Is the innovation in your business agile enough for you to keep up?
Over the last year we have done a wealth of very different projects for a host of very different companies. In every project we have done, one thing has come across loud and clear, the customer. Almost everything we have worked on – internal and external, across every sector from finance to retail, media to technology – has been driven by the need to meet customer expectations.
Most of this has been reactive. The customers move one way and the business follows. Such is the speed of change in the consumer environment that keeping up is hard enough, let alone trying to get ahead.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the areas where the pressure of customer expectation is being felt more than any other is in retail and media. Competition is fierce in both industries and both are undergoing pretty seismic changes, driven by technological innovation.
A tipping point for mobile
In 2012 54 retailers went out of business in the UK. That is nearly double the number in 2011. Both years were tough economically but 2012 was when changing customer expectations really bit. According to the CBI 2012 saw a 312% increase in mobile retail. That stat alone tells you all you need to know about where the industry is heading. Now more than ever, it is imperative that you react to this trend to stay abreast with the competition.
With mobile and tablet becoming the de facto device for accessing so many different services, it is no longer acceptable to expect consumers to put up with the pain of having to find their way around a site designed for PCs on a mobile or tablet. That said it’s also nonsensical in the days of modern web technology, to have to design and build three separate sites. You don't want to have three times the maintenance and three times the content, but more importantly you have to ensure jumping from one device to another is a seamless experience for your customer. It can’t feel like three separate sites.
If you look at consumption of media the stats tell a similar story. Last year (on average) we spent seven hours a day consuming different types of media. 1.8 hours of that was on a mobile device and almost an hour on a tablet. The way in which people consume TV has also changed. 85% of us now watch TV with another device to hand. So its not just about how we are watching TV, but what else we are doing in the meantime and how media companies can capitalise on that.
In the media environment, the question is not so much about the viewer's experience of watching content on a different device (at least for broadcast), it is about coming up with new ways to supplement the content and how you engage the consumer on other devices whilst they are watching TV.
Keeping up… or getting ahead
It’s unsurprising given all this background that the focus for so many companies is on agility. From a technology point of view this means having an architecture that allows for change, quickly and easily. This can be the integration of new streams of data or the ability to get a new product or service designed, built, tested and out into the field in weeks rather than months.
Our experience working with the likes of News International, Selfridges and the BBC is that speed has become a critical factor in any IT investment they are looking to make. How long will it take to make an impact on my business? If the answer is months, then chances are the issue it is designed to solve will have evolved and the solution will no longer be effective. Plus any technology you deploy has to be open enough that it can be added to, modified and integrated into quickly and easily. We are not advocating throwing out what you have - far from it - most of the time its about iterative improvement. Build on what already exists and make it more effective, rather than wholesale replacement.
On the product front, the window for getting something new out to consumers before a competitor does is constantly shrinking. Yet few businesses can afford to fund costly innovation which is often predominantly theory based. Despite the investment of huge amounts of pounds and hours, this only has a one in ten chance of getting to market, let alone being successful.
So the solution is simple, right? Low cost, fast and flexible innovation that allows you not just to respond to how customers are behaving now but start anticipating and preparing for what they might do tomorrow. Easy.
Actually, it’s not as hard as you think but it does require a shift in the average mindset. Not only do you need to be unafraid of failure (after all not every idea is a good idea) but you have to believe that not trying something different is far worse than trying and (sometimes) failing. If the ideas are out there then lets see them. That said it cannot cost the earth. Failure has to be fast and cheap. Find people who can bring ideas to life quickly, at low cost so if they fail you can move on to the next one without too much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Now is also no time to be afraid of new technology. Long gone are the days when a safe choice would protect you. The business doesn’t have time for that approach and nor do your customers.
If not now then when?
These are dangerous times for any organisation who relies on consumers. They are a fickle bunch at the best of times but the rapid adoption of mobile tech has once again left a lot of companies struggling to keep up. Now is the time to invest in ensuring your business is truly agile and focused on meeting customer demands.