Digital Strategy 2.0: Planning Frictionless Experiences For A Connected Customer

Published: 14 February 2019

The term digital strategy has taken many forms over the last decade. There is the notion of a company having a digital strategy which guides it’s decision making across business functions – a roadmap detailing how to encourage digitisation and the ongoing improvement of its digital competency across its staff, process and operation.

There is also a variant of digital strategy from a marketing and sales perspective, which among others defines the environment in which the brand operates, characteristics of the target market as well as which channels they plan to use and why.

The interpretation of this term can be applied to fit many forms and so for the purposes of this discussion, the term digital strategy, which I am going to extend to Digital Customer Experience & Sales Strategy (DCXSS) is an evolution of the strategy historically created by the marketing department. This strategy relates specifically to the use of business systems and data, digital touch points, as well as sales and marketing channels, as they pertain to interactions with the customer in an effort to reduce operating costs and increase revenues.

Having a clear strategy in place in this regard around which to structure your efforts and decision making is an obvious first step in providing you and your team with a clear foundation for what you hope to achieve through its implementation. With this said, it is not un-common to see businesses across the spectrum, where the strategy in place is very poorly crafted or even worse, non-existant. Creating a solid strategy does not need to be difficult but there are some key consideration that need to be taken in to account.

A United Front

Many businesses have a serious issue, most of whom are not yet even aware that it exists. The issue that I am referring to is the major disconnect between two pivotal departments in their operation who can simply no longer afford to work in silos, marketing and IT.

These two departments’ intrinsic linkage relates to the fact that as customer data is generated and stored, so the business is able to learn from the customers’ actions and behaviour and invariably make better decisions in communicating, selling and servicing this customer. Moreover, as customers look for convenience and avoid high friction encounters, they have begun to expect that interactions they have with your business are made simpler through the use of technology. This may come in the form of a customer portal, an e-commerce facility, parcel tracking, digital on-boarding, digital signing and so the list goes on. 

This marks an important departure from a traditional digital sales and marketing strategy whose main purpose was to increase revenue. The new dawn of a Digital Customer Experience & Sales Strategy aims to increase revenue as well as decrease costs and improve customer satisfaction levels. With this expanded reach, there is a necessity for a department or position within the business to take ownership of the full “digital customer experience”. The responsibility of this position will be to integrate and unite historically silo’d departments and build frictionless omni-channel experiences, where access to business systems and data is equally important as digital brand experiences which supplement the sales agenda.

Mirror Your Business Strategy

At its absolute core, a strong strategy should mirror what the business as a whole is trying to achieve and not simply be developed within a digital vacuum. The digital objectives should be an extrapolation of the objectives defined in the business strategy, with the digital context, opportunity and idiosyncrasies in mind.

These objectives should be well documented, as they will become the north star to which each team member works. They also provide a valuable acid-test when tough decisions need to be made – if the decision does not support the objectives specified then it is likely a distraction.

Set Strong Foundations

Although it may seem obvious, the efficacy of a digital strategy relies on its ability to convert your customer at the intended conversion point (e.g. checkout, book now, login, track parcel). For every business this is different but in all cases there is a tangible conversion point and key to converting your customer is ensuring that the platform (web, mobile, etc.) on which this conversion takes place provides no unnecessary obstacles to the user or customer.

The strength of the platform will be directly correlated to the success of your digital activities and so a simple step in increasing your expected ROI is to ensure that your platforms are in top working order and measurement and tracking are working as they should. Furthermore, the process of improving these platforms from a usability point of view should be viewed as an ongoing exercise, as these improvements will only contribute to an increasing ROI.

Don’t Measure Digital Success in a Vacuum

Too often, those responsible for heading up digital channels will base their planning and measurement around performance from previous months or years. Although important so as to be able to contrast successes from within channels, this can lead to confusion as return on investment becomes increasingly difficult to measure at a business level and the result of this is an eroded confidence in what value digital implementations are providing.

