Product. Distribution. Demand. Digital is changing it all.

Traditionally, the size and scale of an organisation played an integral, if not pivotal, role in determining its overall success. Managing complex and costly distribution channels was the key to maximising market share. This made it very expensive to offer highly individualised or bespoke products — if you were spending all this cash getting your product out there, you wanted to appeal to as many people as possible.

Fast forward to the action packed digital world of the present day. Though many markets are still controlled by a handful of incumbents, we are seeing a dramatic shift. Despite having deep pockets, companies can no longer rely on traditional marketing and distribution channels.

Digital has now made distribution free and ubiquitous, connecting companies to billions of potential customers. On the flip-side, customers are now inundated by choice, literally swimming in it, changing what the customer wants and expects. Generic products that don’t quite hit the mark and traditional forms of customer interaction just won’t cut it. Engaging with a competitor almost instantaneously can be as easy as a new tab in their web browser.

Now, customers expect and demand intuitive tools and personalised interactions that in turn create a great experience. Experience being the operative word, as it is the experience that the customer now truly values.

Successfully going digital is about integrating seamlessly into your customers behaviours (B2C) or workflow (B2B). This is no small feat. Every touch point regardless of whether it is digital or not, needs to delight. Things like an extensive sign up processes or counterintuitive interfaces lead to higher attrition rates. They act as barriers to unlocking the actual value of a product. Furthermore, everything has to look and feel damn good. Design is integral, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Having a strong UI/UX team is imperative to ensuring the user loves interacting with your products.

One example of a company implementing these practices is Slack, which has built a communication tool for workers. Signup is quick, and the app teaches you about its functionality while you use it in real time. This means that the user can fully utilise Slack almost instantly, creating a frictionless experience. Another example, Robinhood, which is a personal finance app that requires private details like bank account numbers, allows you to use most of its features before you have to give any personal information. While Acorns, a savings app, gamifys the users on-boarding process. It is these novel and frictionless experiences that keep users coming back for more.

Delivering great digital solutions and products doesn’t just magically happen overnight, especially if your organisation is traditionally analogue. To become digital, your internals need to be aligned. You need a flexible digital strategy and a genuine cultural change, coming from the top and championed down.

When it comes to actually getting down to business and building, agile software development is all the rage, and in some cases a religion. But, boiling it down, it’s mostly just lean manufacturing adapted to software development, focusing on adaptive planning and continuous improvement. Implementing this methodology must be complemented with the mindset that failure isn’t the issue, it’s how you fail that is. Staying relevant is all about hypothesising, building, measuring, analysing and learning. Allowing your employees to fail in this cycle empowers them to try things they believe in, but normally wouldn’t do, and gives them a sense of ownership over their work. Analogue corporates might see this failure as only hurting the bottom line, but really, the old ‘one step back, two step forwards’ mantra couldn’t be a more apt cliche here.

Technology is opening up a world of opportunities and threats, and there is no silver bullet when it comes to conquering the digital world. There is a lot to consider. How do I attract customers to my digital products? Where’s the data? Off shore or in house? What really is AI or cognitive computing and can I use it? All interesting questions and things that need to be examined. We plan on exploring these ideas and much more in detail in our future pieces, deep diving into the world of digital, business and everything in between — stay tuned.

Those who live by the sword, get shot by the gun.

Written by Anthony Stevens and Louis Strauss and also published on LinkedIn here.