Digital is an essential channel in any business’s performance – now more than ever before – and within these unprecedented times we’re all facing at present, every business should consider their capabilities when it comes to a digital strategy.
A digital strategy is an approach with direction, with an in-depth understanding of audiences, of growth opportunities and the ability to leverage an online presence to tactically support and drive a business forward. It’s an impactful digital direction that’s based upon informed information and decisions, not built upon assumption or ignorance of consumer needs or desired experience. Though, no-one-size-fits-all when it comes to digital strategy, as every business has its own set of obstacles, competitors and audiences with specific personas to engage.
We only have to look at the way we’re all currently communicating to see how fundamental digital is when it comes to connection, and when it comes to community, too. Where many businesses might have thought they had time for a digital transformation, we are seeing many brands – especially those reliant on the high street – fall at the wayside in a colossal charge to ecommerce and its offering. That’s not just been a recent change, either. We’ve seen the steady decline of high street shoppers and the steep incline in shopping online for years: for convenience and for the deals that it offers, too.
It’s a big statement and provocative thought to consider how the world will continue to market, to sell, to communicate and develop brand awareness and engage with audiences in the coming months, let alone the coming years. Will things be different? Will there be a huge shift? Will more of us find ourselves working from home and placing less attention – less loyalty – in the high street, as much as the independents as the big brands, if they’re not captivating us digitally and building relationships online, too.
Consider a brand and high street retailer such as Primark, with the BBC reporting that they’ve gone from £650m sales a month to nothing, after their stores were closed across Europe and the US during coronavirus – and with the business not having the support of a converting ecommerce website – they’re relying on community from their social following to maintain the awareness of its stores until they can reopen.
So, it’s time to step away from simply “bolting on” a digital strategy alongside any existing business models and considering digital as its own approach to effective marketing, selling and awareness.
Still not convinced you need a digital strategy?
Here are five reasons why you do.
1. There’s no direction, no integration
Those without direction use digital marketing and channels to reactive market and advertise when the time calls for it. Whilst reactive marketing works in some instances, most consumers are savvy when it comes to digital – with #Ads, Facebook Advertisements, Google Ad Words, etc. becoming less and less effective – as more authenticity is called for amongst communities and audiences. They want to place trust in brands and have a loyalty to those that aren’t pressing for an impulse decision or purchase from their customers.
A digital strategy defines goals, objectives and identifies the channels and audiences to achieve them. It sets a clear plan of activities to grow upon, learn from and inform future iterations of marketing strategies online.
2. Competitors have a bigger market share
If you’re ignoring a digital strategy or simply making an effort to use it as and when necessary – your competitors with one – they’re going to be taking the lion’s share of the market with a fully formed digital strategy to direct their marketing efforts toward clear goals. Consumers are inherently programmed these days to go online – whether for research, to buy or to look up a brand or product through word of mouth – and if there’s no digital presence, brands will find themselves forgotten.
Digital strategies look ahead and stay ahead of the competition, too – with clear strategies and tactics to keep a brand at the forefront of people’s thoughts and continually provide reminders whilst not being disruptive – through the likes of social media, email marketing, considered content found within the SERPs, etc.
3. You don’t know your audience and what they’re doing online
It’s one thing to assume who customers are, what they want, what they do online and how they want to experience a brand – it’s another thing entirely to actually know. So many businesses fall short of thoroughly understanding their audiences (as small or as large as they may be) and without that fundamental knowledge, then it’s impossible to truly know exactly how – and where – to reach them.
That’s the case digitally especially and with so many consumers falling within different demographics, not everyone can be reached through email or Facebook and not every age group will be found on Instagram, engage with Google Ads or find the information they want on the first page of Google, either. There’s a wealth of information in individual audience groups and it’s different for every business, every product offering, so it’s essential that audiences are understood to effectively reach and market to them. Otherwise it’s more likely for a competitor with the awareness and insight to gain that market share, too.
4. You don’t have an online value proposition
Much the same as knowing your audience, an online value proposition will differ for each persona a brand or business wishes to appeal, too – it’s the difference between messaging that appeals to one generation as opposed to another. If your online value proposition doesn’t differ from that of your offline one, where it may encourage existing customers, it’s hardly a steer toward new customers and opportunities within new markets, too.
By creating an online value proposition, it’s possible to reach new audiences – those that spend more time browsing and shopping digitally – as opposed to those that are fundamentally high street shoppers and prefer the physicality of stores.
5. You don’t have the resource and you’re not optimising
Not having the resource is something that many of us are facing right now – both big and small businesses – and with many employees furloughed it’s even harder to ensure the stability of marketing and keeping consumers engaged. As unfortunately, in many cases, marketing teams have been one of the first to down tools, so to speak during quarantine.
That’s why ensuring a digital strategy and optimising for it, based upon analytics (such as Google Analytics) can be a real game changer during this time. To stake stock, to review activity through analytics, where support is needed and how to best optimise a website or the channels most traffic is coming through, the journey they take and at what stage they convert or exit the website altogether. It’s the time to really examine any digital presence currently to build a strategy around it, so that your business’s online presence works much harder.
In most instances, even if your business isn’t ecommerce, it’s likely to have some form of digital presence – from a website to social media profiles – so it’s important to review how hard it’s currently working to drive leads, brand awareness and community for your brand and business. Define goals and objectives, understand the audiences you’re appealing to and identify the best plan of action and digital channels to reach and engage with them.