What even is a digital-first brand or retailer?

What does digital-first actually mean?

In essence, it is the culture and the practice, of putting digital considerations of every kind at the forefront of strategies and operations. To be digitally-led. To be digital-first.

It is the key for every business now. And it is equally essential irrespective of what your relative retail sales are from digital and physical channels. In fact whether you sell at all online. Or indeed whether you are even a retailer of any kind.

It is to think, breath and live like the best of pureplay. And it’s importance and relevance to everyone has been supercharged by the exponential success of many new and innovative businesses, breaking and disrupting old models, employing digital enablers to organise their business structures and their processes in completely new ways.

Digital-first is about coordinating human creativity with data technology. It is about creating deep customer relationships, the ultimate customer connections, and about planning and managing the supply and distribution process in rapid time, with lightening reactions and responses.

It is about replacing the hierarchical structure, with a customer centric structure, creating data intelligence departments and DIOs, transforming linear buying processes into lateral added-value processes, replacing linear work-flows with process loops and developing a mentality for perpetual activity and change.

If you have already being doing these things then you are either strategically, or inadvertently digital-first.

For everyone else, what are the attributes and benefits of this new-thinking?

Acquire & use ‘Precision data.’

Data should be behind every decision across the business. You need to be obsessive about understanding everything. You need to be obsessive about the customer. The key word is precision. The combination of consumer research, customer mining and personal profiling is at the heart of this precise understanding of the customer.

Develop ‘Customer Intimacy.’

It is no surprise that Pureplays are the new best practice model. Their obsession with the customer allows them to anticipate and respond to behaviour and buying patterns.

This allows them to create the deepest and most profitable connections with customers. They are intimate in their knowledge. They can communicate on a personal level and sell to them in a completely symbiotic way.

Traditional brands and businesses need to think and operate in the same way. They need it for their new digital channels, but they need it also to coordinate customer connections across all channels.

Be brave. But learn quickly.

Data will give us the insights but not necessarily the clearest and best action plan to pursue. This is nothing new.

Digital-first businesses take actions with precise data. This minimises risk. They monitor the result of actions with more analysis and assessments. There is no such thing as a wrong action, just ones that sometimes don’t work. Every action is a learning, and every action is primarily without risk if the repercussions are tempered by correct and rapid reactions.

Digital-led businesses operate processes that allow speed. They are not hampered by archaic organizational structures, or primeval protocols. To maximise opportunities and restrict the impact of mistakes they act quickly.

The return of cooperation

Of course, successful digital businesses benefit from the intensity and accuracy of data, and the speed of processes and communications, but they benefit most from the re-invention of the employee community.

This community has singular aims, and collaborative objectives. It has mutual respect and common rewards. It has many roles but one mind-set. It is the future of intelligence which leans heavily on the experience of old-fashioned respect.

So, where to begin?

Clearly, technology is essential to improvement, but it is not the place to start. I have seen that mistake many times.

And in many ways employing technology is the final step. The enabler.

The starting point is to examine the business objectives and brand strategies. to examine the organisational structure, the processes and colleague inter-relationships.

Most important is to change the business culture.

You can take a digital horse to the water…but you won’t necessarily get it to drink.

Read more on how we change business structures & cultures…

Retail organisations, structures & processes – VM Unleashed

‘The reasons why retailers change for the better′ is featured in the book ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness: How to be an Essential Retailer.’ by Tim Radley. If you would like to read more about the new ways that retailers are re-organising their structures, re-aligning their processes and empowering their workforces, then you can find all of this and more in ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness.’

Available worldwide across all amazon platforms and popular online booksellers from Waterstones, Blackwell’s & Foyles to Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository.

For more information, click here.

'Meaning in the Retail Madness: How to be an Essential Retailer' Out now. Available worldwide across amazon and popular online booksellers