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Digital Business - Ready for the twenties?

2020 is just 3+ years away, and mercifully we can get back to naming our decades the usual way, after the creative ‘Noughties’ and ‘Tenties’. In the past 17 years, (assuming we started the clock when Google filed their first patent on August 31, 1999), we have witnessed a digital revolution. This has fundamentally altered consumer behavior, ignited the movement to create a sustainable asset-light economy, and disrupted some businesses to a scale we could not imagine a few years back.

As CXOs go back to the board this year-end with their business plans, the term “digital” will in all likelihood appear on all three quadrants barring ‘strength’ in their SWOT analysis. Pundits will grapple with the nature of the beast. Realization will dawn with a select few, that digital is not just another platform in the marketing media mix to be delegated to the young marketing turk who “gets it”.

The sager lot on the board will ask the business leaders if they are ready to re-wire their Marketing, Advertising, Channel & Advocacy programs, to better prepare for the customer of the new Twenties. In response, the managers will peg themselves on a scale of 1–5, evaluating their state of technology, resources, and business processes to grapple with a ‘digital’ world. Most will end up rating them between 1–2. What about you?

Our customers have evolved, especially the younger generation (Gen Y and Z) with brains that are fundamentally re-wired. They do not make buying decisions using the time-tested CDJ models, and rarely have time to read brand taglines. Our channels have evolved from being multi to omni, unified experience delivery being the key differentiation.

We are entering the era of digital business, where we have to address four (4) key areas relevant to the customer facing functions. Of course, there are more areas to be covered and more questions than answers at this point of time, but you need to keep asking.

(A) How do we market to our prospective customers?

In a data-driven world where there are myriad ways to segment our audience, how do we set the ‘context’ for communication? Which platforms shall we pick and why? Are we better off pushing advertising in the emerging world of catch-up TV or is there a scheme where consumers will pull brand stories? How do we craft a media strategy basis specific digital behavioral insights relevant to a category? How do we innovate at the point-of-sale?

(B) How do we get the consumer's state of mind?

Our prospective customers are sending explicit signals online 24x7, and online media publishers know that better than anyone else. Static profiles are so passé in an era of multiple lives, and it is more about ‘now’ — the current state of mind. How do we tap into these signals? Are there big business gains to be made, if we dovetail external big-data signals with local brand interactions, before targeting or engaging?

(C) How do we deliver a memorable brand experience?

What is the brand story that we wish to tell at the first point of contact? Do we act participative or stay reclusive? What is our social tone of voice? Do we wish to be a good citizen brand? Can we deliver on our business belief — translate belief to behavior? How can we be transparent, responsive, intelligent yet human, as a business? How do we go omnichannel — make it seamlessly easy for our prospective customer to do business with us?

(D) How do we stay-in-touch with our customers ?

Customer Centrality as a philosophy is a hard nut to crack and may be dismissed as a jargon but to prepare for the twenties, it is an absolute imperative. Enhancing customer lifetime value is a direct business benefit, that cannot be up for debate. So what kind of advocacy programs should we fund in an era where brand loyalty as a concept is dead? Can our brands achieve stickiness by providing a service? Can our product ideas conceptually become a “thing” on our Customer’s Internet?

The answers to such questions are unfortunately not going to come from your existing advertising agencies and IT vendors. The world moves faster than ever before and you will need to partner with organizations that have the attributes of agility and lean, woven inside their DNA.

These are companies who will re-imagine your advertising as brand stories, redesign digital assets as products, ditch defunct loyalty programs in favor of advocacy and embed a seamless data infrastructure that transports business signals instantly, across your digital business enterprise.

Over the next few months, I will be taking a deep dive into each of the areas that help transform your organization into a digital business. If you wish to connect, mail me on

Prepare for the roaring twenties.