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Digital Darwinism: Survival Tips

April 6th, 2015 by

Getting digital communication right is vital for capturing customers’ hearts and wallets. But forward-looking companies are also realising that technology is fundamentally pushing the limits for what is possible for a single company to achieve.

In the age of Digital Darwinism, who will be the winner? Looking to the original Darwin, his theory of the survival of the fittest still holds true, but technology is changing the rules by speeding up how we work and interact with each other. Futurist and digital analyst Brian Solis has described Digital Darwinism as “the phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than an organisation can adapt”. So what should companies do?

Developing solid digital skills is going to be key to competing in the rapidly changing digital landscape, concluded McKinsey. After researching 1000 brands’ success with digitising their customers’ decision journeys, McKinsey reached some stark conclusions. Not only is competition among brands increasing as consumers become more digitally savvy, but the consumers are also becoming more jaded with marketing, making it harder for brands to translate digital interaction into a sale.

“The brands most likely to convert digitally jaded consumers into purchasers offer the strongest array of digital experiences,” said Jacques Bughin, director at McKinsey. “These successful players seem to be pulling away from less robust digital brands and gaining further momentum as they build up positive word of mouth on social media.”.

As companies seek to adapt to the age of Digital Darwinism, McKinsey identified three key issues to stay on top of:

  • Keep track of emerging digital models. Established businesses risk being left behind as even traditional sectors are adopting new digital models. For example, online-only telecoms companies Mobile Vikings and Free are beating their traditional competitors in part because they’re participating meaningfully in digital communities, resulting in high levels of brand recognition.
  • Create positive social feedback loops. Organic social media recommendations are a potent competitive asset, and one which often acts as a differentiator between digitally savvy companies and those who don’t quite get it. But any company can step up and  create positive digital experiences for customers as this increases the likelihood of repeat purchases.
  • Consider alternative digital channels. Some channels resonate more in certain industries, and social media may not be the best approach. The key is to know your customer and use this insight to figure out which digital channel is the best way to go. Could display advertising or email marketing work for you?

Most forward-looking companies will already have spent the past few years transforming themselves into digital companies, according to Accenture in its report on what it calls The Digital Business Era. The question now, however, is what will businesses do with their digital leadership?

“Pioneering enterprises are fundamentally changing the way they look at themselves. Leading enterprises are quickly mastering the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’,” concluded Accenture. It’s no longer enough for a company just to focus on making a profit, as clued-up and demanding consumers also want to have the choice of buying products and services from companies who contribute to the world selflessly. “[Company] leaders who are eager to drive change are using this broader digital ecosystem to place bets on a grand scale,” commented Accenture. “These forward-thinking companies are looking to shape entire markets and change the way we work and live.”.

An example of what this looks like is how Philips’ healthcare business is looking beyond the production of medical equipment, and is partnering with technology group Salesforce. The two will build a cloud-based platform where healthcare application developers can work with together – and with doctors and patients – to create new solutions. Another example is how car manufacturer Fiat is partnering with a whole host of companies, including navigation expert TomTom, news agency Reuters, social media network Facebook and radio network TuneIn. The result is the Uconnect platform which will be integrated with the Fiat-Chrysler Group’s vehicles to provide communication, entertainment and navigation.

One last example is Home Depot, which is creating its own Internet-of-Things-powered connected home. The home improvement retailer is working with manufacturers to ensure its products are compatible with the Wink-connected home system. “If it’s connected and we sell it, our goal is to get it onto the Wink system,” Jeff Epstein, merchandising vice president at Home Depot, told ‘GigaOm’. “Customers won’t have to think about it. It will become second nature to consumers. There’s not a conversation around it, it’s just part of the way of life.”.

The message here is that forward-looking companies are not only using digital channels to communicate with customers, but they’re also realising that technology is fundamentally pushing the limits for what is possible. This is exciting because any company in any industry can now effect change on a much bigger stage.

As Accenture sums up in its report: “These pioneering businesses see great potential to make a difference, and to make a profit, by operating as ecosystems, not just as individual corporate entities. By mastering the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’, these leading enterprises are shaping a new economy – the We Economy.”.

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