Despite the buzz around digital strategy being absolutely nothing new, businesses are still allowing themselves to fall behind in a number of crucial areas. Smart Insights found that, for example, 49% of organizations do not have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy, while 37% have no plans to run a digital transformation programme. This had led to a point where only 6% of companies believe their digital marketing and traditional marketing integration process is completely optimized for the best business results.
One of the problems is that there are many elements to digital strategy and digital transformation in business, and it's difficult to excel in all areas. So, we asked a handful of experts from our network what they considered to be the most important tenets of any successful digital strategies, and the answers were varied and illuminating.
Liana Yu, Associate Director of Digital Transformation at Reckitt Benckiser
"It takes so many elements to success, such as talent, investment on constant capability building, and processes to enable and quickly adapt to the fast-changing digital. But most importantly, from my experience so far, is the willingness to embrace the technology & lifestyle evolution, to be committed to breakthrough and innovate over and over again.
"Another aspect is, I think, that every company and every brand has their unique business case. It’s like the famous quote “You don’t need a digital strategy, you need a strategy in the digital world”, sometimes you just need to remember to be authentic, be consumer-centric, and be valuable."
Dmitry Shishkin, Digital & Video Lead at BBC World Service
"Digital transformation of any company or business, like any change project in general, is successful when two basic yet important elements are in place.
"Firstly, if you are running a digital transformation as the lead change agent yourself, then the person above you, a CEO, for example, or CDO, must be openly and demonstrably supportive of your actions and you personally. I’ve seen many change projects failing specifically because transformation was either not fully endorsed by the board or key directors or supported in a way that allowed naysayers room to wriggle out of it.
"Secondly, you are not going to be running such a project alone, so you have to have your direct reports bought into the whole thing too – this will ensure that while you are away, on holidays or traveling, for example, the process continues exactly the way you’d want it to. So in simple terms, two crucial layers have to be on the same page with you.
"Clarity and something which I call “singularity of purpose” is another crucial thing – change is hard anyway and the majority of people are change-averse or are threatened by change. The easier the message, the better it is for you. Being able to explain why certain things are to change in a sentence or two is incredibly helpful to the majority of staff, in my experience. Sometimes transformation projects either over-pitch or under-pitch their activities, being either too complex for an outsider to understand, or too simplistic, omitting crucial pieces of evidence or reasoning. In my view, every change project needs to have a mission statement, like most companies do, describing in a sentence or two what is changing, why, and what the benefits are for customers and employees.
"Getting people on board by actively listening to them and adapting your tactics where needed is very important too – the times of “tell, sell, yell” approach are long gone, we all are living in a much more nuanced world, whereas change is often seen by those who oppose it as something binary, which it is not.
"Financial backing is crucial too – transformation in itself is leading to something that is only going to be tangible and real years from now, and diverting resources from current to future priorities is difficult to accept, but it’s very important."
Vivian Cheng, Digital Manager of Brand and Consumer Engagement at Danone Early Life Nutrition
"Everything starts from having the right mindset and support of the organization; to implement the right strategy, there could be a lot of technology infrastructure investment that needs to be done first. Each market will have its own requirements, so it’s vital to separate what you must invest in, from the excitement of emerging technology."
Josh Nedeljkovic, Head of Strategic Projects at Deliveroo Hong Kong
"First things first, having the right product that customers love to use and come back to is the most important factor to consider before even starting a digital marketing strategy. It doesn't matter how many new customers you can acquire if the product itself isn't solving some sort of problem or creating value for the consumer so that they'll come back for more.
"Knowing what the real benefit of the product is to a customer and how to differentiate this from other players in the same space is extremely important in an evermore competitive world. Lastly, making sure that whatever channels being used are relevant for the target audience. What works for B2B sales will be very different for a mass consumer brand so making sure the relevant channels are used will not only be more effective but also much more efficient!"
Bonus Content: Sarah Ilieva, Head of Digital Strategy at British Council, presents on how brands can best embrace digital transformation within their businesses