Digital isn’t a technology, it’s a lifestyle. Customers expect brands to support their digital life.
But customer behaviors are changing faster than businesses can respond. The sheer exponential quantity of digital stuff: devices, content, technologies, interactions, ideas and voluminous data, combined with the immediacy of connected access and Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, is being experienced not just between business and customers, but by customers themselves who have become the modulators of good, bad and indifferent. This has completely transformed the boundaries between products, services and experiences.
There’s no doubt that the pace of change in this complex digital world will continue to increase, with the next generation of customers poised to judge each and every effort against their own digitally native expectations.
These expectations derive from a set of new digital benchmarks that define the product service experience landscape: the simplicity of Apple, the immediacy of Twitter, the omnipresence of Google, the familiarity of Facebook, the immersiveness of Burberry, the magic of Amazon, and the creativity of YouTube. These benchmarks are neither fixed nor finite but are the new emergent standards by which our personal experiences are collectively measured. Businesses still struggling to respond to the new digital realm must recognize that newer, experience–based markers demand a reimagining and reframing of businesses as a consequence.
This is the digital transformation imperative.
It requires business to match digital thinking with digital doing, and quickly. The lesson of the Blockbuster /Netflix story, for example, is not limited to digital demise and rise alone, but that this will happen even faster to leaders in other industries.
The digitally connected marketplace is a tough evolutionary environment where ruthless, collective customer behaviors determine what gets killed, kept or evolved.
Evolutionary biology terms are increasingly helpful in describing the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation. We’re familiar with the common misuse of the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ in business tomes and quotation lists, where it is wrongly used to suggest a binary better-faster-stronger aspirational athletic state rather than the fit-for-purpose meaning that was intended. But correctly understood it is enormously useful to framing the challenge. Both Darwin and Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase both observed that survival came from species being ‘better designed for an immediate, local environment’.
With that in mind, when it comes to the challenges businesses face in digital transformation, we’re witnessing not revolution, but evolution. Digital fitness beats digital maturity.