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Standing Out In The Digital Space: The How-To Simply building an e-commerce store, having a digital workflow management platform or launching new digital communication channels aren't sufficient. Organizations need to establish what are the strategic priorities, those which will drive value, be it in terms of performance, commercial, or brand value.

By Mihaela Nina

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This article has been co-written with Alex Gheordanescu, Managing Director, Augmentation X.

Digital transformation has been a business priority and under the spotlight long before the coronavirus pandemic started; however, it had been mostly regarded as a long-term ambition and embraced as isolated functional projects, rather than becoming an integral part of the business growth strategy. There are very few organizations which took gradual steps towards a complete digitization not only of capabilities, but also of the working and business models. And with the COVID-19 crisis essentially forcing everyone to turn digital overnight, many companies have been caught off guard.

And yet, multiple studies and research pieces are showing that in a matter of just a few months, we took a five-year leap forward in terms of digital adoption. Brick and mortar shops that needed a quick turnaround quickly built their e-stores, schools turned into online educational platforms, some clinics created telemedicine channels, physical events turned into webinars, and meetings morphed into video conference calls.

These hybrid models look like they are here to stay as we increasingly see changes in behaviors from a consumer standpoint, and a paradigm shift in the way we conduct business. The question that still stands is: what can organizations do to navigate this unexpected digital acceleration in order to ensure an effective transformation?

Simply building an e-commerce store, having a digital workflow management platform or launching new digital communication channels aren't sufficient. Organizations need to establish what are the strategic priorities, those which will drive value, be it in terms of performance, commercial, or brand value. These could be in areas such as engaging audiences in novel digital communication experiences, improving customer journeys, and reducing friction, having a hybrid working model which enables flexibility, collaboration, and agility, and the list goes on.

What is the level of complexity of adopting any of these, and which one is the most probable to lead to a competitive edge? Does your organization have the talent capabilities to leverage on, or is external support required for a minimal technology investment? Are there any noteworthy examples of digitization from within the same industry? Besides answering each of these questions, given the current times of rapid change, it is essential that we base our decisions on time to market, as being fast will support organizations stay afloat and start regaining traction.

Related: The Road Ahead: Visa Webinar Discusses How A Shift To Digital Can Help In The Recovery Of SMEs In The UAE

With the transition to companies setting up their online presence, brand and communications are key in standing out in a crowded digital space. According to statistics, consumers that have used online services for the first time during the pandemic have stated that they will continue to do so moving forward. Therefore, what is key besides optimizing the customer journey and ensuring that it is seamless is focusing on personalizing communications, making them interactive, and turning them into experiential pieces in order to attract new audiences, and keep the current ones engaged.

Organization leaders need to put themselves in the shoes of their customers, and start thinking at the level of information we consume on a daily basis, the numerous channels we receive it from, the fact that the attention span is decreasing more and more, and what can be done differently to be at the top of consumer's mind. Shaping a truly engaging digital experience for which the return on investment can be demonstrated through comprehensive data and analytics is crucial, and it is something we have also seen bringing a tremendous brand and commercial value through our flagship digital communication products.

It is probably fair to say that what we regarded so far as digitization has to be reimagined from scratch, as now this doesn't only lead to a competitive advantage, but also to becoming future-ready, and meeting the ever evolving expectations of all stakeholders, all the way from employees to consumers. Nonetheless, talent, be it external or internal, is required to be fast, effective, and set the path towards a quick business recovery, stabilization, and growth.

Related: Identifying Archetypes To Boost Digital Economies In The Middle East

Mihaela Nina

Partner, Digital Brand and Communications, Augmentation X

Mihaela Nina is Partner at Augmentation X, a business growth studio, focused on conceptualizing, prototyping and managing digital products, technology systems and digital solutions, that enable businesses to drive both commercial performance and brand value. In her role, Mihaela leads the growth and client concept management of the flagship digital communications product of the company, Augmentation eXperience.

Prior to Augmentation X, Mihaela has founded Concerto TIC, a boutique sustainability advisory firm, as well as built revenue growth strategies across a wide spectrum of levels within the hospitality and services sector, having developed and driven the largest paid membership program of IHG MENA, as well as restructured and led the membership strategy of the most prominent business club in the region, Capital Club Dubai.

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