However much you may hate the phrase or reality of a ‘new normal’, if there’s one thing we can all take from 2020, it’s that things have changed. Crisis has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, it’s sped the decline of some traditional business models, and for some, has opened a vista of opportunity. In this post, Despark’s CCO Stoyan Dipchikov takes time out to look at why now is the time to embrace digital, and how to set yourself up for success.
There’s no ‘back to normal’ - pivot to survive
Even when vaccines have enabled us to resume some form of everyday life, there’s still been an irreversible shift in how we engage with digital. For most of 2020, we’ve embraced online services. Popularity and usage of services like Zoom and Takeaway.com has spiked severalfold, whilst healthcare providers have leapt into online consultations and services faster than they’d anticipated.
Users are now actually expecting you to be online and this has become a qualification of stability. So when the next lockdown arrives, and users can’t access their favourite brands online, they’ll switch to a more technically advanced one.
As a business, your competitors either have a digital strategy or are planning one. So there’s an urgency now, as the excuse that ‘we didn’t see it coming’ doesn’t reheat well.
Avoid these common pitfalls
Business as usual
Business owners often think that operating online will be the same the way you currently run your business. That you will have the same pricing mechanism, model etc. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. When you prepare to take your business online you need to be ready to do some restructuring of your operations, sometimes pricing mechanisms, staff and other core factors in order to make it a success. These are often not major things but are almost always fundamental to the success of the new endeavour.
Doing it all
A common, but relatable, mistake is to try to do everything yourself. You should always look for a consultant - even if not for the whole process, at least for the fundamental setup, somebody to actually understand the essentials of the business and come up with the best solution (technical or visual).
Doing the wrong ‘it’
Often, the solution which business owners imagine is the best is not the optimal one for their situation. If they then hire a developer to implement exactly what they have imagined without challenging their strategy, they risk wasting their resources.
Covering all bases
Another problem business owners face is to try to cover all potential scenarios for their businesses and recreate all of the operations online. This again suggests throwing in massive investments without actually knowing if their clients will adopt it or will use all of the features they’ve come up with.
You should always start small: do some research or hire someone to do it for you, find the part of the business that seems to be most useful or popular amongst your potential online users and focus on it. Then see how it would be adopted by your users and start building and growing your online presence based on it.
What should you ask yourself before you start?
- What is the part of your business which seems to be most likely to be adopted by your clients online? How do you know? Have you asked them?
- Do you really need this (whatever feature you are considering) in that initial release of your online presence?
- How would you communicate that you are already online to your clients - in a crowded marketplace, the ‘build it and they will come’ approach isn’t realistic - what’s your prelaunch and rollout strategy?
- What is the best medium to start with - is it web? Do you really need a mobile app? How about a tablet optimised version?
- What are the run through costs for running your online business? Do you have enough resources to sustain them for the first couple of years?
What we’ve learned at Despark
Always look for the best balance between off-the-shelf and custom solutions.
With most of the digital transformation projects, we tried working with a number of off-the-shelf products, orchestrating them into a perfect balance of services and needs, but have never managed to do it without bespoke implementation. So if a salesperson tells you that their business management product is a “one size fits all” “plug-and-play” solution which won’t need any customisation, and it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is!
Planning, discovery and strategy are key!
This initial phase always sounds like too long or expensive an exercise but it actually pays back the fastest. During that phase your digital consultant understands your business and defines the best solution through the prism of digital.
Always set measurable goals and KPIs related to your business.
Define one simple goal which is strictly related to the digital efforts of the business and a reasonable timeframe during which you will track its progress. And always - ALWAYS be critical towards not meeting your KPI. This means to be ready for change, not to drop the digital efforts but to figure out what to change in order to make up for the missed opportunities.
As we originally said the online users of your business are often completely different from the ones who you serve offline. This means that often the KPIs and results are not met - but this doesn’t mean that there is no place for your business in the digital world: it just means that you need to adjust to strategy to match your positioning.