Deni Kaziyska
Deni Kaziyska 2 March 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Level up Your Digital Strategy in 2021

The digital evolution has brought massive changes to the way people behave and consume. Having a strong digital presence in 2021 is not an option anymore. Discover the seven ultimate steps in which you can start enhancing your brand’s digital presence based on the powerful insights of 59 thought leaders.

The digital evolution has brought massive changes to the way people behave and consume.  A new digital consumer has emerged from this. Someone who has high expectations from brands, who wants rapid solutions to problems, and who is always looking for new experiences, rather than products.

This is why having a robust digital strategy is essential for any brand in 2021.

Nevertheless, many companies who worked in siloed structures have found it hard to keep up with consumers, creating what we know today as the digital gap. In 2019 marketing professionals were asked about their biggest challenges and 50.7% mentioned the evolution of consumers propelled by technological developments. 

Does this sound familiar? Do not worry! Today we are here to share seven steps in which you can start enhancing your brand’s digital presence based on the powerful insights of 59 thought leaders found on a Digital Gap Management Study.

So get ready to learn how to close the digital gap and get closer to your customers! “The digital transformation of marketing is about making more meaningful connections between brands and their audience” - Matthias, CEO & Co-Founder at.

1. Evaluating the Current Business Model & Discover the Paths you Want to Follow in the Future

The only way of reconnecting with your consumer and bridging the digital gap is by questioning your current working methods. Is your company doing the right thing?

Every successful digital transformation strategy is built on a deep understanding of your current business model and a clear purpose and like Felix Goessl, Business Transformation & Integration Leader says, “Find your compelling purpose, then address Digital Transformation.” 

Everything starts with a purpose and you should have a clear and concise expression of yours. This is the reason why it goes beyond a product or a service. Knowing the purpose behind a digital transformation strategy will help in bringing employees to their full capacity. Once they find their full potential they will be ready for change and disruption.

Remember that every successful change in a company starts from within. If employees are ready, they will be able to transmit this purpose to their customers, because as Dirk, Managing Director at thjnk says “If the consumer can’t understand the purpose, the benefit, the necessity of a company and its products-he ignores them.”

Once you have defined a clear purpose for your employees and to customers, you are ready to define your business objectives. Some questions you should have in mind are: What is the current market landscape in your industry? Are your current strategies bringing the results you expect?

Define new realistic objectives, your KPIs for success, and craft your new digital marketing strategy around them.

2. Conduct an In-Depth Buyer Persona Research

We mentioned before that the way consumers behave has evolved at the speed of technology. What you think you knew about your customers could be completely different now.

The only way of surviving in an ultra-competitive environment is by keeping up the pace with the consumer and bridging the digital gap. Conducting a new in-depth buyer persona research will be an essential factor to level up your digital game.

If your business already has an established customer base, make use of them. There are many different methods in which you can get valuable information.

For example, you can send your email database a survey asking them for their opinion about your brand. Ask them what they think could improve? What are the current issues they have in their daily lives? and how they think you could help them solve that.

Collect as much data as possible from your different channels and use this to create your digital marketing strategy. Remember that in the era of the digital consumer, every digital strategy should be customer-centric.

There are many important factors for a successful digital transformation such as talent, leadership, technology foundation, and culture change.

However, in the words of Digital Thought Leader Dion Hinchcliffe, “the single - and most often changing - factor is what customers want and need when it comes to new digital products and services.” This is why you should know as much as possible about them.

3. Implement a CX-First Approach Towards your Customers

Of course, the third step after conducting your buyer persona research is to apply all the insights obtained to implement a CX-first approach. The new digital consumer will keep demanding more and more from brands and will expect an engaging user experience to deposit their trust and loyalty to any business.

Nevertheless, it seems that many businesses mistrack their customers down the road as they start becoming obsessed with their operations, policies, and structures. Companies cannot rely solely on lean processes, they need to deliver great experiences. It could even be said that return on experience comes before return on investment.

