Digital strategy is dead

April 25, 2015

Digital strategy is dead. There is no longer a need to specify that digital needs to be a strategy onto its own. It is now simply part of all strategy; we are all now constantly connected. Digital has won. This is like adding the word ‘electricity’ in front of the word strategy. When electricity started being integrated in corporations more than a century ago, leaders appointed vice presidents of electricity. This might seem like an amusing concept today but a quick search on LinkedIn reveals thousands of vice presidents of digital. This is not meant to besmirch their roles since they are still vitally important. The point I want to impress upon you is that over time, this technology will fade into the background and the need for specialization will disappear. The end game is quite clear and has been for some time.

The proof is in the pudding. Almost of all Canada’s population is now online.


Source: Statista 2015

The argument can be made with even more statistics (time spent and mobile engagement come to mind). The ubiquity of connectivity will not slow down and corporate boards are beginning to realize its importance not just for media strategy but for overall strategy as well. More precisely: business models, people operations, go to market and the list goes on.

Implications for strategy

The companies leading the charge are numerous and well known. Name dropping alert! Uber, AirBnb and Netflix are among those disrupting incumbents in their spaces. There is a common misconception that these leaders are technology companies; this is not necessarily accurate in my view.

Uber at its core is a transport and logistics company. They simply employ technology as a means to an end. Their business is not the creation of technology; it is the fulfillment of taxi rides. The same can be said of AirBnb, their main purpose is to connect people who need a place to stay. The fact that they create beautiful web and mobile experiences to engage their customers is simply a by-product of their mission.

The women and men in charge of leading their organization’s strategy shouldn’t be anxious with technological complexity but rather with how they can adapt to the new reality.

What can conventional players do?

Today in 2015, it is somewhat redundant to talk about the importance of digital and its integration at the corporate development level. Nonetheless, for most professionals that don’t live and breathe this space, it is still very much early days.

Leaders that don’t recognize the need to disrupt their current state are indeed in dire straits. A good example is that Canadian retail landscape that had a rude wake up call this year. For companies, digital is not about the latest photo sharing app or cool tech gadget, it’s about their customers and bottom line business. What’s a company to do? Here is one starting point, the customer.

Lead with the customer journey

If your customer employs digital to research / purchase / consume / share your product, then you need to understand what those touch points look like.

Your organization should feel what it’s like to experience every customer touchpoint across all channels. Ask your agency partners, operational and marketing team to assist with this exercise as it fundamentally impacts many aspects of your organization.

Identify the customer lifecycle (awareness, exploration, purchase, loyalty) and how your various channels interact with those moments. A good mapping exercise should also be ongoing. The actionable output of this activity should be a way to reimagine the customer journey and focus on the most important touchpoints, digital or not. My bet is that most organizations today have not yet adapted to the myriad of connected touchpoints. This is where transformation can begin.

Once we stop talking about digital transformation & focus on real business transformation, will real success be achieved.