Go greater than digital: Digital-first, customer-centric strategy

As the pace of digital innovation quickens, Australian businesses are falling behind on strategy, writes Squiz CEO John-Paul Syriatowicz

As the pace of digital innovation quickens, Australian businesses are falling behind on strategy. The 2015 State of Marketing Technology study found that 37% of IT professionals describe their organisation’s digital strategy as either “inadequate” or “non-existent.” Although local businesses are beginning to recognise the value of digital, it is clear they are struggling with the next step.

Digital transformation preludes every business decision in today’s corporate environment, so it’s easy to rely on technology to solve every problem. But ‘going digital’ does not mean amassing technology to fix every organisational or marketing issue.

Modern organisations must recognise that a ‘digital strategy’ must involve far more than just ‘going digital.’ To succeed, the roots of any digital strategy must return to customer, business and growth strategies.

Businesses that chase digital-first strategy over customer-centricity will fail to compete in today’s disrupted marketplaces.

This is because prioritising technology over the customer will lead to a short-term, tunnel vision approach to strategy. Effective digital strategy looks ahead, considers the wider business environment, and how it will affect your customer, business and industry.

Recently, this has been observed in the travel industry with Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider that owns no real estate. Airbnb has revolutionised the hotel industry, not just through an app, but by creating a value exchange between the guest and host, where one hasn’t existed before.

Meanwhile, traditional hotels are attempting to compete by offering mobile apps yet are losing market share to the disruptive start-up because they simply aren’t offering a unique and personalised customer experience.

‘Digital strategy’ will not work as effectively as it could without an integrated approach. Here are three ways to ensure the customer remains the focal point of all marketing, strategy and technology decisions.

Design digital for the customer, not the business

Read more: How to get and keep staff buy-in during digital transformation

Successful digital strategies are always created with the customer in mind.Designing strategies that demystify the consumer experience and address evolving customer needs is vital to reach revenue goals.

To integrate this into business decisions, organisations need to adapt the way they approach a ‘digital strategy,’ thinking of it as more of a ‘digital-first, customer-centric strategy.’ This mantra must be adopted across organisational functions, built into new services, products and delivery methods, and be driven by digital trends in the wider market.

Shaping technology decisions with customer needs is just the start, and the nature of disruptive digital strategy means that long-term human and financial investment is not optional.

Develop strategies on the ground and collaboratively

It is near impossible to suggest an effective strategy that can be uniformly applied across an entire organisation. Regardless of the idea or execution, strategies born out of an ivory tower will be met with resistance in any business - but compromising on the plan can hurt strategic goals.

Cross-functional collaboration can bridge this gap between business goals and digital strategy on the ground. By including other stakeholders in the process, your digital investment will identify and address the core issues that users face, whether it’s your employee or your consumer.

Devote technology to business goals

Technologies, such as CRM, are often hailed as business saviours but adopting technology as a catch-all solution is an overly simplistic strategy. Instead, technology for technology’s sake can obscure business goals, complicate processes, frustrate personnel and create integration problems with existing legacy systems.

Read more: Understanding 3-speed IT

Organisational advancement requires progressive, holistic strategy, and as such, digital strategy must focus on selectively adopting technologies that actually serve business goals in the long-term.

A healthy fear of being left behind is the best motivation to spearhead a ‘digital-first, customer-centric strategy.’ The value that can be achieved from digital far outweighs the risks involved, and as born-digital competition intensifies, remembering your consumer is key to your organisation’s prosperity in the new, digitalised world.

John-Paul Syriatowicz is group CEO of Squiz

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