The predictions I’ve made over the past three years or so have looked at how businesses will leverage emerging technology to give them a major competitive edge in their sector. The likes of data, voice, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive analytics have all been areas on the cusp of adoption for the masses in technology and commerce.
However, as it’s become increasingly necessary for businesses to address the gap between disruptors and incumbents, I predict that in 2019 we’ll see the shift in focus go from trying to make monumental leaps in their offerings, which can take years and cost millions to roll out, and instead speed of change will become a priority.
The next ‘Big thing’ in Commerce? Going back to basics
Digital transformation takes time and money, both of which are in short supply in the current climate, and as we’ve seen in 2018, for some it will be too late. Businesses have spent a lot of time and money implementing new technology to find the next big thing that will enable their business to make giant leaps in a bid to either grow revenue or reduce costs.
The key drivers behind this have been to try to move these two core business dials through new customer acquisition, new experiences, new channels, new offerings… anything ‘new’ that their data insights or competitor actions indicated, really. But on the other hand, we’ve witnessed that some businesses that made investments in emerging tech to push the business forward can sometimes forget about getting the basics of the customer experience right. A colleague recently put it like this:
“Companies are often trying to make too big a leap in their ambitions. If they were to grade themselves out of 10, and were currently six and a half, they’d want to jump to nine through one big project and/or investment. Instead, they should be looking to see how they can get from six and a half to seven, then seven and a half to eight, and incrementally build up their investment and risk”.
What this means for you
In many ways, and being a software engineer at heart, this is just like the difference between waterfall versus agile delivery models. The waterfall model takes very large projects and typically delivers them over a long period of time, with the outcome and related goals, while significant, only realised much later.
On the other hand, the agile model aims to achieve a goal as quickly as possible, and then re-evaluates if the goal was successful and, if not, will make adjustments to incorporate further improvements.
In the same way, organisations should focus on smaller improvements to the customer journey that can be rolled out quickly, and the results evaluated immediately. How can you increase page load speed by 2%? Then, how can you improve the average time on page by 5%? Then, how can you increase checkout transactions by 1%?
Essentially, customers want you to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for, and these small and immediate gains lead to upward shifts in KPI performance. And each exponentially multiplies to give a better combined gain in a more consistent manner that isn’t disruptive or as risky.
Focus on a minimum viable product first
If you’re going through a transformation and looking to deploy a new platform, the focus should be on getting a minimum viable product live as quickly as possible that you can test, evaluate, and build on.
If your business has already made an investment in a new platform or technology in the past year or two, then typically you’re in a good position to push forward and don’t necessarily need to change platforms (unless the project has failed, which is a subject for a different article).
But, you do need to evaluate if the business is making the most of its investment. Are you continuing to make incremental changes while ensuring the core digital offering is continuing to perform and isn’t neglected in favour of initiatives that won’t have an immediate impact on results?
We often see businesses make the mistake of thinking that when they launch a new platform their work is done. In fact, it’s the opposite – it’s just the start of the journey.
Businesses need to build a culture where they embrace constant change, and are willing to try, win, and fail in quick succession. Only those that are able to transform quickly and realise immediate benefits will still be here in the years to come.
This article was previously published in our 2019 Predictions Magazine. This year’s magazine includes eight articles spanning programmatic display, social media, SEO, content & digital PR, creative and commerce – giving you plenty of content to inspire and inform your digital strategy for the year to come.