can do – what is causing them pain – what would make their life easier  - what product are you trying to see – how far does this go to relieving your customer’s pain – how well does it give them what they need? What tech can you add to what service, to make it 10x better.

Neil Clayton Neil Clayton Head of Sales & Marketing Neil Clayton