What does the “fourth industrial revolution” mean for Britain’s businesses?

If you can’t beat them, join them

Rather than fearing the emergence of disruptive challengers, businesses should “do an Uber” and assess where a potential point of “disintermediation” could exist between them and their customers, evaluating what impact cutting-out the middleman could have on the customer experience.

This is an area where established businesses hold a trump card; they already have customers that they can learn from. Unlike startups, more established businesses have the experience and resources to really understand what customers want, rather than betting big on what they might potentially like.

The fourth industrial revolution and advances in data collection and analysis are opening up even more opportunities for businesses in this area. 

Gone are the days where business owners need to go on their “gut feeling” or “customer feedback” to know which direction to take their company. Data-driven insights offer businesses a much deeper understanding of customer expectations and changing behaviour.

However, data is certainly not in short supply. It is at the centre of everything we do – every transaction, experience or interaction we have. The challenge comes in connecting the dots between different data sets and evaluating what it all means.

For example, data collected from an app or ecommerce site, and combined with data from a contact centre, could provide an indication into what customers are looking to buy, what common problems they are facing, and where opportunities exist to make the process smoother, boost loyalty and increase margins, if combined and analysed efficiently.

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Technology for technology’s sake?

In the race to join and lead the fourth industrial revolution, investment in new technologies seems like a given, however no business should invest in technology for technology’s sake.

Before making any investments, businesses should think about what would enhance their customer experience. For example, fintech startups may be nipping at the heels of the banks with better mobile and cloud services, but they don’t have the millions of customer relationships and established banking infrastructure of more established financial services companies.

If banks can make their own path towards digitisation they will ultimately be in a stronger position. By building a long-term strategy, businesses can take a steady approach to digitisation.

It’s important for businesses to understand that technology and software cannot replace everything. For example, virtual learning is on the rise but the expertise and knowledge of established players in education cannot be overridden.

Educational institutions have the opportunity to develop their long-standing reputation further by being a digital leader and offering new technology solutions to support staff and students.

It’s tempting for established businesses to make drastic decisions regarding technology, however, in order for successful digital innovation to occur, a gap in the customer experience needs to be identified.

By continually assessing the current experience and developing digital strategies to improve it, businesses can prepare for whatever the fourth industrial revolutio’ may throw at them.

One of the more bizarre digital developments to have been revealed so far in 2016 came from Facebook HQ as founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed his goal for this year is to produce the tech found in Marvel’s Iron Man films.

Stephen Morgan is co-founder of global technology and strategy business Squiz

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