Every company, consultant, manager, and coach has an opinion on how to best create a digital strategy. A common practice is setting up a specialized team with an all-knowing leader, each with many more ideas of their own on the subject. Additionally, people often reason that a certain digital strategy working elsewhere means it should work for their business too. It’s not that simple however.
Trying to figure out what makes a digital strategy work is nonetheless important. And by focusing on the digital side we’re making it even more specific and complicated. This makes it seem like being successful in the digital realm is a goal on its own. But is your company a digital tech company above all, and successful when only the digital part succeeds? And do you simply measure this success by focusing on traffic, likes, and bounces? Or should conversion rule them all?
A successful digital strategy framework should seamlessly integrate into your company’s general strategy goal, and be adopted by everyone that both directly and indirectly services your customers, sharing the same roadmap.
You can spend hours in digital libraries and scouring the internet, catching a wide range of articles on what makes a digital strategy work. We’ve all been there. And these articles usually lead to the same advice; be agile, be ready, and change.
Of course, you can simply copy Netflix’s business model, or make Amazon’s core mission statement your own, and inspire your stakeholders by flaunting these big names and their strategies before them. This is no guarantee for success however, and if anyone asks how they apply to your specific company the honest answer is very straightforward – in reality they really don’t fit your situation and product.
Digital transformation. It's a buzzword that appears on boardroom agendas everywhere, but anxieties about what it is, how it works, and what it means for business processes are still crippling many organizations into inaction, with many struggling to even articulate 'what' is it they're failing to do.
Lindsay Herbert. "Digital transformation". Apple books.
When it comes down to it, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all digital strategy you can successfully apply. Getting inspired by looking at other companies and their strategies is good practice, but they shouldn’t be leading in deciding your own strategy. Because no matter how similar certain companies may seem to yours, your company is one of a kind. Never forget that both your customers and employees are unique. The same goes for the experience that is added on top by any agency you decide to work with.
In our 30 years of experience we’ve learned a very important truth at SQLI; in order to be truly successful, digital has to be completely integrated in every part of your organization. If set up as its own entity you’ll end up with incorrect data, incomplete processes, failing customer service, and worse.
The main question should always be if the customer is satisfied and engaged when interacting with your company or product. Your digital ecosystem is a potent tool for success, not the goal in and of itself. To succeed in the digital realm it’s essential to define a clear set of goals for your entire business, and a clear vision of how to achieve them.
So how do we make sure your digital endeavors are fully integrated in every part of your organization? It all starts with truly understanding your customers, your market, and your business, combined with understanding your technological legacy and its limits in regards to innovation.
This leads us to the three pillars of SQLI’s approach, designed to tackle these challenges together. These pillars focus on making your company engage customers, optimize its business, and improve the technology you use.
Creating a 360 customer view requires more than setting up segments, or mapping certain persona. Understand what motivates and drives them, and what problems your products and services aim to solve. A large selection of tools and research options are available to help you discover the most important customer drivers.
However, real success comes through the adoption of a customer-centric approach by your entire organization. Having an authentic story can be valuable for certain companies, while other brands might benefit more from exploring data and trends. But again, keep in mind it is not about the tooling, results, and the politics. It’s about a cultural change that requires everybody’s involvement, from production and supply to execution and sales. Everybody in the chain shares the same common driver, the same customer, and works on the same roadmap towards shared milestones.
In addition to engaging your customer you obviously also have to generate revenue. You have to obtain and strengthen a position in the market, tell your story, and manage your data efficiently and correctly. Business is about the top-line vision of the company. A vision that gives focus. It’s why your company exists and it will ensure your long-term success.
To know what a business is we must start with its purpose. Its purpose must lie outside of the business itself. In fact, it must lie in society since business enterprise is the organ of the society. There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.
Peter Drucker, 1973
How does the business-minded part of your company facilitate or obstruct the way you serve your customer through digital touchpoints? The challenges we often see are a lack of process optimizations, and working in silos all across the board.
Your business is defined by the core competencies of your workforce, together with your actual products. On this page, we use the term ‘products’ to refer to both digital products and services.
The most important part of any good digital strategy is often also the biggest hurdle to take; technology. A common cause is the absence of real specialists during the planning and plotting, because they are usually too busy to join any of these activities. They are presented with the outcome of all the planning and road-mapping, and simply have to deal with unrealistic assumptions made by enthusiastic colleagues. Too often we see hours of meetings go wasted on hypothetical scenarios, with the unfortunate side effect of making budgets vanish without delivering any real value. In an effective digital strategy, you also focus on empowering technology experts in your company, and onboard them on the business goals and share customer insights. This way, the balance tips towards feasible steps within a pragmatic context.
So how do we make sure that we come up with a strategy that fits your unique company? Luckily we don’t need overly complicated models. With three simple steps we can align and combine our efforts. Together, following this process, we start to understand the unique hurdles your customer segments and organization faces.
First, we need to get to know each other. We’ve learned so much about successful digital businesses these last 25 years, and we would love to share inspiring stories, cases, and concepts with you. We can also present a first glimpse of the most exciting digital business concepts for shifting markets. We promise that Amazon will be mentioned in this phase. At the same time, we are really curious about your business. What makes your organization tick, what are the victories you celebrated up to now, and what do you see as your main challenges?
In this step, we zoom in on a specific area or strategy in your business plans. Together we assess the required level of ambition, but also the urgency of changing markets for your business.
Questions we will surely ask:
We set a clear goal, decide on deliverables, and work together with you in predictable sprints with a focused team of e-commerce specialists, each with a different background (such as UX, design, commerce consultancy, and strategy). United in diversity, step by step, we coach your organization to integrate digital as a powerful tool in your company’s toolbox.
The best way to describe this process is with the simple statement "project to product". Instead of looking at a digital strategy as simply the role out of a new digital platform, a channel or a webshop, you make sure you keep improving and learning as you would with launching any other product that has clear milestones and a roadmap. A successful product release needs your entire organization to be the best they possibly can.
Of course, after this somewhat hefty read, we wouldn’t dream of having you leave empty-handed. Here are five key takeaways to assist you with your unique challenge.
Before you start working on a strategy, make sure the urgency that comes from a fast-changing market is acknowledged and shared within your company. Emphasize the importance of external factors over internal factors. Never stop telling the story of successful change. And more importantly, let your customers tell your story for you!
Does your business model still match the products and services you offer?
Without the buy-in of real people, any strategy will fail. Create the room to grow, and focus on working towards success.
Your most complex internal processes should be challenged based on how customer centric they really are.
Collaboration and alignment of both Marketing and IT during the strategy creation is key for successful implementation and its results.
Several years ago, you could simply implement eCommerce, build an app or digital platform, and stay ahead of the competition. In the current digital landscape however, as many businesses have discovered the hard way, there’s a lot more to it.
Driving successful commerce starts with building products together. Products that make your customers happy and satisfy their needs, while at the same time using your new experiences to transform the DNA of your organization, by showing real success with relevant results.
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