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Why B2C Companies Are Shifting Their Digital Offerings to the Forefront

Many consumer products companies are turning their tech capabilities—which for most organizations have served as business enablers rather than product offerings in their own right—into key competitive differentiators. And marketing their digital offerings is having a positive effect on brand equity and stock price.

Quick-serve restaurants are early adopters of the business model. McDonalds has even opened up shop in Silicon Valley to recruit digital talent. But the allure of apps-based growth also is being considered by a variety of other B2C industries, ranging from packaged goods to automobiles to professional football.

The message that this shift sends to CEOs is to ensure that, whatever else they do, their companies are relevant in the online arena in all of its manifestations, especially social media—but also gaming, web-based promotions and other sub-channels.

If this is not a priority in your sector, all the more reason for you to figure out how to blaze the trail and jump ahead of the curve. Digital technology is becoming—at least, at the moment, for B2C companies that target millennials—indispensable for their brands to establish meaningful relationships with today’s customers.

Consider Domino’s Pizza, which is differentiating its brand in a commodity business through digital service offerings. CEO Patrick Doyle has said that an emphasis on online ordering is taking an increasing amount of corporate development resources and has become a priority. Domino’s most significant recent announcement was about a new group online ordering tool for large parties.

Meanwhile, rival Pizza Hut has announced a deal with Hulu that will allow viewers watching on their PCs to order for pickup or delivery “without ever leaving the Hulu environment,” a Hulu representative said. And the franchiser is running a TV campaign featuring country singer Blake Shelton, who points out that ordering online is the fastest way to get served.

In the realm of fast food restaurants that require visits, McDonalds long has used online games as promotional tools. But this year, the chain has ratcheted its gamification up a notch. Its FIFA World Cup promotion involves packaging fries in soccer-themed designs that allow customers to sync with their smartphones to exclusive gaming apps. It’s more of these types of mobile programs that chief digital officer Atif Rafiq wants to push out of the new San Francisco office.

Going further up the chain, sit-down, fast-casual restaurant chains are installing tablet PCs at tables that customers can use to place orders without having to wait in line. Chili’s and Applebee’s are among major chains that have tried this, citing advantages that tablets cut wait times and lead customers to spend more on appetizers and dessert and to leave bigger tips. Table-top tablets also give patrons the chance to play video games on screens larger than their smartphones while they wait, which increases the feel-good attachment to the brand.

For now, this technological advancement is making inroads in just one consumer-facing industry. But consider what similar technology could do for your business, particularly if you’re in B2B. Imagine if conference attendees could press a button on their chair to sign up for a newsletter while listening to the keynote. Or a manufacturing facility at which line managers could order parts at the touch of a button using a tablet built into the equipment itself. The possibilities and opportunities—as well as the threats to your business—are already here.

 

About dale buss

dale buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.