14 January 2019

Digital Darwinism: Why Businesses Need to Adapt to Survive in the New Digital World | Aaron Henriques

Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of the Species: “it’s not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survives, but the one that’s most adaptable to change.” 

While we’re not fighting for survival as a species, Darwin’s ideology still applies to us today. The term “Digital Darwinism” has been coined over the last few years, and refers to the process of companies needing to adapt to match the changing environment – one which is now heavily reliant on digital technology.

Technology is taking the world by a storm, and businesses who fail to utilise digital tools will likely not survive as digitisation continues. Companies such as Netflix and Uber have shown that digitisation is not just a minor change – Blockbuster and taxi firms have endured grave consequences as a result of not adapting to the new digital climate.

Technology is able to improve interoffice communications, resulting in a business being able to run more smoothly overall. For example, cloud software and intranets allow business employees to maintain, access and share internal documents with ease, while systems such as live chat software offer a platform for employees to instantly share updates and information, ask for support or communicate with their customers.

The digital world also allows businesses to be connected like never before, making the outsourcing of tasks much more accessible. Virtual assistants and telephone call outsourcing are becoming more and more prevalent, allowing businesses to cut costs and save time, both of which allow them to focus on other key elements of the business.

However, arguably the most critical factor of digitisation is how rapidly its influencing consumer demands. The digital world has caused consumers to expect more from customer service – they want faster responses, more convenient methods of communication and the ability to contact 24/7. In fact, 52% of customers said that if they do not find the answers for their questions quickly enough, they are likely to abandon the online purchase. As a result, businesses need to respond quickly to customer queries if they want to compete, by being fast to answer all emails and social media, and by using real-time methods of communication to assist their customers such as live chat.

A consumer’s first interaction with a brand is often now digital, with digital touchpoints increasing by 20% each year. This is in part due to younger, more tech-savvy consumers entering markets and companies needing to shift from offline to online to keep up with these demands. 61% of consumers under the age of 24 admit they intentionally avoid calling businesses and 60% of millennials prefer live chat over traditional media, which demonstrates a clear change in consumer preferences when it comes to interacting with a business. These millennials will get older however their habits of doing things digitally are unlikely to change, so businesses need to adapt to cater for what could one day lead to telephone customer service becoming a thing of the past.

Technology also has the power to make the customer journey much more obstacle-free. The British Government has imposed a Digital Transformation Strategy which aims to be met by 2020, to help provide a more efficient, accurate and responsive service to citizens. The reality is that all businesses will need to adopt a digital transformation strategy sooner rather than later. Businesses who haven’t utilised digital tools are missing out on customer touchpoints which their tech-savvy competitors are able to harness. A customer might want to visit their website, find them on social media or expect to be assisted proactively online just as you’d expect in a real world department store. An inability to do so will cause bumps in the customer journey, and frequently lead to lost customers.

Furthermore, there are many digital tools which allow businesses to mine a vast quantity of ‘big data‘, which in turn, allows them to drill down into their customer journey and highlight pain points. In 2013, IBM uncovered that 90% of the world’s data had been produced in the last two years. That’s a staggering statistic, and now its 5 years later, the figure is likely much higher. This is due to digitisation and our ability to process and analyse data like never before. Its now uncommon for any person to not have a smart phone or iPad where you can now take thousands of photos and not have to worry about using up your 36 roll of film before your holiday has even begun. We all add to the digital footprint daily, be it at work or socially. When you like or comment on this article (or even just spent time reading it)… you’ve added to the data noise of today and LinkedIn will use your interaction to target ads or other relevant content to you in the future.

This ability to capture data so easily is used by companies to learn more about their customers and to perfect the customer journey for them. Where are customers exiting the buying cycle? What are customers finding most frustrating about the customer journey? What are your customers interested in? It’s good practice for a business to map out this entire journey. It should think about every interaction the customer could possibly have with the business, and how easily these interactions route them from awareness to purchase. It’s likely that digital tools can make this customer journey faster, easier more convenient.

The success of a business is solely down to its customers. Without customers, there is no business. Consumers are demanding immediate responses, a variety of contact channels and a flawless, often digital, customer experience. Failure at providing these will likely result in the business succumbing to Digital Darwinism.

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