Blog : customer experience

Introducing ‘Rapid Strategy’

Introducing ‘Rapid Strategy’

Strategic planning has a problem.

Digital has changed the way we do business, and the traditional approach of lengthy deliberation and maximum information is broken. Your strategy risks being obsolete before it’s finished.

Yet, the companies who succeed in this new digital environment continue to put strategy and insight at the heart of their business.

How, in the words of Tim Leberecht, do we run fast and go deep at the same time?

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been exploring methods for ‘speeding up’ the strategic planning and delivery process for digital.

Rapid Strategy is the result.

This process takes principles from agile, design thinking and innovation methodologies, and combines them with best practice strategic planning, where hard choices are made to achieve business goals.

Our approach understands what the architects of the Agile Manifesto talked about; to quote Jim Highsmith, “we plan, but recognise the limits of planning in a turbulent environment.”

The outcome is a faster, more responsive approach to developing and implementing digital programmes, without sacrificing insight or quality.

Here’s how Rapid Strategy works:

Rapid Strategy model

Rapid Strategy is effective for three primary reasons:

1. The minimum to get you moving

Strategic planning often begins with a lengthy discovery process. Here,  key facts and information are uncovered via in-depth audits or exhaustive periods of research.

Given the rapid evolution of customer behaviours and digital technologies, the first issue we wanted to address was: how do you get the industry, business and customer information you need, without taking months to get it?

The answer is: you don’t. You don’t try to get the full picture. Instead, decide “what is the minimum you need to know to move forward?”

This gets to the heart of good strategy – the ability to make hard choices and prioritise one area of focus over another.

If your organisation is stuck in a digital rut, or suffering paralysis by analysis, then by learning to work with incomplete information, you will be compelled to get out of the blocks and begin making progress.


“An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage”

— Jack Welch


2. Useful information, quickly

Imagine you’re a commander on a battlefield. You’ve prepared a strategy, and a set of tactics, that you believe have the best chance of defeating the enemy. You have one shot to get it right – success or failure, glory or defeat.

Now, imagine if you could test multiple different strategic ideas against the enemy, before committing your troops to the battlefield. Imagine if you could mount a series of guerilla raids that glean a mountain of useful insight, without great cost or sacrifice, and without revealing your position. What advantages might that provide when the time comes to say ‘Charge!’?

With Rapid Strategy, you can.

At the heart of our approach, is the use of quick, cheap and discreet experiments to test business assumptions.

Used this way, assumptions become powerful tools for business learning. When we ask the question, ‘what is the minimum we need to know to move forward?’, an assumption is often the starting point. Using this as our minimum, we can test and challenge it, to ensure we move forward with reliable information.


“Invest in experiments to quickly, cheaply and easily gain insight into solving problems and exploiting opportunities.”

– Michael Schrage, The Innovator’s Hypothesis

From these results, serious strategic decisions, and tactical refinements, can be made more quickly, and oftentimes with greater certainty, than using traditional methods.

3. Agile execution, bespoke teams

A strategy is not a strategy without a plan of action. Execution has always been critical to success, but as the line between strategy and tactics becomes increasingly blurred, this becomes even more true.

It is always more helpful to see a strategy in action, than to see it as a theory on the page. If agile talks about ‘working software’, we talk about ‘working strategy’.

Rapid Strategy advocates for this approach; short, rapid phases of execution, building on the stages before it, and accumulating to deliver a larger piece of work.

We deliver this via a partnership model, assembling and managing bespoke teams of trusted experts around your project. This ensures the appropriate fit and capability, in turn delivering optimal value.

We strongly believe that Rapid Strategy will deliver greater digital clarity, value and performance to your business. If these sound like results you would be interested in, please do contact us.

Will Instagram Tags Save Social E-commerce?

Will Instagram Tags Save Social E-commerce?

You may have heard the latest buzz surrounding the new Instagram feature, currently being tested by a select number of retailers. Shoppable product tags have been introduced by the social media site, to help brands transform their feeds into a retail space.

