Adapt to new technologies or become commercially extinct. Digital Darwinism is the result of years of innovation in tech, impacting everything from the customer’s journey, expectations, and behaviour, to the tools and means by which we engage with them and measure & track their interactions with our business.
Digital processes and customer behaviour are rapidly evolving, exacerbating the already prevalent ‘adapt or die’ corporate mentality. Businesses must embrace a strategy that is increasingly customer-centric: rapidly identifying, understanding, and seizing the opportunity technology presents, before the window closes and they’re surpassed by competition to feel the cold embrace of irrelevancy. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings remarked, “companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly”. Like the beasts who fell by the wayside in favour of creatures who were able to adapt more quickly and successfully to a changing environment, so too must modern businesses (no matter their size) learn to modify their approach to reaching, developing, and measuring strategic success in the pursuit of the customer.
To survive Digital Darwinism, companies must embark on a journey of transformation. To thrive in the changing consumer landscape, businesses must embrace new technology within their overall strategy.
The issue, however, is that companies find it difficult to adapt their business models to integrate new customer behaviours and tools. According to Cisco CEO John Chambers, “even when 70% of companies attempt to go digital only 30% will succeed”. A 2016 study found that although 96% of organisations surveyed claimed digital transformation was an important issue for them, 62% of employees said the business was in denial about the immediate necessity to digitally transform.
The British Chamber of Commerce states that 75% of businesses report a shortage of digital business skills within their employee base; how can a business expect to adapt and grasp this opportunity if it doesn’t understand the processes or their application? Digital cannot be treated as an add-on to the current modus operandi, it must be incorporated into business strategy in the same way the printing press was introduced to publishing. There is no longer a distinction between digital marketing and traditional marketing - it’s all just marketing.
To transform you must know how to adapt, which tools to use, and how to analyse and optimise to make the most out of the opportunities available. Once you understand the ins and outs of this, you’ll be able to adapt your strategy and business models to fit it. To stave off natural selection, businesses need to think beyond the ‘traditional’ approaches to everyday methods of digital marketing:
Search Engine Optimisation – The typical business approach to SEO is outdated. Previously segmented ‘off’ and ‘on’ site SEO practices are blurring, behaviour on search engines is changing, and the devices used to access them fracture the customer journey. To evolve a business must learn beyond the fundamentals of Search Engine Marketing, and also embrace the new developments and behaviours relating to areas such as eCommerce, mobile, and voice search.
Social Media – Recognising the importance of social media merely through maintaining a Twitter presence, or attempting to push a one-way conversation, will leave you at best ignored, at worst irrelevant. With social conversations growing more dynamic, understanding how to find a way into these conversations is just one part of an evolving social media that must be mastered in order to thrive.
Big Data – Once a process delegated to certain individuals within your business, using big data and harnessing analytical tools to understand, analyse, and optimise strategy is essential to decision-making, regardless of role or department.
Email Marketing – Far from fading to obscurity, technological developments and changing customer behaviour mean a well-planned email strategy makes customer targeting easier than ever before. If done right, it can produce a higher ROI than social media, giving you a better chance of retaining your existing customers all while growing your customer base.
Digital Ad Formats – Understandably, the rise of digital has meant that businesses can now advertise in more ways than ever before. To make the most of this opportunity, you need to understand how to plan digitally, from your creative, which channel(s) you’ll use and your messaging. You then need to understand how to assess and then optimise your digital advertising strategy to get the best ROI.
Customer Relationship Management – The technological evolution has not only given rise to new ways for customers to interact with you but also new tools that, if well understood, can transform your business strategy with respect to the cultivation, management and retention of your customer base.
Digital Transformation involves more than recognition without action, a corporate social media account, or blindly digitising old business strategy. True transformation is an educated understanding of digital, the changes it brings, the opportunities it presents, and the ability to adapt your business model to face changing customer behaviour and expectations.
Every company, regardless of their size, must incorporate the opportunities and tools made available by the digital revolution. They have to, because, without the ability to adapt and learn, they will surely become victims of Digital Darwinism.