If a business strategy plans to decrease overheads by 15%, what can be done in the digital domain to have the same effect and make the business more efficient? How can digital spend on a customer portal for example reduce the salary or rent bill attributed to call-centre staff? These cost savings will likely be seen far from any “digital” analytics platform but rather on the balances income statement. It is important in this case to get access and visibility of these figures to quantify the true success of the implementation.

Similarly, what factors contribute to the business’s revenue figure? Is it bookings made, products sold, registrations completed? How does one quantify the success of a paid media campaign for a booking made online when the service is delivered and fee calculated at a later stage in-store? Once again, the need to tie the original booking back to the value received becomes imperative to quantify the success of the digital activity which lead to the original booking.

Measuring digital metrics against business data as well as non-digital channels will begin to reveal important return on investment (ROI) data and will provide a strong case for driving one channel more so than another, pulling out of a digital channel altogether, or shifting budget from a traditional to digital activity.

Although often quite challenging to carry out, it is imperative to contrast results achieved through digital platforms to financial data from the business and measure these against the numeric benchmarks you have set for yourself. With the evolution and integration of business systems, this should no longer be a complex task but rather be an imperative component to the set-up of your digital strategy.

Partners, Communication & Optimisation

The success of a strategy’s implementation is only as strong as the role players and partners who contribute toward its success. Critical to your partners ability to succeed in what they do is regular and open lines of communication with one another, as well as a point person within the business through which to channel questions, as well as discuss issues and opportunities.

Due to the highly interconnected nature of the digital ecosystem, partners contributing to your success are often inadvertently affecting each others’ performance by actions taken across the suite of channels and platforms on which they operate. For this reason, regular retrospective as well as forward looking conversation are imperative if true collaboration is to be achieved.

Continuing in this vein, your digital efforts require ongoing optimisation and your strategy should not aim to define a victory position but rather provide those involved with a guideline for evaluating, analysing and refining their efforts, as an ongoing loop. What is offered in the digital domain which is rarely offered elsewhere in the business is the in-depth analytical information generated by the platforms, systems and sales channels at your disposal. This data is crucial in improving how you make use of your platforms and channels and provides you with the quantitative proof to guide your hand in realising increasing returns on investment.

In Summary

These consideration are not new to those who have successfully operated in the digital domain, but the execution of these items requires focus, dedication and buy-in from all parties, including most importantly your executive team. The reality of business today is that being a digitally mature business is no longer seen to be a competitive advantage but rather a necessity. Your customer base has become expectant of a seamless tech-based relationship with your brand and if you cannot offer them this, it is very likely that there is a startup around the corner, or one of your competitors waiting in the wings to give them what they want.

Be smart! Put a solid game plan in place, walk your team through it and keep referring back to it to keep yourself accountable.

About the Author

With a keen interest on all things commerce in Africa, Alex avidly keeps abreast of digital solutions providing answers where difficult to solve problems once existed. Alex has worked in this domain for the last decade advising clients on customer attraction and experience across a multitude of industries. It is with this knowledge and keen interest that he continues to advise the clients of Digital Advisory Africa, ensuring they too thrive in these exciting but disruptive times.

About the Author

With a keen interest on all things commerce in Africa, Alex avidly keeps abreast of digital solutions providing answers where difficult to solve problems once existed. Alex has worked in this domain for the last decade advising clients on customer attraction and experience across a multitude of industries. It is with this knowledge and keen interest that he continues to advise the clients of Digital Advisory Africa, ensuring they too thrive in these exciting but disruptive times.

Contact

Silo District
4 South Arm Road
V&A Waterfront
Western Cape
Cape Town
South Africa

Contact

Silo District
4 South Arm Road
V&A Waterfront
Western Cape
Cape Town
South Africa

DAA News & Insights

Contact

Silo District
4 South Arm Road
V&A Waterfront
Western Cape
Cape Town
South Africa

DAA News & Insights