Why some B2B companies are in denial about digital disruption

By 6th October 2014Digital Strategy

Digital is continuing to impact businesses, and ultimately defining the future success of many industries. Business Analytics and Research companies are pro-actively pushing companies to improve their digital standing and utilisation (Google, Forrester, Forbes).

Why is it more important than ever to be accepting of digital changes? Why will your company suffer if you don’t adapt to the modern, digital world? Why are traditional companies losing out to new digital start-ups?

A little history

Digital has been dominating business development for years, ever since computers became affordable, they have been used to run nearly every repetitive business task more efficiently, more accurately and more securely then us mere humans. The Internet is the biggest opportunity to business since the first computer. It has no limits, no constraints, and unlimited potential to improve every aspect of your business, even if you are in a traditional market.

The BIG problem

A lot of businesses are in denial about just how big an opportunity the Internet is, and are very vulnerable to a new type of business plan: digital disruption.

This video summarises a book from Forrester Research about the subject of digital disruption, and how no business (no matter how well established or traditional the market) is safe from digital disruption.

Digital Disruption

Digital disruption is what happens when a business uses new digital technology to offer customers something cheaper/better/quicker than existing goods or services. An established example of this is Amazon.co.uk who digitally disrupted the retail media market by offering a single place to find and buy any media you want. Not only that, but they were able to individually advertise to customers based on their previous purchases, and browsing (something that HMV and Game) were unable to do in their retail stores. This lead to a massive shift in consumer spending, away from the traditional media outlets, to a single digital seller.

This is a big example, but digital disruption affects every corner of every market and industry. There are small, agile companies, that don’t have the overheads of legacy systems, over populated management hierarchies, or processes and procedures in place which block new ideas and technology adaptations. A huge part of digital disruption is being adaptive and using digital tools, methodologies and development to provide a service quicker, better or beyond what traditional business can do. They do this quickly, and keep moving and improving towards what their customers are going to need next. Slowly taking more and more of the market.

Making Digital your Core Business

The companies that are making the most of the advantages of the Internet, aren’t those that have simply put an ecommerce shop together, and say ‘job done’, or sign up to a social network or two. The companies that are succeeding are the ones that implement digital as part of their business plan, as part of their overall strategy, as a core business component.

Digital and the Internet allow your company to be fast moving, and reactive to your customer’s needs. It doesn’t just let you offer your products and services to anyone with a computer (or smart phone), but it lets you put the customer in the driving seat, it gives you more insight into that customer, and it lets you react to what your customers need now, and in the future. That should be reason enough for businesses to adapt, however digital can reach nearly every aspect of your business, from warehouse and retail outlets, to customer service and marketing, to management and financial.

Digital Denial: examples

Premier League

The Premier League have attempted to persuade fans not to post videos or animated gifs of goals on Twitter and Vine, mainly because they have sold the rights to other companies. This is something that they have little control over, but will undoubtedly spend time, money and lots of other resources to combat. They could simply embrace it and make it part of their own online and mobile strategy, which would benefit their customers (every Premier League fan around the world).

HMV

His Masters Voice (HMV) went into administration in January 2013, due to drastically and consistently falling sales leading to losses, year on year. The main reason for this? They refused to acknowledge the impact that companies like Amazon and Zavvi had. They were slowly taking away their customers through cheaper and more customer centric experiences through digital development. The online based companies knew more about their customers shopping habits and so could target their customers more effectively with marketing. This wasn’t a labour intensive effort but digital development as part of their online customer tracking, which was quickly rolled out across their entire system.

Summary

There is so much information about business strategy in a digital disruptive way that it would be impossible for me to provide a more detailed review, and that was not the intention of this article. It was more aimed at opening up businesses (especially some B2B companies) into thinking outside of their traditional structure, and come to terms with the fact that digital investment is required especially now. Leaving it too late will may result in a HMV style disaster.

Consider this; the UK Government has put pressure on all of its internal organisations including councils and national services like the NHS, to introduce eProcurement procedures and processes by the end of 2015. Almost all local councils now use this service and some do exclusively. This means that all buying for a council is done through an electronic system. This presents an amazing opportunity for companies (especially new, more agile companies) to integrate their systems with this eTendering process. Think about how rapidly they can produce a quote, how quickly they can respond to in coming requests, and how little man hours it takes to maintain. Compare this to the traditional Area Sales Manager approach to business and you quickly see the problems.

Take away

Digital Technology is here to stay. It’s only going to keep growing in influence and potential, and it is up to companies to proactively make a switch in mind set. Making digital part of the overall business strategy, and not just a small attempt to appease the market, but actually making it a core business value. The rewards are many, including great knowledge of your customer, better overall service, lower on-going costs, and wider exposure and capacity for growth.

The only question left is are you ready to be digitally disruptive in your industry, or will you be left behind?