“People don’t buy products anymore, but experiences. While most importantly, the most memorable experiences are created when the customer interacts with the human being of the organization.” - Jonas Bladt Hansen, Award-Winning Consultant, and Senior Advisor and Founder at Inversus.

Bear in mind that decisions are based on emotions and neither a product nor a service generates a long-term emotion; experiences do.

“Emotion is in every decision we make, and once you understand what are those emotional triggers that drive people’s decisions, the true purpose of their visit, the pains they’re trying to get rid of, the emotional outcomes people are searching for, the better of an experience you can create for them, and the higher ROI.” - Talia Wolf, Consultant, Trainer & Speaker and Founder at GetupLift.

Customer experience should be a primary focus of your management agenda and all decision-makers should be asking themselves every day how any decision would affect the customer experience and if this decision reflects your customer centric-approach.

Once CX is secured into your company culture and your brand starts communicating continuously with your customers across different touchpoints, you will be able to express your business’ purpose better and your customers will have you anchored at the top of their minds.

4. Build a Digital Ecosystem

If this is the first time you hear the term digital ecosystem, let us break it down for you. A digital ecosystem means to integrate all internal departments, suppliers, tools, systems, customers, and external partners.

This integration is done in a dynamic way to increase data flow throughout the company to drive business performance. It helps in removing the frustrated and outdated systems that restrict businesses to keep pace with the modern digital consumer.

Today’s hyper-connected consumer begins a purchase on one device and finishes it on a different one. In fact, they average six touchpoints on the path to purchase and the only way of having a solid omnichannel presence is by activating a digital ecosystem. Building a digital ecosystem can be done through the Digital Gap Methodology made of 9 steps

Consumers are always looking for dynamic solutions and as a brand, the biggest opportunity is to be responsive, and as quickly and possible.

“In an oversaturated market, it’s not enough to get the attention of consumers. To gain loyalty and repeat business, you have to convince people you have their best interests in mind, and that your values are aligned with theirs.” -  Jason Miller, Digital Marketing Strategist.

You have to understand who you are, what you stand for and transmit this to your customers. Tell your story and you will see how many people will be able to relate to it, this is the best marketing you can do. Remember it is all about creating experiences through emotion, and not just selling a product.

So, building a digital ecosystem in your company is a crucial step to be able to close the digital gap and enhance your digital presence. You need to understand the importance of being able to align all your current channels with your new business strategy, purpose, and the objectives you have defined in step number one.

5. Successfully Embrace Digital Transformation

Digital transformation should be part, if not already, of your business strategy. In the words of Joachim Skura, Digital Transformation at Oracle, “Getting digital means questioning your organization and not just doing the same old with new technology.” Remember that Digital Transformation starts at the top of the organization and requires a completely new mindset.

It’s clear that to stay ahead of the competition you need to adapt. Some questions you should be asking yourself are: What is our digital strategy and how do we make it a reality? Are we fostering participative leadership? Are we taking advantage of data-driven decision making?

As Skura stated, digital transformation is not about just implementing new technologies and hoping for the best, continuing with the old mindset. Yes, you need to find new technologies that are suitable for your business, that will help you achieve your objectives, and that will help you gather real-time customer data.

Digital transformation boosts everything and as Lukas-Pierre Bessis, Digital Evangelist and best-selling author states, “A well-done Digital Transformation boosts everything. In a world full of commoditized products and services, a bit more connectivity, a bit more voice recognition, and a bit more data adds uniqueness, convenience, and increases relevance. Digital Transformation makes people’s lives better.”

By aiming to make people’s lives better through your product or service, you are automatically enhancing their CX, which will in return improve your business’ performance, increase sales and improve your ROI.

“Digitalization should be done sustainably, and it should be incorporated within the entire organization/company.” - Stephan Grabmeier, Innovation, and Business Transformation Author and speaker.

