Opinion

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Consumers: Responsible for business transformation since 1995

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The digital world continues to change the way consumers interact with brands and products, and so too must businesses change in order to find a new place in this changing ecosystem. It’s commonplace for marketers to reference the disruptor brands of Uber, Airbnb and Netflix, but the essence of these great companies is often lost in translation. It’s not the tech that is so important about these disruptor brands, it’s the journey from creation to disruption. It’s the relationships the brands created and grew with consumers.

Transformation doesn’t come from shouting louder than your peers, or desperately chasing the title of “Digital Disruptor” or innovator. It doesn’t come from creating a piece of tech for tech’s sake and then resting on those laurels of hope for a quick turnaround. And it most definitely does not arise through mere internal restructure or shift in company mind-set.

While these aspects are not redundant in business transformation, true disruption of any industry relies firstly on your audience; what your consumers want, when they want it, how they expect that product or service to be delivered, and crucially, using this insight to solve your consumers’ problems. If you truly nail that understanding of your audience and deliver a personalised and convenient experience that answers a genuine consumer need, rather than just a product, it will drive your digital transformation forward and keep you ahead of the highly-competitive innovation game.

Once you’ve understood the importance of an audience-first approach, you can then look at the three supporting pillars; technology – to enable experiences, content – to build equity, and internal culture – because change can only occur if a company is ready for a shift in mind-set.

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For example, take The Sun’s fantasy football league “Dream Team”. It originally started as a game, a product, but The Sun realised the most valuable aspect was to build an engaged audience at the centre of the product, all who share a passion for the beautiful game. In response it built “Dream Team FC“, a multi-channel always on engagement platform where players can access great content but also chat amongst themselves.

The Sun had to restructure internally, creating a multidisciplinary team to meet the needs of its audience’s changing expectations and create Dream Team FC; an organisational change that was built around its audience, for its audience. And through its new team skill sets Dream Team is exploring Facebook’s live video feature, with its coverage of Leicester’s title celebrations garnering a staggering 1.5m viewers throughout the live feed – which was one of the largest broadcasts in Facebook history.

That said, it’s easy to get blindsided by tech and the incredible advancements and capabilities that accompany the power of digital. But tech is only ever an enabler to a fully integrated experience for your consumer – it won’t dictate what the public wants or where there’s a gap in what seems to be an already over-saturated market. For that you need to stop looking over your shoulder and instead shift that focus to your business’ audience.

Someone who did stop looking to his market competitors and instead sought inspiration from his audiences was Kevin Plank, founder of Sports apparel brand Under Armour. He set up an online platform where consumers could submit their own ideas and he has shaped much of his business success as innovator in the sportswear space by simply listening to what the public wants. Another plus side to companies listening to their audiences is collating the proof needed to convince CEO’s and budget holders to green light any internal cultural change or project sign-off to then facilitate that innovative idea.

Another innovator that’s not given the credit it deserves is ZipCar, a car sharing service that literally revolutionised the automotive industry. A team of product designers who report directly to the CEO are able to test and innovate to make change fast. Zipcar has always been proud to approach business with an audience-first attitude. Its staff regularly take part in “ride-along” trips with members in order to get live and honest feedback. It is a company that is constantly researching and then testing new updates on its consumers in order to create an unrivalled product and experience.

Whether you’re an established company with years of legacy in its wake looking to transform your business, or a new start-up hoping to disrupt an industry, look first to your audience, observe and listen to their changing wants and needs. If you really want to give the Ubers of this world a run for their money, then stop looking at your competitors and other industry game-changers. Instead focus on how you can stand out by giving the consumer exactly what they’ve been waiting for.

Chris Daplyn is managing director of Wunderman UK.

Meanwhile, complaint handling is often a tricky area for businesses and can be the difference between a customer returning or not – a vital issue for SMEs.

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