While all brands are currently able to promote their products via ads, this will offer a more natural shopping experience for users. The aim is to provide Instagram shoppers with a direct route to buying things, rather than having to go through descriptions and bio links, thus making the buying process far more efficient.

How does it work?

The feature is simple; brands tag the products featured in the image much the same way users can tag their friends. If an image has been tagged with specific products, it will include a label that instructs you to “tap to view products.”

Once you click on the picture, tags will appear, which can include the name of the product and the price. Clicking on an individual tag will bring up further information on the good and include the option to “shop now,” which will take you to the retailer’s website, allowing you to buy then and there. The feature has been designed to make the consumer experience seamless, minimizing redirections, so users can immediately buy something they like.   

Currently, a group of 20 US retailers including JackThreads, Kate Spade, and J.Crew is still testing the feature. Eventually, the idea is to start rolling it out across more countries, with carousel posts and video posts also in the pipelines. The company is also said to be considering a “save button,” which would allow users to save products they are interested in buying in a virtual shopping cart.

The failure of social commerce

Instagram is not the first social media site to try bringing shopping into the user experience. It’s easy to see the logic behind the decision to pursue e-commerce, after all, social media sites have massive audiences.

However, turning social engagement into sales is no easy feat. It simply doesn’t align with consumer behavior and how people want to buy. Many social sites are now accessed primarily through mobile, which has a notoriously poor rate of ecommerce effectiveness, converting at one-third to one-quarter the rate of desktop.

Twitter tried using a “buy button” for over a year, before abandoning the project for having a negligible impact on its earnings. Pinterest launched a buyable pins option, yet it is still unknown just how well the tool is performing with users.

Even Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has tried and failed with attempts at e-commerce products. Ventures include their online gift shop, Facebook Gifts, which was shut down after a couple of years back in 2014. Their attempt at a “buy button” also failed to catch on.

Learning from past experiences

So, how can Instagram learn from the past mistakes of others? So far, social commerce hasn’t managed to live up to its potential. Instagram hopes to change all that by making the process appear more natural. What sets them aside from some of the other platforms is that their users already use it as a tool to make purchasing decisions.

Instagram previously conducted a study, which found that 75% of users influenced by a post on the app take an action such as searching, visiting a site, or telling a friend. Furthermore, 60% say that they learn about products and services by using the platform. Instagram is highly visual and the ideal place for inspiration, discovery, and wasting time.

Many people use it for beauty, fashion, and food inspiration, so you can see how certain brands will be able to thrive in this environment. Many have already embraced the platform and managed to build a loyal number of followers who are primed to purchase. Removing the barrier imposed by the lack of links and “click the link in bio” solution, and introducing tags may be the best solution for this platform.

However, the platform is already facing pretty negative reactions to the news. Essentially, users are concerned that the feature will ruin the flow of the Instagram feed. Instagram is hoping that the approach is subtle enough so as not to turn users away, yet still compelling enough to drive sales. Think of it as an inspiring, scrollable version of a catalog. Only time will tell whether or not users will buy into this new feature.

Digital Strategy Success

Digital Strategy Success

You’ll find online a lot of articles about why digital strategies fail. If there is a major criticism to be levelled at the discipline of digital strategy, it’s that it often seems not to work.

The reasons for this are many and varied. The concept of ‘digital strategy’ is a broad one, and failure rates vary across the many sectors which camp under the ‘digital’ umbrella. For example, if you believe reports, up to 70% of IT strategies fail.

So, it’s valid to ask the question, ‘Why?’. If 70% of IT strategies fail, that’s a massive business cost, as these are not strategies that are typically failing fast, or failing cheap.

But rather than examine, yet again, the causes of failure, I’d like to talk about the symptoms of success. What do you need to do to ensure your digital strategy will be one of the success stories?

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every good strategy should be unique to the problems, challenges and culture of the business it’s designed to help.

There are, however, key principles you can follow that will make your chances of success that much greater. In our next two posts, we will highlight a number of these, helping to ensure your next digital strategy doesn’t become another failed statistic.

