Digital innovation and the race to the heart of the future consumer

With increasingly fickle consumers who are not afraid to air their views on social media, it has never been more important for companies to fulfil their customers’ every want and need, in order to protect band reputation, garner loyalty and drive business success. But how easy is it realistically for companies to answer the desires of the 21st century, connected, ‘I need everything now’ consumer?

Over the past few years, tech start-ups have been steaming ahead of big businesses when it comes to fulfilling the needs of these consumers, many of whom hold convenience, speed and personalisation above everything else. Born in the digital era, they are far more agile when it comes to speedy product development compared to their established counterparts often held back by inflexible legacy infrastructure.

>See also: To improve your customer experience, free your data

Despite this, we must be clear that digital start-ups will not displace traditional brands or stores completely. They will, instead, co-exist. Online shopping will continue to grow in popularity. At the same time, however, we will see large retailers use the vast amount of consumer data they hold, collected from both online and in-store activity, to innovate and make smarter decisions on the location, size and stock of bricks and mortar stores.

Steps for keeping up with stiff competition from digital natives

Forward-thinking traditional enterprises have already started fighting back by accelerating and investing in digital technologies, automation, cloud, analytics and AI to boost agility and speed-up delivery. Many will now be looking to move beyond the pilot stage and want to really tackle digital transformation to drive business success. So, what should they be doing to accelerate their journey?

• Build an innovation hub: Internal innovation hubs or collaboratories fuel innovation by allowing businesses to experiment with emerging technologies and accelerate new product development in-house, bringing together a multi-disciplinary team of social scientists, design thinkers, creative technologists, engineers, and strategists to help organisations transform for the digital era. Aviva, for example, launched a digital garage in Shoreditch that led to the launch of its telemetry-based app for car insurance, ‘Aviva Drive’.

>See also: 3 digital strategies companies must use to meet customer expectations

• Embrace & experiment with new technology: If the past decade of digital disruption has taught us anything, it is that the needs of the future customer can be addressed through technology to a large extent. This does not just include artificial intelligence, but also image, voice and gesture recognition.

• Attract sought-after talent: It is no secret that those individuals who have the skills to drive digital transformation both in the business and for customers are in high demand. Ramping up innovation in-house through a digital studio will not only pioneer new products, but also help traditional enterprise brands attract new, digitally savvy employees away from their disruptive competitors. Employing these individuals will be critical to accelerating their digital transformation.

• Investigate collaborations: Some businesses realise that collaboration is key, with big players joining forces with rivals to boost customer service and accelerate product delivery. We have seen this with the likes of Morrisons introducing Amazon collection lockers into its stores to provide its customers with even more convenience and, critically, rival the services of its competitors.

• Glean valuable insights from data: Most large enterprises will be sitting on a goldmine of consumer data and by investing in data analytics, they can obtain valuable insights that inform product development and services. Having such insight will lead to a new equilibrium across different industries to level the playing field between traditional companies and digital natives that were founded on data.

>See also: 3 digital transformation trends for UK businesses

• Break down company silos: To really deliver new, agile ways of working and catapult the digital transformation required to stay ahead of the game, organisations should shift the culture of the company too. They need to break down traditional structures; bringing together the often-siloed departments of IT and business. Traditionally, the business unit would state what it needed, and IT was left to deliver it. However, this relationship should be restructured, bringing in product managers and product owners with strong business expertise as well as knowledge of how to drive software programmes. This will ensure that strong business insight is driving product development to create products and services that will resonate with their customers.

The playing field between digital start-ups and large corporates is increasingly been levelled thanks to emerging technologies becoming more accessible. With tools now available to allow traditional businesses to fight back, they are now in an ideal position to accelerate their digital transformation strategies.

The winners will be those businesses, whether big or small, who can adopt and integrate emerging technology the quickest, whilst also interpreting and making meaning from the customer data created. Only by offering personalised, on-demand and convenient products and services, will the hearts of future customers be captured.


Sourced by Rohit Garg, senior director – UK head of Practice – Agile & DevOps, Cognizant Digital Engineering

Avatar photo

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...