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How can you use digital to gain a competitive edge?

18th October 2016

There is a constant stream of news and updates providing business people with the latest development and advancements, and also the threats and opportunities which digital technologies can offer. But most businesses need to focus in on those which will truly benefit their growth, success and smooth operations, and particularly those which can deliver added competitive advantage in the increasingly competitive business world.

Digital marketing – the most obvious perhaps, but still under-exploited by most businesses. There are massive opportunities for all sizes of businesses to better use data, relationships and excellence in customer service to drive new leads and sales from digital channels. Businesses which are making the most of these concepts are sailing ahead of their competitors. 39% of firms in this category say that digital marketing technologies empower everything they do [source].

Leading global consultancy firm Gartner predicted a few years ago that one quarter of all businesses would lose their market position due to digital incompetence by 2017. There’s nothing to suggest that they weren’t right either. In fact we’ve witnessed the failure of many businesses in the past two years alone due to lack of digital thinking, large and small, local and global.

How can you use digital to gain a competitive edge?

Competitive advantage can be introduced by one company and this in turn forces competitors to respond, creating a cycle of advance and response which drives a transformation cycle. Because of digital the cycle is accelerated resulting in less barriers to entry for other competitors joining the party and so we’ve witnessed the birth of brand new tech start-ups alongside the ongoing jostling of major global corporates.

Leadership in the exploitation of digital technologies has been illustrated most significantly by those businesses which are changing and disrupting the business sectors or whole industries. Clearly Uber, Airbnb and Amazon are lead contenders in this field, but there are also a growing number of small, niche players involved in the digital disruptions of the future – Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and 3D printing. Delivering competitive advantage through digital disruption requires businesses to put in place a focussed, resourced and intensive programme of research, development and testing which can stand the tests of fail-fast and move on, but also can withstand the constant pace of progress and advancements. Too many businesses investing in disruptive technologies have taken too long to produce the results, and in the meantime someone else disrupted the market and moved it on.

Major impact can be achieved internally for all businesses by investing in skills and capacity of our staff teams, supporting and enabling the development of new digital skills will lead to greater potential and growth of our businesses. And with this new level of learning and knowledge comes a new understanding of the strategic imperative of digital advances, and particularly how they can be applied to service and product delivery, and also how it can be utilised to excel in customer service.

So, in your business think about the following as a starting point to developing competitive advantage through digital:

  • Can we make more of the digital technologies we already have in place?
  • Can we scale our successful operations, products and services into new markets because of digital?
  • Can we digitise other existing products, services and business model to drive new income and sales?
  • Can we enhance our customer communications and engagement as a means of winning new clients?

To find out more about our Digital Leadership Programme and our available masterclasses click here: www.cosmic.org.uk/leaders