1. Drive it from the top

The #1 reason most digital strategies fail is a lack of advocacy from senior leaders within a business. The cause of this failure can be anything from not understanding the value of digital, to not understanding digital full stop, to a fear of doing things differently. Digital evangelists, both internal and external, can push all they like; but if the leaders don’t lead, in all likelihood, the strategy is going nowhere. This goes back to making it part of the business strategy – if the exec team has it in their plan, it’s far more likely to be given priority.

2. Make the ‘digital strategy’ part of the business strategy

I’ve written about this previously, but your digital strategy should not only be tied to the goals of the business, it should be fundamentally integrated into the business strategy. In fact, your business strategy should be digital-first.

We live in a digital world, and if the business strategy doesn’t reflect this reality, then the impact of a standalone digital strategy will be limited at best, particularly in larger businesses. An analysis of companies with highly effective digital strategies showed that 90 percent of top performers have fully integrated digital initiatives into their strategic-planning process.

3. No more silos

The flipside of the previous point – digital doesn’t exist in a vacuum in the real world, so why would it exist in a vacuum within a business? A silo-ed approach to digital leads to multiple BUs with multiple competing digital strategies, usually not aligned with the broader organisational strategy. This plays havoc with resource, capability, efficiency, consistency and the customer experience.

How can IT invest strategically in the right capability if each BU is competing for resource with the other? How can marketing effectively measure its digital activity if it doesn’t understand how it’s affecting business goals? How can the contact centre avoid channel clash if it doesn’t talk to marketing?

Delivering good digital requires  – buzzword alert! – ‘cross-functional collaboration’. Going back to our first point (see how these are all connected?), leadership is crucial to bringing groups together and breaking down long-established walls or conventions. Establish a Digital Steering Group to provide strategic guidance or a Centre of Excellence to provide leadership and best practice governance on digital initiatives. Establish visibility on digital across the business and make the right conversations happen.

4. Know thy customer

You hear a lot of talk about customer experience and with good reason – 86% of customers will pay more for a good experience. The bad news is your customer doesn’t just compare the experience you offer with your competitors, they compare it to every other business they transact with. Performing poorly in that comparison can hurt your brand, your revenue and your customer loyalty.

‘Human-centred design’, ‘customer first’, ‘customer centric’ – however you want to call it, the customer should be the focal point of your strategy. Investing in research to understand exactly what customers need, at key points in time, is one of the best investments a business can make. It’s not about your business becoming a mind-reader – it’s about understanding ‘moments of intent’, and knowing where points along the journey you should concentrate your efforts to add real value.

We’re only scratching the surface here, but there’s more to come. Stay tuned for Pt.2 soon…

 

NZ internet use: latest stats

NZ internet use: latest stats

Every two years, Auckland University of Technology and the World Internet Project (WIP) release their latest research on the internet behaviours of New Zealanders.

This month saw their latest update. Here is a breakdown of the key statistics:

  • 91% of New Zealanders are active internet users. 70% spend 2 hours or more per day online, with 58% spending 3 hours or more. 95% of all users browse the web and 85% visit social networks.
  • Laptops and mobile devices are the most popular devices for accessing the internet. According to the research, 75% obtained internet access using a laptop, while 74% used a mobile phone and 70% used a desktop computer.
  • Significant increases in online Government interactions demonstrate that both services and consumer behaviours are maturing. 52% of New Zealanders logged in to secure areas on Government or Council websites, and 55% paid taxes, fines or licences online in the past year.
  • Interestingly, more commercial internet activities such as online seeking of product information, buying, banking and paying bills are at similar levels to 2013. This may indicate a level of saturation, in which case organisations can begin to focus a little less on onboarding, and more on improving the experience.
  • The younger a person is, the greater their internet use. However, don’t think it’s just about the millennials – for those under 45 years of age, 90% rate the internet as an important or very important source of information.
  • Ethnically, results show Asian and New Zealand European internet users are more highly engaged in a range of activities, such as buying things online. Pasifika people, however, are more likely to look at religious sites and, along with Māori, lead the way in subscribing to online music services.
  • And our widespread use of the internet is unlikely to decrease anytime soon, according to eMarketer. New Zealand ranked fourth among all markets in the region in 2016, with more than 79% of New Zealand’s population currently online.nzinternet

What all these statistics demonstrate, is that, given the internet’s omnipresence, and our increasing level of reliance and comfort being online, having a clear digital strategy has never been more important.