6. Utilize Big Data and AI-driven Solutions

Nowadays, there is more data than ever available to companies. This data often comes from IoT, smartphones, social media, and many more sources.

It is often said that data is the most powerful asset a business can have, but most companies do not have the infrastructure, the access to quality data, and end up failing in utilizing AI to process their data to obtain actionable insights.

According to the NewVantage Partners’ 2019 Big Data and AI Executive survey, most companies are failing to close the digital gap in big data and AI.

From this survey, 72% of C-level executives say that they have yet to establish a data culture at their company, 53% have yet to embrace data as a business asset, and 52% believe they are failing to compete on data and analytics.

“Keep in mind that Big Data & AI are tools and we need to understand them to be able to use them within the main strategy. Start looking at your ‘core purpose’, why are you using these tools together, and what you’re trying to accomplish.” - Doyle Buehler, Strategic Digital Branding & Marketing Best Selling Author.

Having a clear purpose plays a very important role when it comes to implementing big data and AI tools. This is a space that is constantly changing, same as human behaviors, and we won’t know the capabilities that will be available in some years from now.

As Big Data an AI expert, Tony Flath, recommends, your company should be taking the Wolfpack approach instead of the ‘Bear’ approach.

“With the ‘Wolfpack’ approach, an organization hires several Data Scientists that work together. The advantages gained here are a broader perspective and shared knowledge, so if one of the wolves was to leave the pack, the rest of the pack would still have shared knowledge.”

By prioritizing data through the use of big data and AI-driven solutions, your company will start outperforming those who don’t, and you will be 23x more likely to acquire new customers, whilst retaining the current ones turning them into loyal customers.

7. Marketing Technology & Automation

As stated in the Walker Sands’ State of Marketing Technology in 2019, 39% of companies rated their MarTech as “limited fragmented solutions”, and 17% claimed martech was “non-existent” in their company.

Activating your martech is the seventh step in our guide to level up your brand’s digital game. Without marketing technologies, you are limiting your business to not being able to track customers, track brand mentions, marketing performance, benchmark insights, and measure future results.

Martech & automation tools present a great opportunity for brands to bridge their digital gap. Nevertheless, implementing new tools doesn’t mean rushing to adopt every new technology and hoping for the best. Y

ou need to focus on creating a smart and dynamic approach, always keeping in mind the purpose of your digital strategy, and making sure you are activating the right tools for your business.

One of the main objectives of implementing such tools, and of digital transformation in general, is being able to create more meaningful connections with your audience.

“If done right, the current transformation helps marketers overcome the “one-fits-all” digital bias of former days, and instead establish an integrated knowledge infrastructure that allows for more channel-specific targeting, acknowledges cross-channel effects, leads to higher ROI, and more sustainable growth.” - Matthias Riedl.

Another very important aspect to keep in mind when creating the perfect martech stack is to think about the users of this stack. Just as Stine Holmgaard, CEO & Founder at A.Miroe mentions, “It’s the people at the wheel who will enable a potential company success story in this area.”

You should be consulting your employees on current systems, everyday work processes, strengths and weaknesses, and potential challenges before integrating new technology. You should be aiming for a martech stack that is accessible for everyone.

Close the Digital Gap with a Robust Digital Strategy

Having a strong digital presence in 2021 is not an option anymore. Today, you have learned that keeping up the pace with the modern digital consumer is crucial for your brand's survival. 

We guided you through step-by-step, based on the thoughts and ideas of digital leaders from different industries on how to improve your digital strategy in order to get closer to your customers and close the digital gap. You understood the importance of the Digital Gap Management methodology and how it affects the success of any digital strategy.

Bear in mind that these steps are not only a one-time thing. You should constantly be revising them, measuring and tracking what's working and what's not, whilst optimizing your digital strategy. Technology and consumer habits will continue to evolve at a rapid pace and so should your digital strategy, and ability to adapt.

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