Embracing digital is about embracing customer needs, published by NMA

Ofcom’s recently published Communications Market Report makes interesting reading for anyone in business and the media. The internet really has passed the tipping point, with over 50% of UK households using broadband, 56% of internet users using every day and 66% of users intent on making purchases online (although people spend the most time on Ebay and social networking sites).

Probably more interesting is that even though take-up is highest among the young, silver surfers are the most active – spending on average almost 42 hours online every month (Nielsen//NetRatings and ONS data)

See my point? We’re at critical mass, and the challenge for businesses is not longer about whether to embrace digital channels but how to get them central to the business – both internal and customer facing. So what do companies need to do?

Base your digital strategy on changing customer needs

It’s not as easy as putting up a whizzy flash site and some forums. An effective digital strategy will make online channels a primary customer interface – where people can spend time with your brand and products, before choosing to buy something.

We need to understand the reasons people are interested in your products and build journeys based around those needs. Today’s pace of change means that brands are presented with a constantly moving target, where customer needs and your market situation can change over night. The question is, can you respond?

Measurement isn’t just about reporting, it’s about action

Digital media give us an unprecedented ability to measure transactions and behaviour in real time and new online tools enable us to commission qual and quant research in hours rather than weeks. If we integrate this with segmentation built on customer contribution, we’re in a great place to get a total view of a customer, in real time.

All too often, businesses fail to use the information at hand. It’s vital to develop an ongoing process of testing hypotheses and taking action.

Moving things forward needs an integrated team

Making change is never easy, there’s always a reason to wait and detractors who are reluctant to try new things. We’ve found that to really make a difference you have to work with a hit squad of stakeholders (marketing, propositions, IT and operations), partner agencies and customers. This approach guarantees a consensus and generates the momentum needed. In the wise words of Machiavelli; “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”