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For brands, businesses and consumers, continuous digital innovation in business is the new normal. According to a recent report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the economic and global crises of the past few years have spurred a new era when digital capabilities and technological evolution reign supreme.
In my experience as a digital strategist, I’ve found that in order to achieve success and stability regardless of what’s going on in the world, digital experiences must continuously evolve. Even if you don’t have the funds or resources for bigger projects, doing small things that incrementally improve the customer experience will still propel your business in the right direction.
Organizations that adopt a philosophy of continuous digital innovation can position themselves to navigate even the most frustrating external shockwaves and come out on the other side stronger than ever.
Related: Moving With the Digital Evolution
How to future-proof your business with a digital evolution mindset
The Great Resignation and supply chain issues are affecting brands of all shapes and sizes. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to create new digital capabilities that promote experimentation, speed, customization, scalability, stability and innovation. Here are a few starting points:
1. Set a North Star and align your efforts with it
In 2019, CB Insights charted the top reasons small businesses failed and found that failure often stemmed from undefined and unregulated processes. This means that before you embark on any journey, you must first establish a North Star. Your North Star can be the goal or ideology that guides your processes, practices and digital evolution. For example, suppose your North Star goal is to provide exceptional customer experiences. In that case, your digital innovation should focus on creating an accessible experience for all of your customers. This might involve simplifying on-site processes, adding helpful product or service information and implementing customer feedback.
When defining these business objectives, you must look both externally and internally. Looking externally involves understanding your customers’ needs and finding ways to meet them. For example, some customers might want to order your products online. In that case, if you don’t yet have e-commerce capabilities, that would be an important project to include in your plan. On the flip side, looking internally within your organization could uncover that some employees are unhappy with their career progression. If that’s the case, creating a visible career path complete with online learning and room for growth could be an important internal goal to work toward.
2. Look for gaps in your tech and resources
Today’s customers demand a highly personalized experience. They want targeted emails, personalized ads, hyper-relevant content and tailored product recommendations. And according to Epsilon, organizations that prioritize customer personalization stand to see a direct impact on sales, as 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that provides a personalized experience.
But that personalization can only happen if you have the right tools and data at your disposal. If you don’t have systems in place that integrate your data so it can actually be useful, you won’t be able to build customer journeys that resonate with your target audiences. You have to resolve tech stack issues before any continuous digital evolution or innovation can take place.
For example, imagine a customer who bought a winter coat on an ecommerce site. After the purchase, the customer continued to receive the same ads about the same winter coat over and over again. At this point, the customer is annoyed that they’re still seeing the same ads even though they already purchased the coat. This leaves a bad taste in their mouth and makes them wonder whether they should bother interacting with your business again. Fortunately, if you review your tech stack and integrate your systems for effective data collection, you can fix customer experience problems such as this one.
3. Be adaptable
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that economic and customer needs can change without warning. Your road map to success needs to be adaptable and able to be quickly revised. As such, it’s necessary to determine and frequently reassess the needs of your business and how you can best serve your customers. Plans are never meant to be steadfast, especially in a fast-paced digital age when anything can happen. So how can you prepare your personnel to be more adaptable?
First, start by making sure your team members possess the right skill sets and have access to the right tools. For instance, your team might need access to a content management system, a product information management system, a customer relationship management system or a combination of these. Ensure every person who might need these tools has access, and offer certifications on all of these tools to empower your team and set them up for success. After all, the more empowered your staff members are, the more quickly they will be able to shift when needed.
Second, encourage team members to share diverse viewpoints and engage in healthy, productive debate. As mentioned in a Harvard Business Review article, airing concerns and participating in healthy debate can promote cognitive diversity, spur progress, lead to innovation and uncover breakthrough solutions — as long as it’s done respectfully and productively.
The past few years have been challenging for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. And if we can be certain of anything, it’s that there will be more difficulties that crop up as we progress into the future. One of the most important things to prioritize through it all? Engaging with audiences in a way that inspires loyalty and provides an exceptional customer experience. A surefire way to keep an eye toward this focus is continuous digital evolution, so make sure it’s a major component of your business planning as you move into 2023.