How Building Your Digital Strategy Early On Can Enable Your Startup To Grow Efficiently With the UAE ranking 53rd among the world's economies for ease of starting a business, and over 300,000 SMEs registered in the region, fierce competition is evident.

By Alexander Rauser

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Starting a business in the UAE has become common practice. With the UAE ranking 53rd among the world's economies for ease of starting a business, and over 300,000 SMEs registered in the region, fierce competition is evident. Whether you are launching an app that helps ease mundane chores, or opening a new dining concept, there is sure to be another one of the same kind in the works.

Often, the concept of digital strategy is not paid enough attention to when building and launching a startup. It is important to understand that digital strategy, unlike digital marketing, is the foundation businesses must create in order to digitalize their brand, services, or product. It will define how a business is going to transform digitally, and reveal the general objectives of the business from a digital perspective.

With the surge in IoT and a rapidly growing use of technology and internet, digital strategy proves vital to this startup generation.

Digital strategy involves not only actual technology, but also user experience, marketing, mobile, customer service and all other parts of a business that require digital tools. When creating your digital strategy, it is important to get a clear understanding of where you are today, and where you want to be in the future.

As a startup, it is important to create a solid digital strategy at start in order to make the right decisions. It includes making the right technology decisions such as selecting the right tools, software and services to run the business, all to ensure well-informed decisions to produce scalable results. This also helps the marketing perspective as digital strategy will help enable a startup to grow efficiently.

The setback in not having a digital strategy in place can play a huge role in determining the brand's digital future. There are different issues that could come as a result such as technical debt and the implementation of a vast number of tools that may create a defragmented offering of the business to customers.

In addition, many startups focus on ROI, but are missing critical plans on how to acquire actual customers. The days when startups were built around the concept of "we will figure out how to monetize the service later" are unfortunately over.

In short, by defining your digital strategy, you will manage your opportunities and risks effectively and prepare your company for successful digital presence.

It is also important to remember, to carry out a full-fledged digital strategy, processes must be managed by efficient team members, especially those most efficient with digital. Without setting a clear digital strategy, there is no chance to consolidate or optimize your digital activities.

Related: IBM's Juan Jose De La Torre On The Need For MENA Businesses To Embrace Digital Transformation

So, what does digital strategy entail?

1. Define challenges and objectives The first step is to define the organization's challenges and objectives. These need not be just digital issues, but overall issues faced. Does the business need more sales or a boost in brand awareness, does customer support need to be enhanced or simplified? What are competitors doing? Strategy should address all of these challenges. The same goes for objectives– does the brand want to transform digitally, become more customer-centric, and expand to new markets? Digital strategy must consider all of these objectives.

2. Create guidelines The next step is to create guidelines and sub strategies for each objective. What is the plan to increase brand awareness? How will the business increase sales? Guidelines, measurement plans, scope and road maps will guide the business towards effective execution of strategy. It will also help iterate and measure progress to achieve continuous improvement.

3. Roll out in achievable steps Finally, it's time to execute strategy. This is vital. The worst thing that can happen is a business spending years working on a plan only for business direction to shift or experience damaging and costly delays. Iteration plays a crucial role here. Getting data, learning and improving is the only way to succeed. It is best advised to roll out projects in chunks so startups can test the next steps without losing out on time and money. At this stage, it should be clear that a digital strategist is the key player for this task.

These days, with the rapid rise in startups leading to competition, creating a digital strategy is a challenging job, especially when time is of the essence. However, it brings a lot of opportunities to the table, promotes efficient analysis of the brand, and promotes digital standing.

Related: Seven Digital Marketing Mistakes UAE Brands Make (And How To Fix Them)

Alexander Rauser

CEO, Prototype

Alexander Rauser has over 15 years of experience in the digital media industry with both a creative and a technical background. He studied media engineering in Germany with a double major in online and offline media. After heading the digital division of a Dubai-based agency for five years, he fulfilled his long ambition to found Prototype Interactive in 2010, an interactive agency specializing in digital solutions for web, mobile and social media. The company is now considered as one of the top digital agencies in the country working with international and regional brands. Talk to him on Twitter at @ARauser.

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