Thursday, September 25, 2014

The 4 C’s of a Digital Platform

I've previously posted about the need for organisations to move away from just a website to a Digital Platform, so I won’t go into detail about ‘why’ you need one. However, from feedback I've had about this topic, I think I need to go into more detail about WHAT specifically one actually is.

To therefore keep things as simple as possible, I think the scope of a Digital Platform can be summed up in 4 terms beginning with the letter C:

Keeping any online property up-to-date requires a decent system for managing content. With free and easy to use CMS (Content Management System) tools available, the days of static sites are (or should be) long gone.
Note: although I know of at least 2 large eCommerce retailers who claim to manage their site content via their merchandising system, which only updates product and category information but still needs a fleet of developers to make HTML-based changes to their homepage, landing pages and anything else you would generally classify under the term content.

Having transactional functionality in your online platform is becoming more and more of a fundamental requirement for an increasing number of sites as they look to acquire and retain direct online customers rather than use a complex and commercially draining network of stores, partners, resellers or agents.
If you want proof of this, just look at the recent demise of the mobile retailer Phones4u in the UK. As the mobile phone operators have gotten more grown-up with their online selling and customer management propositions, then their need for an intermediate who takes commission and attempts to own the customer becomes less and less. In short, by having a mature online commerce and account management service, companies can now seriously consider or reconsider dis-intermediation in fast moving markets.
A digital platform should therefore have a host of features (shopping carts, integration to payment services, discounts & offers functionality and ‘my account’ database functionality, etc.) to enable your business to quickly allow your customers to self-serve.

Forget that desktop-only site you've been holding onto for the last few years. The use of mobile devices to browse and buy are increasingly overtaking PC and laptop usage in all sorts of markets. Your customer is now almost as likely to be using their smartphone or tablet (in an array of sizes) to inform themselves. However, just because your mobile visitors have increased, it doesn't mean that your conversions have… as on average (in my experience anyhow) conversion rates on desktop sites accessed from mobile devices sharply decrease in correlation to the size of the screen used.
Or in other words… make sure your digital platform can deliver your content and commerce capability to all users regardless of their channel of choice.

If you capture and manage customer data, then use it to communicate. To really leverage the user data contained in you Digital Platform it also needs to include (or fully integrate with) a range of digital marketing tools to get your message out and to build a relationship with your target audience. Can your platform:
  • Deliver segmented marketing emails to a set of subscribed users?
  • Send alerts to customers that they have left something in their shopping basket (and that they should jolly well come back to the site and buy it before someone else does or it is no longer available)?
  • Send out SMS messages to those who want or need it (think how useful those text messages about that flight you booked for next week are and how they don’t need you to have a modern 4G data connection to look them up).
  • Work out which of your customers are Tweeting and confirm what product they actually bought online from you?

Hopefully your answer to all of the above is “Yes”.
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