How Can Brands Prepare for Digital Disruption in Their Marketing Strategy?

We recently attended the Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham and one of the most interesting talks that we listened to was a panel on digital disruption within retail - with guest speakers Mat Braddy (Founder of Rock, Pamper, Scissors), Rachel Waller (Global Director of Online Communications at Farfetch) and Neil Roberts (Head of Digital at Eurostar).

The panel discussed how digital has disrupted their respective industries and what could potentially be future disruptions to look out for.

We understand just how quickly and unexpectedly things can change so it was interesting to hear from three digital leaders on how we can prepare for these transformations - if you have high growth ambitions for your business, take a look at our five key takeaways from the talk.

1. Identify the ways that your brand could die

The first thing to do when preparing for the future is to understand the ways that your business could fail or lose out to competitors. On the most part, this is a lot of guesswork but taking the time to really understand ways you could lose out can be a good starting point for a plan.

Mat Braddy spoke about how one of his key responsibilities in his previous role at Just-Eat was to understand this so that the brand could continue to grow.

“One key part of my role was discovering ways that the brand could potentially die” - Mat Braddy

It sounds a little pessimistic but knowing the potential pitfalls can be more useful for your plans than going in blind. 

2. Understand your customer completely and meet their demands


This is also a very simple concept but one that can often go overlooked - bring it all back to the customer. This was one of Neil Robert’s key points in that knowing the customer and understanding what they want from your brand will mean that they’re more likely to be loyal to you - even through any disruption.

Mat Braddy expanded on this and talked a little about how customers today have unreasonable (and sometimes impossible) expectations but if brands don’t meet these, then somebody else will come along who will.

One example that was given was the Tinder vs. battle. Today’s customer wanted casual, no commitment, quick and easy dating but didn’t take advantage of this and along came Tinder which has dominated the online dating market (and popular culture) for the past few years. Another example was Giffgaff who met the demands of customers who were frustrated with commitments in contracts and wanted more casual arrangements when it came to their phones.

3. Invest in personalisation


One trend we saw throughout the whole expo was personalisation. This was a topic that was mentioned through many of the talks and something that a lot of the exhibitors were promoting.

However, one interesting aspect of personalisation that was discussed was how customers are now demanding more access to their data and could potentially want more power to transfer this data to other brands / integrate with other systems.

Neil Roberts gave an insightful example of how, in terms of health and fitness, there are certain health watches that collect data on heart rate and exercise and there are certain scales that can determine your body fat but these systems don’t talk together. As customers, we want that overall view of our data in one place.

The key takeaway from this is that customers want relevant, streamlined experiences - both online and offline and across their multi-brand and multi-device experience. Can you meet this demand?

4. Be more agile within your organisation

Agile Team

Something that was only briefly discussed but that we thought was something we could really take away was the idea that brands need to be more agile within their organisations.

One reason why start-ups are being more successful is because they don’t have the constraints of a rigid and ineffective organisational system that were set up before digital was even around. They grow alongside the growth of digital so are more agile in how they respond to it. This was a topic that was discussed at the Internet Retailing Conference last year, so if you’re interested in the importance of this, take a look at our previous blog post on digital expertise in your management team.

Do you need to make changes to how your departments work with each other?

5. Humanise your marketing

Disruptions in your industry are always going to happen but people are still going to connect with other people and this is something that it was clear that all of the speakers strongly believed in.

“The biggest strategy for acquisition marketing is one human being speaking to another human being” - Mat Braddy

If you use this concept throughout your marketing, it doesn’t matter if they’re using a mobile device or a smart TV or a self-driving car.

All of the speakers were committed to the idea that we need to move away from adverts and selling products but to start telling stories again and selling the narrative.

“We need to start using narratives again” - Rachel Waller

We think this is something that will really help brands prepare for any disruptions - focus on the people, not the technology.

In summary

Disruptions in digital and retail are always going to happen so it’s important that we embrace any changes. Before the talk ended, each speaker gave their opinion on an industry set to change over the next few years:

  • Neil Roberts thought craft beers and alcoholic drinks were really set to change
  • Rachel Waller thought healthcare was a really interesting industry to watch
  • Mat Braddy thought virtual reality in education was one to keep an eye on - students learning about Ancient Egypt whilst ‘visiting’.

Tweet us at  @Statement and let us know what you think are emerging disruptions in retail!

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