You can view the full report here.

5 Digital Essentials For Your Business

5 Digital Essentials For Your Business

As digital matures, organisations must redefine how digital is incorporated, or even referred to, within the business.  With this in mind, here are five digital essentials to help your business make the most of digital in 2016:

    1. It’s not digital strategy. It’s business strategy for the digital age.
      The point has been reached where the ‘digital’ tag is essentially irrelevant e.g. ‘digital marketing’. Every business unit now has a digital component, every senior manager should have an understanding of digital and the role it plays. Now, that understanding is not present in all organisations, so the ‘digital’ tag persists. But your business strategy should reflect a world and an audience that is inherently digital – even if your business is not.
    2. Customer experience is a priority
      Regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C-focussed, customer experience should be a priority, if not the priority, for your business in 2016. It’s the basis on which many companies plan to compete, but more importantly, it’s the primary means by which customers will judge your business. Their demands are exacting and the challenges they present are many, but the rewards are more than worth it.
    3. Know thine audience
      Your customers leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs wherever they go. As such, it’s easier than ever to understand their needs, motivators and behaviours. Investing in this understanding is one of the keys to delivering a successful experience. It doesn’t have to mean granular persona development – even your website analytics will provide a raft of clues. But the best results are achieved through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research – talking to your audience then using broad data trends to confirm or negate the findings.
    4. Integration
      Further to point 1, digital silos should start to be dismantled. ‘Digital’ is not a standalone thing to be developed in isolation. In fact, better results are achieved when digital planning and execution are integrated with ‘traditional’ activities, each working in sync. This applies both to how departments are structured and how programmes are implemented.
    5. You don’t have to be right the first time
      The words ‘agile’ and ‘iterative’ are bandied around far too much these days, but what they essentially mean is that it’s ok to test and fail in the real world. You don’t have to attain perfection at the first go, you don’t have to be afraid of negative feedback (you do have to manage it though). As long as the process is transparent and responsive, you can learn a huge amount by simply testing and observing behaviour. Use the results to adjust your offering quickly and in small steps, eliminating the need for considerable upfront investment and a few sleepless nights.

What are your thoughts on the key digital issues that will affect business this year?

 

Why Customer Experience Is Your 2016 Priority

Why Customer Experience Is Your 2016 Priority

Every year, long lists are made touting the next big things in marketing for the 12 months to come.

In 2016, only one item need be on that list: customer experience (CX).

Sure, we can talk about adaptive content or virtual reality or disruptively programmatic collaborative innovation, but the fact remains: CX will rule 2016.

A recent Gartner survey found that, this year, 89% of companies plan to compete on the basis of customer experience. It’s an encouraging but suspiciously high number. While many a marketer can stamp ‘seamless journeys’ and ‘compelling experiences’ off their Buzzword Bingo sheet, few can honestly back it up.

Case in point: 43% of customers in a 2015 Australian study said they were dissatisfied with the experience offered by the country’s 34 largest companies. Of those, only 17% would stay loyal to the brand as a result. Clearly, there is work to be done.

Customer expectations are higher than ever. At every interaction, at each individual ‘micro moment’, customers want the ability to personalise and optimise the experience, based on their needs. Fair enough too, for the experience is the one tangible demonstration of how far a brand will go to please that customer.

“But hang on!”, you cry. “This isn’t new! We’ve been focussed on the customer experience for years!”

So how’s it looking? Seamless, end-to-end, user-first, intuitive, responsive, measurable, data driven yet human, delivering to a clear strategy, proven ROI?

Marketers have been focussed on components of the customer experience – the in-store, the website, the social media. The false ‘traditional vs digital’ divide has been a culprit here. Different elements of the experience are developed in isolation, with marketers mostly having to choose which side of the divide they sit on.

