Don’t let agencies kid you about digital

Digital top earners 'shunned uni'We all know the feeling. You’ve just pitched an idea to completely revolutionise your brand to the rest of the board. You’re nervous, but you know that digital cannot be ignored. You know that to compete in this digital age you need a new loyalty platform, an updated ecommerce presence and a website refresh. Data is linking everything together, and your competitors are already planning something similar. You manage to get all this across and have been given the budget – brilliant.
Now just wait for agencies to arrive at your door telling you that your systems are completely unfit for purpose, and that in order to create the hard-fought-for, beautiful customer experience that’s going to bring real value to your brand – it’ll be a four-year programme of transformation and several million pounds. Great…
With this overwhelming industry rhetoric, you wouldn’t have guessed that there’s an alternative. After all, what agency wouldn’t want to secure their margins each month for the next five years? And ensure that clients can’t speak up about a failed programme, as – tut-tut-tut – remember that mutual confidentiality clause you signed?
Well, there are some out there who take an entirely different approach to combating the dark arts of digital transformation. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and if you’ve been collecting customer data (even in disparate locations and formats), then you can build beautifully contextualised and engaging experiences in a matter of weeks, without throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Here are a few of my tips to limit the risk of a digital project.

Run before you walk, kind of
Some companies have known for a while that trial and error is the quickest way to find out what works. Facebook’s Fail Harder mantra for its dev team spawned the huge trend for Silicon Valley start-ups to “Fail Fast” a couple of years ago. But how how can failing be a good thing?
I like to think of this in the same way poker players assess their rivals at a table. It’s okay to lose a few hands at the start of a game to find out people’s ticks or habits, and with this knowledge you can win big when you’ve got a royal flush. Building a great digital experience for your customers is similar – investing millions and ending up with nothing is failing too fast and too hard.
Getting to the point of failure as quickly and cheaply as possible is the name of the game. If it doesn’t work, so what? You would have learnt a lot about what you’re trying to achieve, what your customers want, how your team collaborates, and will rise like a phoenix with a renewed focus on the product that you are building.

Measure the right metrics
Making sure you have a way to measure how your new snazzy digital experience is performing is also very important to get right. From an ROI perspective, it’s obvious. If your brand has invested money they want to be sure that it wasn’t wasted.
That’s all fairly obvious, but the absolutely key thing is getting measurement right from the start. Knowing what you need to be looking for and setting KPIs from the start will also help you to spot areas that need to improve quicker and prove results throughout the project.

Get your team to support you from day one
Getting team buy-in is an often overlooked but very important piece in the puzzle. Your team may be already stretched so asking them to give that little bit extra to secure your brand’s digital future won’t be an easy task. The best way to make sure that everyone’s behind you is to fully involve them in the process. They know the business, and the brand back to front, as well as its ambitions and its current limitations. They have a vested interest in initiatives succeeding, so make sure that they can influence the output as much as anyone else.
By getting team buy-in, being prepared to learn from trial and error and knowing what to measure from the start, you will minimise the risk of transforming your brand through a successful digital evolution.

Bruce Griffin is founder and chief executive of Rockpool

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