Article by Sam Cinquegrani Published by Mass Market Retailers
Digital strategy is a new frontier in Mexico’s business world, wide open to a number of different approaches, implementations and tactics. Because digital strategy is so different from many established and documented operational considerations, it’s often difficult to know where to start and how to proceed once that effort starts moving. The involved nature of digital strategy also makes it difficult to effectively plan and develop. A viable approach ultimately involves a number of smaller elements that work together and take on larger or smaller roles, depending on the specific situation. Knowing what to emphasize, what to let stay in the background and when to change those emphases, based on context and need, is critical.
A keen understanding of the root purpose of digital strategy can help companies be successful in these efforts. Digital strategy includes many distinct and sometimes disparate elements. But their collective reason for existence is to create the best possible returns — be they revenue, customer engagement, data or something else — from digital initiatives for the company. At its heart, digital strategy outlines a company’s visions, goals and opportunities and, when implemented successfully, drives the organization toward success in those areas.
The growth and diversification of digital channels
When digital concepts like e-commerce were first put into practice by companies, they were viewed as secondary. E-commerce supported physical, in-store purchasing, extending an organization’s reach but not supplanting its main lines of business. That’s no longer the case. Enterprises dealing mainly or exclusively in online sales are common, and long-established companies have seen significant growth in online sales. This development has reached the point where many retailers realize that digital strategy needs to be a much more central element of operations.
Of course, digital strategy now encompasses more than e-commerce, although that is often the central, immutable element for businesses. Considerations like customer service, marketing and many others now have significant digital components. Others, like engaging customers through social media and providing service or making sales through an app or text messaging, exist entirely in the digital space. Digital channels also provide advantages that enhance in-store experiences — for example, by giving employees individualized information about customers during a transaction.
With a strong, cohesive digital strategy in place, businesses small and large can tap into the power and opportunity presented by digital channels. They can use them to both capture entirely new markets and improve existing operations.
Many options and choices help a wide range of retailers
Agility is a key factor in a successful digital strategy, as rapid development of new digital technology and processes means that significant change is frequently around the corner. Nearly all businesses can be agile in how they select the software platforms and other digital tools that drive success. One of the most foundational concerns is the right e-commerce platform. The market is full of options, and the best fit for a large business likely won’t provide the same results — or even be a financial possibility — for a small start-up. The availability of many different platforms means finding one that matches well with business needs, even if it requires some customization, is possible.
That idea of agility and flexibility extends into other digital channels as well. Beacon technology is just coming into its own as a way to create meaningful digital engagement with in-store shoppers, sharing information, deals, reminders and much more via their smartphones. This technology may not be feasible for every business just yet, but it’s a powerful option for larger companies with high foot traffic in their stores. The same considerations can be made about mobile apps, which are more ubiquitous but more limited than beacons. Retailers large and small can use apps to engage with clientele outside the store, offer deals and promotions to entice purchasing — be it inside a brick-and-mortar location or online — and gather valuable customer information at the individual level.
What’s the best approach to digital strategy?
Many options and methods are available to extend and shape digital strategy into exactly what a company wants. The key piece of information to keep in mind is that every digital strategy will be different and unique to an extent. Selecting the right elements for a company’s individual needs means considering what competitors are doing, but also choosing elements that none of those other, similar businesses are using. Every business needs to have a strong understanding of its strengths and weaknesses before it can develop a truly successful digital strategy, which is an outgrowth of its experiments in e-commerce and other online and mobile platforms.
Some smaller businesses in Mexico may think they don’t need, or can’t afford to implement, a completely formed digital strategy. Other more established enterprises may feel they have enough of a handle on digital operations already, or that change would be too difficult or costly.
The bad news is that these approaches will become more and more burdensome as time goes on, costing companies the chance to maintain relevance and grow. Only focusing on one or a few areas of the overall strategy leaves the neglected components to flounder and deteriorate. A focus on e-commerce without corresponding attention paid to social media and digital customer service, for example, means customers are set up to have negative experiences when returning an order, or simply when attempting to communicate with a business. The opposite approach, not investing enough into e-commerce while developing social media and digital customer service, can yield momentarily happy customers whose hopes of a fast, secure online purchase will soon be dashed.
The good news, however, is that there are a variety of tactics, options and choices that tailor a digital strategy to Mexico’s shifting consumer preferences while taking practical business needs into account.
By the same token, there are a number of areas in crafting and executing a digital strategy where expert knowledge and experience are needed. A few examples of this include developing a secure, responsive and attractive e-commerce platform; handling the potential integration of systems and information, such as linking consumer data and purchase information to assist customer service staff; and adding new components to a strategy as the technology is developed. This reality shouldn’t discourage businesses, but help them realize exactly what they will need to plan and execute on a successful digital strategy.
The need for a digital strategy will only increase for Mexico’s businesses as time goes on. In many industries and markets it’s already a vital element of successful operations. The sooner organizations act on this need and take the necessary steps to develop a successful digital strategy, the better off they will be.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
ObjectWave is a full-service provider of digital commerce solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].