This makes joining the dots very difficult, a trend reflected in the either/or customer experiences on offer. You can probably think of half a dozen companies who offer either a terrific digital customer experience that doesn’t translate to the real world, or memorable TV campaigns with a poor in-store experience, or great in-store service with a terrible digital offering.

Brands have also been guilty of trying to force the experience on the customer, rather than providing the means for the customer to define it themselves.

Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Chief Digital Evangelist, touched on this when he said that marketers should focus less on conversion, and more on user intent across the entire experience.

In other words, stop trying to force them down a funnel, and instead, understand what they need at each stage to make their own decisions, and provide them with the best tools to do that.

Customer experience doesn’t work in silos and it’s not about tactical hit and runs. It’s about fundamentals and root causes; allowing a customer to do what they want, when they want and how they want.

For all of us, that’s both good and bad news.

It’s bad news because great customer experience is hard.

Every touchpoint forms part of the experience. From an organisational perspective, building the necessary infrastructure means collaboration between marketing, comms, HR, IT, senior management and possibly more. Who owns what? Who delivers what? Governance is crucial.

Strategically, it requires making hard choices about effort and resources. Tactically, it requires responsive management and creativity. Technically, it requires speed and integration. Marketers with a solid understanding of all worlds will be in high demand.

The good news? The benefits of getting it right are huge. 55% of customers will pay more for a guaranteed good experience. And the customer experience is filled with creative potential, a chance for your brand to build something truly unique and personal.

2016 is the year your competitive advantage will begin to rely, more than ever, on the strength of the customer experience. Make sure it’s top of the list.

Digital marketing: forget conversion, focus on need

Digital marketing: forget conversion, focus on need

The marketing funnel is dead. Again.

Or at least, it should be.

That’s the takeout from a recent keynote speech by Avinash Kaushik, Google’s chief digital evangelist. 

Why is the marketing funnel dead?

Because a focus on consumer intent needs to trump a focus on pure conversion.

Because instead of trying to manipulate consumers down a prescribed path or funnel, marketers should be using a framework that either solves business problems or focuses on user behaviour.

In other words, it’s time to start looking at digital marketing from the human-centred point of view we’ve seen in UX, digital design and other disciplines.

Image credit: The Marketoonist
Image credit: The Marketoonist

I don’t actually believe marketers have an either/or choice regarding business problem vs user behaviour. You need to consider both. If your marketing framework focuses purely on a business problem, and doesn’t consider user need, chances are it won’t meet their expectations. If you focus solely on their behaviour, without considering the business problem you’re addressing, how do you account for ROI?

That’s why the key planks of a digital strategy are business goals and audience need. Finding the ‘sweet spot’ between the two is what shapes your approach.

By way of example, Avinash talks about designing a website that allows for all user intents i.e. it doesn’t try to only convert a small number of prospects, but also provides value for those who visit but aren’t ready to make a purchasing decision.

Now, creating a website that caters to all user groups might seem pretty obvious to those who design digital experiences for a living. But the point is that many marketers are so focused on engagement or conversion, they lose sight of the huge group of consumers who may passively experience your marketing and want light-touch value. This applies not just in the narrow confines of a web experience, but more broadly across the digital mix, as Jerry Daykin outlines here.

In my view, Avinash is really talking about the digital experience. I wrote in an earlier post that a great digital experience is driven by customer needs (a digital experience is also a lot more than just a website).

Marketers must deliver a digital experience that both meets consumer needs and addresses business objectives, at whichever contact point the consumer chooses to use, not at the contact point marketers wish they would use.

The sooner digital marketing begins to understand the importance of the experience, and the motivations of users within that experience, the more effective it will be.

The Venn diagram of digital marketing and human experience is rapidly being drawn. It can only mean good things for marketers and audiences alike.

Why your digital experience is losing you customers

Why your digital experience is losing you customers

Do you want to lose customers? Give them a poor digital experience.

According to a recent Australian study, 43% of consumers were unsatisfied with the digital experience offered by the country’s largest organisations. Of those, only 17% would remain loyal to the brand.

On the flipside, 73% of consumers who enjoyed a strong digital experience would remain loyal to the brand.

These statistics are compelling. And if there’s ever been a more urgent reason to invest in the digital experience, I’d like to see it.

