The fact that the world is becoming digital is no longer really newsworthy. It’s a boardroom topic for most firms. As it should be. You only have to open your eyes to see the impact that digital touchpoints have on business. As I sit here writing this blog, I am in the departure lounge of Brussels Airport en route to Stockholm for the last leg of a presentation roadshow. I’m surrounded by travelers on smartphones, tablets, and a few laptops. Almost everyone (with the exception of a sole individual filling in a crossword) is using a digital device.
Firms are beginning to acknowledge this digital-first culture. We’ve been presenting to audiences in cities all around Europe, talking about Transforming Into A Digital Business In The Face Of Disruption. The overwhelming feedback from these presentations has been that firms are beginning to realize that digital is critical to their future success (and in some cases, their very survival). This spans B2C and B2B. But in many cases, the executives we speak to say their firms don’t have a digital strategy, and even if they do, they doubt their capability to deliver it.
It’s clear — companies need help to make sense of what digital means to them.
It’s only crumbling, archaic companies that have to worry about digital disruption, right? Companies that cling to out-moded ways of operating, where out-of-touch, besuited executives languish in mahogany-paneled boardrooms pondering strategy over cigars and brandy.
Oh no. Digital disruption impacts every business and every company.
No matter how “born digital” you may think your firm is, there’s always room to get leaner, meaner and closer to your customers. Take this as an example.
You might think that Satya Nadella, recently appointed Chief Exec of software powerhouse Microsoft, has nothing to worry about. While Microsoft wasn’t strictly “born digital”, it isn’t far off. It boasts an impressive array of digital services in its suite of products – Hotmail, Xbox Live and MSN to name just a few. But Nadella is only too aware that what’s made Microsoft successful in the past will not continue to differentiate it in this uncertain future.
In a recent New York Times interview Nadella was asked about how he wanted to change the culture of Microsoft. He succinctly sums up exactly why every firm must become a digital business:
2013 was a year in which media attention and hype targeted 3D printing: “artisanal” do-it-yourself (DIY) upstarts on Kickstarter making headlines across the blogosphere every week; high-profile speculation, such as President Obama’s quip that 3D printing will create a new manufacturing economy in the US; and Victoria's Secret models strutting down the runway in elaborate 3D printed corsets and signature wing accessories.
The excitement has reached the C-suite, where execs are wondering how this elusive and unfamiliar new technology will affect their business. As the resident techie, the CIO should expect the questions to come her way: What are the business implications? How fast is the technology developing? What are the implications for business technology at your organization?
Here are three angles on how 3D printing is driving business impact and digital disruption:
1. 3D printing can create tremendous business value — today. 3D printing enables key business imperatives in the age of the customer: faster time to market, new products and new markets, and the expansion of personalized products or services.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
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News out today confirms that Sony has indeed sold off its Vaio PC arm, ending 17 years in the personal computer business. And that CEO Kazuo Hirai has also decided to separate the TV division into a standalone unit in order to better heal it. Although he insists for now that Sony has no plans to sell that division, it would be foolish of the company not to consider any good offers. If there are any.
Because really, who would want that business? It has lost nearly $8 billion in the last 10 years and has been rapidly losing share to Samsung and LG and is about to get attacked by Chinese TV makers eager to have more influence in the US and other Western markets. I saw a very impressive offering from Hisense, TCL, and Haier at this year’s CES and expect them to make inroads against the more expensive panels from Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, all of which have struggled to keep up.
Marketers, you are officially on notice: The very idea of brand relationship is going to become irrelevant thanks to digital disruption. If you continue to focus on building a wonderful brand relationship with your customer, you will one day awake to find that someone else has taken your place in your customer’s life — not with a more compelling brand relationship, but with a more compelling digital customer relationship.
Someone out there is building the “ultimate customer relationship,” a type of digital bridge I write about in my most recent Forrester report, "Start to Build Your Ultimate Customer Relationship." That ultimate digital customer relationship is the type of relationship that digital tools and services enable and that digital consumers welcome. They’re happily signing up for anything that tethers them to a source that can give them more of what they want, more easily than before. Even with the supposed threat of privacy all around us, consumers are diving into deep digital relationships with companies or brands that deal with the most sensitive aspects of their lives. Weight-loss app Lose It helps users log personal information such as calories consumed and tell others of their goals, leading to the loss of more than 27 million pounds so far; Square gets consumers to email cash to friends — thus introducing them to Square and inducing them to sign up; and Airbnb has welcomed more than half a million listings of spare rooms and apartments that have been visited by more than 9 million guests. What’s more personal than your weight, your money, and your spare room?
The madness that is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has finally subsided, people are safely home (some never arrived thanks to cancelled flights), and we’ve had sufficient time to read the CES stars and foretell what it means for 2014 and beyond. Condensing this show down to so few points requires omitting some things, even some fun things like Michael Bay’s meltdown and T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s attention-grabbing tactics, but it’s my job to say what it means. So here I go, predicting what will happen in 2014 with three (admittedly long) bullets:
I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.
Apple just announced that it has cumulatively sold more than 170 million iPads since the product first debuted in 2010. For context, if iPad Nation were a country, it would be roughly tied at No. 7 with Nigeria, set to eclipse Pakistan next quarter and Brazil the quarter after that.
This boldfaced proof of digital disruption’s power to upset markets has left companies in every industry struggling to keep up with a consumer population that is happily disrupting itself. For someone who spends his days researching digital disruption and modeling its effects, on the one hand, this is good news: Everybody believes in digital disruption. On the other hand, it raises a very real problem: Nobody knows what to do about it.
Today when I meet with companies bent on becoming digital disruptors, one of their first questions is no longer, "How much time do we have until we have to respond?" but rather, "How do we get started right now?"
There is no single answer to this. Some companies are best served by locating their disruption initiative outside the company in an innovation lab where it can quickly generate disruptive momentum. Others can get a boost of internal support by building an internal innovation team and drawing resources from a supportive corporate structure. And some companies can launch multiple focused disruptive initiatives across many different groups in the organization, each one tasked with a specific disruptive goal, as long as the culture of the company is ready to incubate the efforts.
Last week I was thrilled to attend and present at the annual Shop.org event in the great city of Chicago. I attended many great presentations, talked at length with the vendor community, and broke bread with some of my old eComm friends. One observation that was more apparent to me this year is the massive transformation happening in retail. It feels more dynamic than it did at the peak of the dot com boom of the late 90’s. For me there were clear trends emerging:
There is a palpable divide between forward looking retailers and those stuck in second gear. Going after incremental improvements such as checkout funnel analysis and improving page load speeds are still important functions, but these are now table stakes that most digital businesses employ. Forward looking retailers go beyond site optimization and look at advanced analytics, leverage social graph data to better understand their customers, and employ mobile strategies that add contextual relevance rather than simply emulate the website.
Omnichannel is the hottest topic, but it means different things to different people. The reality is most retailers fail to understand the complexity around creating a seamless experience for customers, and often fall back on defining their omnichannel initiatives as simply creating a singular presentation across all touch points. For organizations to truly support the needs of the customer, they need to focus on aligning supply chain, fulfillment, customer service, and operations around the specific needs of the customer. For instance, enabling the store associate to engage digitally-savvy customers requires new training, new technologies that facilitate assisted selling, and new compensation paradigms that reward the associate for driving sales in any touch point.