What's The Next New Thing James?

What's The Next New Thing James?

Posted at 09:58h in digital by James Edwards

As CEO of a well-established digital agency (22 years is good going), I’m often asked what’s the next big thing in digital. This is sometimes asked by clients, on a pitch, by colleagues and fellow bloggers.

You know what? I’ve been answering it in one way or another for years – tech this, mobile that and I reckon if I live to be a 100, I’ll still be trying to answer it. It’s also well related to another question we get when doing build projects for clients (generally at pitch stage, by one or other of a panel created to ‘mark’ the response we’ve made to a PPQ) which is; can you future proof this for 5 years?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the next 12 months, let alone 60 months! In the past 5 years, we have seen major changes in marketing automation, mobile-first discipline, big data…

Our thinking has also changed massively over the past five years. Customer experience and service across multiple channels has become important to almost every client B2C and B2B.

That said, I wrote a digital strategy for Severn Trent in 2011 that has some surprising insight – especially around customer service and social media and is been implemented now. As an agency, we still maintain and support several large ecommerce sites that are still on our old Amber CMS/CRM system and, apart from a few niggles, are performing fantastically; considering they were built 10 years ago.

But to really keep up, how often should you revisit your digital strategy and the infrastructure that supports it?

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I think it should be an ongoing process.

If you build a new site; the chances are that a lot of effort has gone into the thinking behind your customer journey and experience. If in our hands, it would be tested and refined and then tested again – in the lab with real customers. Once that’s done and it’s built and tested, it goes live. End of the job, right?

No. You would review it after the first three months. Look closely at what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. All the factors you strategized and designed – do they work? Do people scroll? Do the calls to actions work in real life situations? Are your customers delighted? We have wonderful software for this and it’s great to watch real customers going about their business on the site you created.

Let’s say that you hit everything perfectly and after a three-month review there’s no snags at all. That would be brilliant and it does happen. The problem is that as time goes by habits change, tech moves on, screens get smaller, bigger, different shaped… So, what works today will not work as well tomorrow; as the customer moves on to new tech and ways of viewing and absorbing your content.

And there’s the issue right there. The customers you aimed your remarkable new development at, are constantly evolving and they’re doing that a different pace than your business is capable of reacting to.

Oh, it’s not all negative – it’s extremely exciting. But, to be really up with the pace of change that exists in the digital space right now, today (and every day ad infinitum), you need to be constantly revaluating your strategy, and, I mean monthly at the least.

What does that mean? It means you need bigger and better teams to run your customer experience. Is that realistic? I think not. I would say that as an agency owner, but I’m going to share with you why I think that.

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For us, it’s all starts with CX and UX and strategic thinking. Then come the ideas, the white boarding, the wireframes, behavioural science, IA, red-routes, prototypes, design, copy, testing, UI design, build and QA. From start to finish that’s 20-25 people. Yes, you could have 25 people in your internal team. That would roughly cost you £1.5m in wages. Then you would have to manage them; the peaks and troughs in workload, sickness, holidays and the usual day to day dramas.

One of the other things missing from this is the richness. The experience of working on other brands, differing tech and challenging briefs. Part of what we bring is the last job we worked on. This experience is what shapes our ideas and keeps us fresh.

The answer then? Work closely with your agency to realise your customer’s expectations. Own the strategy, but don’t try and figure it all out yourself. Use some outside skills to bring in fresh and innovative thinking. Collaboration is the new black! Get your team working with ours – together we can make amazing things happen.

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