What is a ‘digital experience’?

A digital experience (DX) is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company across its digital properties. This includes web, social, mobile, ecommerce, eDMs, marketing, digital in-store…the list goes on.

In our age of ‘always-on’ connectivity, customer expectations are changing rapidly, becoming ever more demanding. And as the statistics show, there’s very little forgiveness for brands who don’t measure up. I’d like to say that new technologies have made the experience easier to create, but the proliferation of mobile, social media, Internet of Things (IoT) etc have made life increasingly difficult.

Digital interactions will continue to become more complex and interactive. Enterprises now manage an average of 268 customer-facing websites, and that’s before getting into any other channels, content etc. In other words, the digital experience can appear to be a complicated beast. But it doesn’t have to be…

How to create a digital experience strategy

Some will argue that you can’t create a digital experience, you can only influence it. In a literal sense, this may be true, though it strays into semantics. You can essentially ‘create’ the experience in your owned channels, such as your website, though with ‘rented’ social channels or elsewhere, you’re bound by what they give you.

Regardless, a great digital experience is driven by customer needs, and should have the goal of at least meeting, and ideally, exceeding, them.

Keep these key principles in mind to create a DX strategy that won’t lose you customers:

  • Put the customer front and centre. Digital experiences are ultimately about people, not IT, technology or anything else.
  • Be personal. Customers want experiences that are relevant and tailored to them.
  • Less is more. A simplified digital experience tends to equal an improved digital experience. This applies both to the customer and ability to manage it internally.
  • Start at the end and work backwards. Understand what the final result should be and create the pathway from there.
  • Be mobile-friendly. We’re talking responsive web design, adaptive content etc. It depends on your demographic, but a majority of customers will likely start here.
  • Draw the ecosystem. I’m a big fan of visual thinking. Map out the desired experience – it will become far easier to understand.
  • Context is key. Your channels and content need to be relevant and accessible to the consumer, anytime, anywhere.

Simple, right?!

I won’t lie, a good DX strategy requires work and investment, but to ensure the loyalty of at least 73% of your customers, that has to be a price worth paying.

To talk about how we can help with a digital experience strategy for your business, contact us today.

Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy

Digital strategy.

It’s a word we hear a lot these days. But what does it actually mean? What does a digital strategy include? Is it just Facebook? Is it a website?

This page is designed to give you an overview of our approach to digital strategy, and to answer these fundamental questions. Here you’ll find plenty of useful information, tips, advice and possibly the odd contentious opinion.

Digital Strategy

A digital strategy is an holistic view of how a business uses digital to achieve its goals. This can include both external factors (i.e. social media) and internal factors (i.e. governance). It can include websites, apps, mobile, social media, CRM, email, data, analytics and more.

It’s common these days for ‘digital strategy’ to be shorthand for a digital marketing strategy.  However, a digital marketing strategy is just that – a plan for using digital channels to market products or services to an audience. It is a subset of digital strategy.

Equally, digital transformation is another subset of digital strategy, with the goal of taking an organisation from using an ‘analogue’ or traditional approach, to one where digital is at the heart of its culture, processes and ways of working.

In our view, there are two fundamental requirements for an effective digital strategy:

  1. Clear and measurable business goals that digital can help achieve
  2. An understanding of the needs and behaviours of your audience

Without clear goals, you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve or how to measure if you’ve been successful.

Without an understanding of your audience, you won’t know what kind of digital experience to create, what content to deliver or what buttons to push to generate a response.

A good digital strategy finds the ‘sweet spot’ between what the business wants to achieve and what the audience needs or expects from the business, and then creates a plan of action to deliver it.

A word on strategy and goals…

I need to make one really important point. A goal is not a strategy. Saying “we will grow by 50%” is not a strategy. “To embrace innovation” is not a strategy. A strategy tells you how you will achieve a goal. It lays out a definite plan of action, the success of which can be clearly measured.

