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Managing Digital Reality

by Reyana Nacerodien

Technology has, and is continuing to, reshape our world. The idea of adapt or die, need not be reiterated. The pressure to change is the only constant and is sure to intensify. Tech has already infiltrated business and changed the way we make products as well as deliver services. All that’s needed is a closing of the loop by adjusting the company strategy to navigate the digital landscape.

Remember that saying ‘money makes the world go round’? When the phrase first reared its head way back in 1972 in the musical drama Cabaret, singer Liza Minnelli probably had no clue that her statement about ubiquitous currency would ever be brought into question.

Fast forward nearly 50 years later, and the song might still get toes tapping, but the world moves to a more technological beat. Digital disruption is the order of the day to the point that even the term ‘disruption’ has become passé. Even money has morphed and gone digital with cryptocurrency gaining more and more traction.

Amidst machine learning, bitcoin, automation, blockchain and other on trend developments, plotting your business’ course can prove daunting. However, the digital wave is simply an opportunity enabled by technology. All that’s required is a deep breath and an action plan.

Stay True
You don’t have to be the next Google, Apple, Uber or Airbnb. You do need to hold true to your business constant. Your value proposition doesn’t necessarily need radical change, advancements just mean serving your customers’ needs differently.

It’s business as usual. Do what you do well while making sure you maintain your customer focus. Part of doing things well does involve modernisation, and, in turn, modernisation helps improve your offering for customers.

A good example of this is offered by Russian air carrier, Aeroflot, who went from being considered one of the worst airlines in the world to being named Best Airline in Eastern Europe by the renowned Skytrax World Airline Awards. The prize is awarded based on an evaluation of dozens of key performance indicators of airline product and services in all classes.

Technology enabled, easily accessible data offered Aeroflot management a view of performance on these indicators; aircraft performance; maintenance; etc. which allowed the airline to be more responsive in its operations and ultimately, its offering. The business did not change what it did, rather, used technology to help do it better. Aeroflot remains a passenger airline transporting people to many destinations, through digital means, they continue to do just that, but in a more informed, efficient and user-friendly way.

IoT has ensured that devices and connectivity are embedded in virtually every aspect of our lives. The global reality is that new networked media and communications is incorporated into our daily life and that of our customers. This reality creates the co-evolution of technology and social experience for customers and, in turn, the businesses that serve them.

In this changing landscape, consumer expectations can be dynamic in nature and consistently growing, placing what seems like additional pressure on businesses to adapt and produce. Yes, this requires businesses to up their game, but opens up a number of avenues to do just that and even outplay competitors.

The digital world has increased the opportunity for interactive communication. Engagement, for example, is a two-way street allowing brands to establish rapport and harness its benefits. It is true that the modern customer has come to expect this given the reciprocal nature of interaction on a number of online platforms. But brands that are able to meet this expectation boast with brand equity.

The Starbucks rewards app has proven to be a major contender in connecting with customers. Not only does it create a one-to-one channel between the customer and the business, but it links to other platforms both online and in-store, while offering a personalised engagement based on customer data. Loyalty is promoted and rewarded.

Consistency is Key
Internal mechanics like vision and culture no longer rest outside of the realm of the external market given the modern conscious consumer; their level of influence; and ease of access to information. In this regard, the brand image has expanded to include more than just rudimentary corporate identity design elements but more of a holistic brand image and message.

Companies like Shell, for example, have been brought firmly into view as one of the world’s most hated brands. The attention is a direct result of consumer trends that highlight the importance of environmental considerations directly affecting the very premise of the Shell business’ existence.

Despite the business highlighting environmental and social performance in its rhetoric, business operations still concern consumers. The view of the company’s environmental efforts fails to meet the high, zero tolerance expectations of a hyper-critical market. Illustratively, even the company logo which benefits from huge brand recall is brought into question. Using a literal image of a shell – despite it being stylised – that’s symbolic of nature to represent what is seen as environmentally exploitative and invasive practices appears to leave the brand open to a lot of negative interpretation.

Brands demonstrating a proactive, definitive voice on all fronts serves them well in this landscape when there’s no disconnect, rather more consistency, between what the business says and does, and how it represents itself.

Don’t Forget Your Staff
Let’s not forget that all of us, including our employees and colleagues, form part of this hyperconnected customer base. Employees can be customers of the business in question, but, above all, are brand ambassadors who not only need a positive brand experience internally, but further need the skills in order to add value to, and, themselves deliver that positive experience in the market.

The beauty space has fast-tracked the idea of being ‘phygital’ – combining both physical and digital. In the salon reality, AI, VR and AR tools have the potential to reinvent the salon experience. Rapid response, increased engagement, influence on decision-making and an immersive experience could serve to enhance the relationship with the customer and set the business apart from competitors. In the instance of AR-enabled smart mirrors, for example, hair colour can be changed live; a facial recognition feature can restore past looks; a 360° camera offers views from different angles; and the programme is accessible on a number of devices.

These mechanisms help to ensure customer satisfaction; have additions like scheduling and payment options for conversion and potential up-/cross- sell; are able to follow-up with haircare and style maintenance advice supporting Client Relationship Management and, ultimately, loyalty.

Giving staff access and training that inform data-driven responses to customers has elevated the in-store experience. Employees are long-term partners in making the company’s strategic vision a reality, making the management of the employer-employee relationship important.

What to Do?
When you woke up this morning, what was the first thing you did? For most people, they reach over to grab their phones to check messages, the news, the weather forecast or social media. This is common practice. The digital reality is our reality.

Understandably, business leaders can struggle to grasp what digital developments means for their business and how to proceed. Change seems the only constant, but doesn’t need to be as daunting as it sounds. The digital reality can be frightening, but quite powerful and, yes, it is a journey. Sticking to the basics of what you do it vital.

The moral of the story is: Keep calm and digital on.


Main photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

19 Nov 2019
Last modified: 19 Nov 2019
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