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Leading The Way: Seven Brands That Are Doing Digital Right In the business environment, the companies that survive for many years are not necessarily the strongest or the biggest, but those that can adapt to changes in customers' needs and new technologies.

By Hafiz Muhammad Ali

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In the business environment, the companies that survive for many years are not necessarily the strongest or the biggest, but those that can adapt to changes in customers' needs and new technologies.

For any company that has a goal of growing bigger, it must become a digital leader in its industry. With this, it must set the pace in digital leadership, satisfy its customers, and be better positioned to thrive amidst the tough competition.

Here are seven brands that have taken the lead in this space:

1. Burberry

When Burberry's former CEO, Angela Ahrendts, and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey talked about their intention to make Burberry the first fully digital luxury company in 2006, it was a bold statement.

Today, the brand has gone a long way in achieving that goal. One of its first steps towards achieving that goal was to launch its social media platform, the Art of Trench, in 2009.

This was a platform that thrived on user-generated content. Its users posted pictures of them wearing the brand's trench coats. Users were able to comment, like and share these posts.

With this strategy, Burberry was also able to grow its Facebook fan base. It has also gained fans on other social networks like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

One way to build digital leadership is to build a community where you can engage with your customers.

Building a community means you can use your customers' content and testimonials to build more awareness. Likewise, you get a lot of feedback through these platforms which help to improve your product.

Related: Five Key Aspects SMEs Should Consider For Their Digital Strategy In The Middle East

2. Zappos

Zappos is one of the most popular shoe companies online. Good enough, Zappos could just pass for a customer care company. Zappos sells shoes online and has exploited every digital instrument possible to make sure that its customers get the best possible service.

On its website, it provides pictures of their products and a video review as well. It offers free shipping to customers and free returns for those who are unsatisfied with the product. Zappos allows its customer service agents to make decisions about how to satisfy customers. The company adopted this strategy a few years ago. This is a digital strategy that has improved the company's culture and garnered lots of media publicity.

Zappos' CEO, Tony Hsieh, said that Zappos gives its customer support agent. the freedom to do anything possible to satisfy their customers. This has led to many legendary tales of the company going out of its way to satisfy its customers. Right from a support agent speaking with a customer for over 10 hours about living in Las Vegas to another agent chatting about G-shock rather than a shoe, the main aim is to satisfy customers, even if they end up buying nothing.

Tony Hsieh was so confident in his company's customer-centric culture. At some point, He once told his friends to call Zappos customer support to help them with pizza late in the night when they could not get any. And the customer support agent ordered pizza for them while unaware Zappos CEO was with them.

One key thing Zappos gets right in its digital culture is giving employees the authority to make choices they feel right while serving customers. Most of these stories would not happen in places with "tight' rules on how to serve customers. To be a digital leader, your employees should be given freedom in making some decisions. This is a challenge to up their creativity and leads to success stories like Zappos.

3. Amazon

Amazon has built its reputation over the years. But Amazon is not resting on its oars. It's always looking for opportunities to make its service better for customers. One way Amazon showed digital leadership was through its recommendations.

Customers get recommendations based on their past purchases which shows them more products they are likely to buy. While Amazon sells its products at the cheapest prices possible, another way it's showing leadership is in fast delivery.

Many times, people shop offline because they can't wait another day for their product to arrive if they had ordered online. However, Amazon is testing the Amazon Prime Air to deliver goods to customers in 30 minutes or less. If Amazon is able to achieve this, then there will be fewer arguments for shopping offline when shopping online is more convenient and just as fast.

Due to the improvements in technology, customers now require faster services from businesses. The digital strategies for your business must aim to deliver your service faster and cheaper.

4. Apple

Apple's digital strategy that has ignited a digital leadership is centered on "rethinking advertising."

Rather than having a big advertising budget and investing heavily on traditional advertising and PPC ads, all in a bid to increase sales revenue, Apple understands how to reach the most audience in a friendly and natural manner.

