A mere decade ago, Janet Jackson’s “incident” at the superbowl was the big news of the day. Companies were still spending lots of money on print advertising, music was distributed on CD’s and cell phones were just that – phones. Facebook was barely on the radar for most people, Twitter didn’t exist. Websites were largely updated manually, and far too many business leaders viewed websites as nothing more than a risky marketing expense.
Shockingly, a lot of companies are still approaching digital as though all of the above is still going on. It is not. Things have not only changed in the last decade, they’ve taken a huge leap forward in just the last couple of years.
Most business leaders are still not thinking of digital as central to their business operations because they did just fine without it. But in 2014 your customers, your products, your vendors, and your competitors are living a digital lifestyle – if you are participating, fine. If not, they will move on in a heartbeat.
Here’s what Forrester Research is saying about this:
A piecemeal strategy of bolting on digital channels or methods is no longer sufficient. Instead, you must think of your company as part of a dynamic ecosystem of value that connects digital resources inside and outside the company as needed to compete. You must harness digital technologies, both to deliver a superior customer experience and to drive the agility and operational efficiency you need to stay competitive.[/quote]
What they are talking about is that most business’s approach to digital is to just “bolt-on” a website and some social media to existing operations. That will no longer cut it. In the next ten years, we believe if you are not using most or all of the digital opportunities that are available, you will be left behind.
The Web of Everyone
First of all, everyone is a web user. The young, the old, the rich, the poor, executives to gardeners – they all use the web in one form or another. To not be actively engaged with your business’s web activities is a sure way to avoid your potential or fail completely. Fifteen years ago this kind of talk was hyperbole. Now it’s just fact.
The first billion web users was reached in 2005. The second billion in 2010. The third billion will be reached by the end of 2014. 80% off all Americans have web access as of June of 2014, 85% by other measurements.
That last 15% that doesn’t have access? They are more than likely not your customer anyway. But by not being actively engaged with the 85% with access, you are missing out on the millions and millions of younger people who have never known the world without the internet – and they have very high expectations of how they interact with your company over the internet. You’re also missing out on the fastest growing age group to adopt the internet: The elderly.
We are no longer at the start of a global shift towards people living online. We’re already there and gaining participants every single day. Even if you’re not one of the people who is on their phone, iPad or computer all day, it’s okay. Your business can and must take advantage of the opportunity.
Decades of Experience at Your Fingertips
Second, we as web developers now have decades of experience as to what works and what does not work on a website. In the early days of web development we had to guess and then test to find out what worked for web users. Not so much anymore. There are standards, basics and general principals that we know work without having to verify it.
Experience provides a background from which to evaluate bleeding-edge technologies, new online marketing tools & concepts, designs and devices and how they can best be put to use for your efforts.
Ten years ago not that many web developers could point to what they did for a site that worked to get the kind of results we are talking about here. Now we have millions of success stories to prove what a dramatic difference a solid web effort can make.
Radically Improved Tools
API’s (Application Programming Interface) allows us to connect your website and internal applications to very powerful third party applications and tools. For example, if you are a real estate agent, we can add a mortgage calculator to your website from your favorite lender, allowing a potential client to calculate if they can afford one of you listings and buy it almost instantly. By 2016 we could have 30,000 of these API’s available to us to extend the functionality of your website without re-inventing the wheel. It’s not unusual for an app or site to have 6 or more of these running, and we know they work well and are very reliable.
The cloud, combined with the right tools, can make the dream of a 24/7/365 automated, well-oiled machine more of a reality than ever before, at a fraction of the cost. Ten years ago, we may well have advocated that any bigger application have a dedicated server environment and built in scalability. That is expensive and time consuming. When the cloud became a viable option, most CTO’s and business owners were fearful of security and data back up issues. That’s just not the case anymore – experience has shown it to be safe, reliable and stable. More important, it is instantly scalable at a tiny, tiny fraction of the cost of running your own server farm.
Along with the API options mentioned above, we now have access to bigger, cleaner and more relevant data (aka “Big Data”) than ever before. Data that someone else took on the expensive of harvesting and is now willing to let you take advantage of it for a nominal fee.
What’s really intriguing about the improved tools we have is that we are just scratching the surface. In the coming months, years and decades, what we are using today will seem downright archaic, just like running a PC with Windows XP does now.
Way Beyond a Mere Website
Fourth, we’re no longer in Kansas anymore. A static or barely dynamic website means your business will be left behind. You need a variety of technologies and concepts that supporting your efforts and goals:
- Continual Improvement
- Focus on the Minimum Viable Product
- Empathy, Mobile Technology & The Cloud
- Heroine Like or Authoritative Content
- Social Media, Community Development and Fans
- Ecommerce, Simplicity and Convenience
- Data Exchanges & Automation
- Marketing Automation & Analytics
In the next few blog posts, we’ll explore all of the above in more depth, but by now you should be getting the big picture. What we are talking about when we say digital is a whole lot more than just a website; it’s creating the platform where your “digital opera” will hit the stage for all to see. It’s the center of your organization’s commerce, communications, documentation, marketing, sales, community development and so much more.
Sounds complicated, expensive and time consuming right? Well don’t panic. The good news is that all there is a sane, proven and affordable way to become digital. We’re going to talk more about that in a series of upcoming blog posts.
Your transformation to a digital business will be a journey, not a destination. Like any other journey, the important part is to take that first step. Once you’re sure that foot is on solid ground, take the next step and repeat that process. You’ll quickly see yourself not looking like 2004 any more.