We are on the brink of a technological revolution that will change forever how we live, work and connect with each other. All business leaders feel the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, building on the Third, the digital revolution that we’ve been experiencing since the middle of the last century. A fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological experiences.
Traditionally, consumer-driven brands are evolving to think and behave the same way that businesses born after the new millennium think and behave. In many respects, the changes made by legacy brands are a matter of survival because consumer expectations have shifted at the pace of technological advancement.
The rise of the digital revolution has replaced the transactional economy with the relationship economy: people now expecting fast, anticipatory experiences that only a data-driven and networked world achieves. As business leaders, winning the hearts and most importantly, the trust of people means transforming the ways we think, innovate, behave and deliver.
To thrive in this new space, legacy businesses must examine and adapt their engagement and marketing practices, more effectively leverage consumer data and not fear changing their value proposition. Here are the four critical concepts every legacy business must understand to thrive in the digital age.
Customer Centric Delivery Wins
No matter how much we hear about empathy being the primary driver of innovation, most organizations are designed in departmental silos, pulling them away from the people they serve. It’s human nature to focus on our work through our own lens. The path to transformation requires us to get as close to our customers as possible and understand how to wrap service delivery around them. We need to deeply understand people, their needs, challenges and lifestyle and then think about how to creatively deliver greater value in the ways we innovate.
“The road to innovation is filled with failed ideas that evolved to become many of the most beloved brands we engage with most today.”
One very helpful and insightful framework is to start identifying jobs that customers are struggling to get done. It helps to deconstruct the job a customer is trying to get done. When companies understand that customers hire products, services, software, and ideas to get jobs done, they can dissect those jobs to discover the innovation opportunities that are the key to growth.
Digital Access Means Trust
Digitization has democratized the buying experience making way for both empowered and impatient consumers. Just a decade ago, companies controlled the way they interacted with consumers. Engagement still took place in a real-world, analog and passive one-way experience. Since that time, markets have fragmented and media has exploded across countless omni-digital channels that are two-way, not just one-way. People expect companies to meet them where they are.
This shift translates to people’s buying behavior. According to MasterCard, digital commerce is expected to account for nearly half of all retail commerce by 2023 and spending is down. People would rather create and share more in digital communities to fulfill a desire to reconnect — safely, toggling between devices, social channels and in-person experiences in search of community. Smart companies are building authentic relationships with their customers, through digital channels — treating them less as consumers and more as friends who really know them.
Create the Perfect Calibration Between the Human Mind and Machine
The evidence is overwhelming that, whenever available, relying on data and algorithms alone usually leads to better decisions and forecasts than relying on the judgment of experience and expert humans. Many decisions, judgments, and forecasts now made by humans should be turned over to algorithms. However, humans must remain engaged to provide commonsense checks and added value opportunity.
On the other hand, digital technologies do a poor job of satisfying most of our social drives. Work that taps into these drives will likely continue to be done by people for some time to come. It’s very clear, that really strength of the human mind are the high-level, empathetic social skills. They will become more valuable than advanced quantitative ones. The highest return on human investment will be generated through social engagement with quantitative skills, deploying technology as the judgment and decision machine.
Solve Seamlessly and Evolve Quickly
Netflix used to send out DVDs by mail. Amazon used to only ship books. Both companies pivoted with the digital revolution, embracing new avenues and evolving as technology created new products and services related to their core values. These tech giants succeeded because they were willing to re-examine their value proposition and shift accordingly rather than being stuck in their original silo.
This is one of the most important lessons of the digital age — technology moves fast, sometimes in ways that people can’t predict. In the age of smartphones, the next evolution is everyday smart appliances and vehicles, all connected in a smart city. This constant flow of data, as well as the increasing integration of connectivity into every type of consumer product, opens the door to new value propositions across all industries. Anything is possible as long as you have an open mind.
Bring It All Together
Successful businesses focus on continual improvement – whether that’s digitization, the intersection of technology and humanity, customer centricity or seamless and swift evolution. We are all in the race to excellence and as technology progresses, the bar keeps rising. That’s why some modern businesses have staff focus on self-started projects and innovation one day out of the work week — this mandatory focus on improvements creates a culture of change. For years, this was the standard at Google, with the resulting innovations now recognized as part of the company’s current flagship products: Gmail, Google Docs, Chrome, and more.
Of course, not every improvement project is going to build the next world-changing digital experience or cut process speeds in half. That’s fine. The journey and the culture are what’s important. Whether it’s writing code to create new apps, crafting macros to tweak existing tools, or simply looking at how other outside vendor tools may integrate into a company or group workflow, the idea here is to be open to change.
By committing a certain level of time and energy to it, you’re giving the signal that it’s okay to be creative rather than stagnant and it’s okay to fail. After all, the road to innovation is filled with failed ideas that evolved to become many of the most beloved brands we engage with most today. One thing is clear: Complete digital ecosystems that bring value in a way that is truly accessible, integrated and embedded in our lives, will be the companies that thrive in the new economy.