In fact, Apple focuses primarily on two completely different marketing strategies: product placement (by leveraging celebrities' audience and popular shows), as well as the buzz created through positive reviews.

Why do iPhones still fly off the shelves even though it's more expensive than most smartphones? One of the reasons is the emotions the product convey to customers. The company has used digital strategies to build a product that meets its users' needs in a smartphone while keeping its simple interface.

Apple aims to meet its users' needs and it does it in a way that keeps users happy and loyal to the product. You should use digital strategies in ways that improve your products to make your customers happy.

Related: Five Signs Your Business Has What It Takes To Make It

5. Argos

In 2017, Retail Week named Argos UK's best multichannel retailer and it's easy to see why. One of its main strategies was the transformation of its stores. Customers can now use tablets to make their order faster rather than writing an order slip and queueing to pay a cashier.

Employees also have devices that help them find product and stock information quickly. Another technology that Argos use to improve its service is the click-and-collect feature where a customer can order for a product online and then pick it up at the company's store.

Argos's "Fast Track" service allows customers to order and pick the product up the same day. This is important for making more sales as click-and-collect are reported to spend twice as much than regular shoppers.

One thing Argos teaches is that digital transformation doesn't end online. It should extend to your offline stores. There should also be a seamless integration between online and offline experience for your customers.

6. Schuh

As a leader in the digital space, Schuh employs paid search for research, as well as acquisition. When Schuh's Deputy Head of Ecommerce was asked for proven tips that new ecommerce teams can implement right away, Stuart placed paid search as a reliable strategy for two reasons:

  • It can generate leads and revenue on a limited budget
  • It provides an avenue for gaining insights into the market and customers' needs.

Schuh is a footwear retailer based in the United Kingdom. In addition to its focus on PPC ads, the company adopts a mobile-first approach in crafting its strategy. It has built a responsive website that gives mobile users a simple and easy to navigate website. This makes the website better for desktop users too even though it's primarily targeted at mobile users.

Over the years, more people are visiting websites through their smartphones and tablets than the desktop. Schuh also uses in-store technologies like scanner stations where customers can check the stock level of a particular shoe in a particular size.

Any strategy that ignores mobile users is ignoring about half of its ideal customers or even more. Mobile users are becoming increasingly important and every business must take note of this.

7. Starbucks

Starbucks used digital transformation to bring in more customers and increase trust and satisfaction. Starbucks allowed payment for coffee through its mobile app which accounted for 26 million transactions in its first two years.

In the first quarter of 2016, 24% of Starbuck's US orders were made through its mobile app. It also built the MyStarbucks app which allows customers to find nearby stores through their phone's GPS capability, check menu items, and opening hours.

Starbucks was one of the few companies that adopted free Wi-Fi in its stores. This is a feature that could attract many people to its stores who end up buying coffee. To make sure that its customers are aware of its new offerings and key promotions, Starbucks now require customers to fill in their email addresses, first and last name, and their Zip codes to use the free Wi-Fi.

It's also offering Mobile Order and Pay to all customers to make their purchases easier. With its Happy Hour program, Starbucks wants to send personalized messages and offers to each customer in a bid to attract more business.

One of the main aims of digital leadership is to use digital strategies reach your ideal prospect wherever they are, and convert them to customers. If your digital strategy isn't making it easier for customers to do business with you, then there is a fundamental flaw you need to eliminate.

Digital leadership in today's competitive business environment requires creativity and commitment to using technology to improve customers' experience with your business. These companies have used different digital strategies to improve their relationship with customers. This is a reminder that each company should adopt the culture of digital leadership according to the customer needs.

Related: How Building Your Digital Strategy Early On Can Enable Your Startup To Grow Efficiently

Hafiz Muhammad Ali

Entrepreneur, Author, PhD in Entrepreneurship

Hafiz Muhammad Ali is an entrepreneur, founder of Omnicore, author of Digital Passport. With a PhD in entrepreneurship, his is a firm believer in lifelong learning. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge, experience and opinion on digital marketing, leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. Ali invests in books and people.


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