The quiet digital crisis hitting Australian businesses

Andrew Munro 9 March 2017 NEWS

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Organisations are struggling with the four keys to digital success.

There is no denying that a digital strategy is necessary for business these days. According to a recently released Australian Company Digital Confidence report, 98% of Australian businesses believe digital strategies are important to their success. The problem is, there is a substantial gulf between knowing the importance of the digital space and actually being able to follow through.

Only about half of the companies surveyed (52%) were confident that they could execute a digital strategy, exposing them to the increasingly competitive market landscape. As the business world becomes increasingly interconnected and customers move further online, international competitors are more able to steal business away from Australian firms. Similarly, new startups that have digital as a part of their strategy from the beginning will enjoy an inherent advantage.

Fewer than 40% of businesses surveyed even knew where they wanted to go in the digital space, making them easy pickings for more developed competition. The stark difference between knowing what must be done, and being able to do it, highlights the quiet crisis striking companies: a lack of digital confidence. As more companies embrace digital, time is running out for those that lag behind.

The report highlights four key areas where businesses can improve and four key characteristics of organisations that are overcoming the digital confidence crisis.

The key indicators of digital confidence

Across the board, businesses that were more confident in the successful execution of an ongoing digital strategy shared four key characteristics.

  • Top-down buy-in from business leaders: It all comes from the top. Executives need to commit to digital development. In companies where the CEO leads digital, confidence in successful execution was at 81%. When other roles lead the effort it's much lower.
  • Clear goals: If your goal is to use digital to drive sales and boost customer engagement, specify it. Working towards clearly defined benchmarks lets you revise strategies to continually make sure you're on the path to real results.
  • Sufficient resources and digital autonomy: In many cases, the digital team sits as an extension of marketing and other similar teams without the autonomy to make the changes needed. A dedicated digital team, with sufficient resources and autonomy, means businesses can adapt faster.
  • Digital training: Unfortunately, having a Facebook account doesn't qualify someone as a digital specialist. The survey showed that about 70% of digital staff in surveyed companies learnt on the job with no formal training other than what might be gleaned online, in industry training programs or at universities. Workshops and training programs from digital solutions firms might be one way of finding the right combination of industry-focus and all around digital expertise.

What now?

More competition is emerging every day, often heavily supported by Australian government startup grants and specialised startup loans. The potential of big returns means a lot of investors are ready to put their money in new creations, especially when they're built from the ground up to encompass the necessary e-sales, online engagement and other digital requirements that characterise business in the 21st century.

Digital-focused startups already tick the four boxes above, giving them a competitive edge, and it might be time for established businesses to do or die. It's much harder to play catch up, as evidenced by the businesses losing customers without even knowing where they're going. If this sounds familiar, you might be quietly haemorrhaging customers to the emerging digital competitors.

Responding in kind, by embracing the digital age with confidence, may be the only option.

Taking advantage of digital industries

Fintech startups have already disrupted the finance industry, and old lenders have been losing business to new providers that are often able to offer lower rates and better deals than the more traditional lenders. The increased diversity in the marketplace has also led to the emergence of highly specialised fintech offerings, letting businesses take a more nuanced approach than they might have been able to in the old days.

You can't stop industry change any more than you can stop the sun from rising, and every new report clearly shows that the window for jumping on the digital train is closing increasingly fast.

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