Digital and audiences

One other really important point…whether you have a B2B or B2C focus, digital is inherently an audience-centric medium. This means  that your digital strategy, and your digital experience, must be considered from your audience’s point of view. Rather than asking, “what do I want to do?”, you need to ask, “what do they want or need that I can help with?”. It’s about using digital to add value. That’s not to say you can’t sell your products or services. It just needs to be done in such a way that’s primarily focused on meeting an audience need, as opposed to a business need.

This is often one of the most difficult changes for a business to understand. Many organisations are still trapped in a product-led sales cycle, and their digital activity consists of campaigns that shout about their products or services. Unsurprisingly, many of these businesses struggle with digital.

The companies who are leaders at digital are those who are constantly trying to meet your needs and make the experience more seamless. Think of Amazon – personalised recommendations, user reviews to help you form an opinion, 1-click checkout to make buying easy. Sure, all of these things are designed so that you buy more from them. But as a customer, what you want is to find good products quickly and to buy them easily. Amazon allows you to do those things.

This applies to internal audiences too. If you want your staff to be more productive, there are numerous digital tools available to help with this. However, it’s vital those tools are chosen or developed with the user, and their job, in mind. Too often, within companies, this approach is led by IT, who tend to be focused on cost, capability and functionality more than the user experience. This can harm productivity and morale, and actually be detrimental to the business.

If there’s one point to take away from this whole sermon, it’s this: always take an audience-first approach to digital.

Back to digital strategy…

At Element, we often begin the digital strategy process with a workshop. We do this for two reasons:

  1. using visual thinking to talk through business issues is a great way to generate ideas and insights
  2. it gets the key stakeholders around a table, resulting in decisions being made faster

Whether you’re looking to create a small, targeted content strategy or a broad digital transformation strategy, workshopping is the most effective means of unpacking all the key elements.

We’ve used this approach with a lot of fantastic companies, including these:

Blog - client list

One of the most important things to unpack are the challenges facing your business. Strategy is essentially an exercise in problem solving – therefore, being honest about the challenges you face is critical to determining which are the most important problems for a strategy to solve.

This is universal, no matter which element of digital you’re dealing with. However, when it comes time to actually creating the plan for solving those challenges, we use different frameworks for different strategies. For example, our approach to social media strategy looks a lot like this:

6 steps to social infographic

Equally, we adopt different frameworks for web strategy, service design and so on.

The other point of difference about the way we do digital strategy at Element, is that we take, where possible, an agile approach. This means defining a short-term measurable vision, and breaking up into chunks the work required to achieve it. By short-term we usually mean 12-18mths; digital changes so quickly, anything beyond that is likely to fall rapidly out of date.

This approach helps our clients be flexible in the way they allocate resources and investment. They don’t have to commit huge budgets to lengthy long-term programmes. Instead, they can iterate and refine as they go, adjusting to changing circumstances as necessary.

What do I need to create a successful digital strategy?

Before embarking on a digital strategy, there are a handful of things you should have clear:

The first is to understand that digital doesn’t work in a silo. It is not a standalone activity separate from everything else. The best digital marketing strategies are integrated with broader marketing and brand strategies; the best transformation strategies integrated with the wider business strategy etc etc. Digital should always be working to achieve a larger goal.

Secondly, you need to be clear on who you are and what you stand for. What’s your value proposition? What makes you special? You must also be prepared to honestly confront the challenges you face as a business, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

Thirdly, be prepared to invest in both time and resource. Digital often places extensive demands on both. However, this is scalable and, when using an agile approach, iterative and very manageable.

Lastly, and most importantly, you need leadership. Poor leadership and governance is the #1 reason digital strategies fail. If there isn’t buy-in from the top, the results will not come.

In closing…

A digital strategy is a living document. It is, essentially, a hypothesis to be tested. The old military saying goes that “no strategy survives contact with the enemy”. Strategies are not immutable, they should not be set in stone. They should have the ability to change with the circumstances.

It’s not easy to create a strategy that can flex and adapt and still retain a clear focus. At Element, we’re proud to be specialists in delivering this service.

Good digital strategy identifies a clear problem to solve, a clear plan of action for solving it and a clear framework for measuring if you’ve been successful.

It’s both that simple, and that difficult.

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