Surviving the Digital Divide

Matt Black on February 5, 2016 • 5 minute read

‘Keeping Up With the Joneses’ is an inescapable social construct in 21st century business, especially given how quickly technology changes and digital trends emerge.

The battle for eyeballs has never been more intense, and the stakes are too high to not be using all the tools at your disposal.

So how are you measuring what’s happening, and more importantly, how is your business doing?

Sure, everybody talks about the importance of analytics, social media, yadda yadda yadda… but maybe it just seems like everyone’s on the same page when it comes to leveraging modern infrastructure and platforms? Is there really a level playing field for brands to compete on?

Honest answer based on recent data shared by Harvard Business Review?

Not by a long shot.

But the good news is that there are ways to help you close the gap.

HBR Shines A Light

Just over two weeks ago, Harvard Business Review launched an article titled “The Most Digital Companies Are Leaving All the Rest Behind,” and it included some harsh realities for the U.S. economy and businesses who haven’t quite embraced digital innovation.

The truth is, as HBR explains it, that a new digital divide has opened up in America, and the U.S. economy is operating at only 18% of its potential.

At the ground floor of the widening gap isn’t a reluctance to invest in IT, but instead, a divide based on digital usage — organizations have the technology they need, but lack the mindset, culture and people to implement it.

But that’s just not good enough in 2016.

At the end of the day, digital equals dollars, as the “most digitally advanced parts of the [American] economy have increased their productivity and boosted profit margins by two to three times the average rate in other sectors over the past 20 years.”

So if you’re a little fish in a big pond, how can you compete? Or better yet, how can you perform at the same level as the elite digital companies, even if it’s on a smaller scale?

Staying Ahead of the Pack

Data is now in the hands of the masses and your customers are more focused on data than ever before… so shouldn’t you be too? It’s your responsibility to determine what information is relevant to your brand and industry, and in turn, how you can leverage the data to drive results.

So drill down and determine what’s important to you, your business goals, and most importantly, your customers and community. Connect the dots and figure out how each one of your data sources can improve your business.

It’s simply not enough to collect and store data – you’ve got to be willing to act on it.

One way to accomplish this is to incorporate data into your sales, marketing, and content strategy — think ads, infographics/visualizations, e-books, white papers… anything that serves as proof that you can do what you say you can do.

Or maybe try simplifying your analytics and making them digestible for both your internal and external customers. If you decide to share data with your community (where they spend time online!) be sure to do so in a manner that shows them the impact that they make.

One thing’s for sure: you’ve got to keep your ear to the ground and be willing to measure new things while exploring different platforms. And whenever possible, let your customers lead the way!

Who You Can Learn From

It’s not all doom and gloom if digital isn’t yet in your company’s DNA, however.

You aren’t alone in seeking to leverage digital to meet the needs of your customers and achieve your business goals. And the best part is that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, because major players on the global business stage have already gone all in on digital, social, data and analytics.

There’s nothing better than avoiding mistakes that have already been made, right?

Look at Nike for instance: their Nike+ community/platform connects physically active individuals via their shoes, smartphones, watches, apps… wherever people are Just Do[ing] It, Nike is there.

In an effort to reward those who use their products and services religiously, Nike decided to leverage customer data for a marketing campaign (Your Year with Nike+) and feature their activity via personalized videos.

What a great way to reinforce the fact that “data means nothing if you don’t do something with it,” right? Leveraging your customer’s activity and using it to promote your gear is equivalent to marketing gold.

Many also laud General Electric for their willingness to explore new technologies and jump on new platforms. GE has tied their legacy – invention and being first – to their modern philosophy towards digital. Being an early adopter of social platforms and related technology as a company is something CMO Linda Boff prides herself on. GE has found ways to humanize their highly technical brand and build bridges on social by engaging on Twitter, Instagram, Vine and other channels.

If a massive 125-year old brand can break from tradition and take a chance, why can’t you?

Video game giant EA Sports is clearly embedded in the digital space given the nature of their business. But even they have tried to leverage technology in ways that sets them apart from competitors. By putting their customers likenesses directly into their products, EA is building intimate connections with gamers by allowing them to hit the hardwood or take the ice as themselves.

It’s important to note that emulating successful organization’s habits can almost instantly point you in the right direction, but should never be at the expense of your own brand identity. Pay attention to what others are doing and how they’re doing it, but find ways to put your fingerprints on your digital activity.

How does your company leverage digital to connect with customers and build your brand identity? Are there better ways to shrink the digital divide that the U.S. economy is currently experiencing? Can you think of other companies who are doing digital right? Let us know at @databoxHQ or @mattblackink!

About the author
Matt Black is a copywriting digital marketer based in Toronto, Canada. He loves sports, Quentin Tarantino's movies and traveling wherever, whenever.
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