Author Robin Sharma says, "Clarity precedes success." We couldn't agree more.
Clarity is imperative for strategic planning and decision-making. That's an easy thing to write, but - put simply - we all know that you must understand your data and stay in tune with the latest trends. We've been asked a few times about bringing digital marketing consultants into our teams and we understand the question, particularly when it comes to developing powerful growth strategies for our clients.
Our view is that digital strategy is now deeply embedded into all business strategy. It's a discipline, not a function. That said, if we want to use the lens of a digital marketing consultant to assess our overarching strategy, there are some core digital marketing trends that can help us all stay on the front foot in our ever-changing marketing landscape.
We've chosen seven, however we'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd add:
1. Digital is in the DNA
It goes without saying that digital should be anything but an afterthought — it's interwoven through strategy consulting.
Whether you focus on value proposition, scenario planning, or experience design, everything begins with digital. Thinking this way helps ensure greater reach and scalability.
Research shows that 89% of board directors say digital is embedded in all business-related growth strategies, yet only 35% have achieved or are on track to achieve their digital transformation goals. Members of our team have held marketing roles in the companies we now consult for, and this struggle is something we've seen time and time again. Clarity is difficult to achieve, especially when you spread your brand across many touchpoints, devices, and channels.
So, what steps do you take?
Understand the value of metrics to leverage data analytics
The wealth of data available is a double-edged sword for many companies, as it's easy to quickly become overwhelmed. At Oxford, we love to partner with companies to sift through data so we can step back and develop a strategy for growth. These insights tell us where people spend their time, how they engage with brands, and what resonates with them. We love it when an insight makes us feel angry or even a little bit scared, as that means it resonates at an emotional level - and we're onto a good thing!
An important and fundamental step within strategy consulting is then to bring the data together to help combat data silos. We know that being more fluid, interconnected, and collaborative drives success.
Prioritise course correction in response to the metrics you track
You'll benefit from richer insights for more optimised targeting and course correction by tracking and measuring clear-defined metrics (e.g., engagement, traffic, or conversion-related metrics). Course corrections are a GOOD thing. It means we've recognised where we've gone wrong and learned fast. Adaptability and agility are both crucial in today's business landscape. Sometimes you'll need to pivot because of a mistake or error. And that's OK. Course-correcting is the nature of the beast — it's inevitable.
So whether you're adapting to ever-changing business conditions or a failure, we understand there will always be a potential fork in the road. How you navigate course correction can define your business. Lean on your data to help you choose the best path.
Digital underpins everything related to strategy consulting. Moving forward, we should think about how everything starts with digital to reach people with the right content in the moments that matter.
2. The need for digital connections
In 2023 and beyond, connecting online is imperative to the success of growing businesses. As of 2023, nearly 13% of full-time employees work from home, and almost 30% have adapted to a hybrid model. By 2025, 22% of the workforce is expected to work remotely, supporting a continuous yet gradual shift. Mindfulness of this change today is imperative for implementing processes and tools.
Choosing the right tools enables us to bridge the divide brought on by varying time zones and locations. Human connection is vital. We're all used to setting up meetings on Teams, but there's more we can do. From gaming together to creating team-building events in the metaverse, it's all possible.
Oxford is a B Corp — we put people first and then find the right ways to connect. We love to get into a room together, but this isn't always an option. Digital tools enable us to meet as a global team to be more inclusive and productive.
Connecting on-site is a great way to collaborate and work on team-building. Implement digital tools to connect each remote team member and ensure a smooth workflow, while encouraging idea sharing.
3. Plan for a mobile-first experience
Digital experience must be friction-free and seamless, which can be challenging when focusing on an omnichannel approach. So, step one is determining the right ways to connect with our target audience. Once we know how and where to connect with our audience, we must consider another crucial variable — the devices they use to engage with us. This consideration ensures an optimal customer experience.
Again, there is no one magic solution here, as each business and associated consumer behaviour will differ. Despite that fact, the latest data supports an 'on-the-go' experience. A recent digital market overview found that over twice as many people use smartphones as computers. Whether we like it or not, a mobile-first approach remains critical moving forward.
Of course, that doesn't mean ignoring those using desktops, and the data above may not be true for internal or B2B organisational capability building. In fact, with our clients, we often see that desktop is the preferred mode of consumption of training materials. Some materials are just easier to digest on a large screen, or feel more suited to 'desk-time'.
The need for mobile-first experiences will continue to strengthen, but you must know your audience. Implement strategies that create the best experiences for your target audience. Let your data be your guiding light.
4. Create content to perform in the digital space
When refining content to deliver strategy, remember that your content needs to perform in today's evolving digital space. And even with the rise of ChatGPT and other AI, it's crucial to remember that these tools are enablers for us to connect with humans.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of digital content will continue to be crucial in the coming years, especially as industry-wide changes come and go. When creating content, while the rules are changing, the fundamentals include:
- Search engine optimisation | SEO
This is the secret weapon of every digital marketing consultant for content that will surface publicly.
- Google's Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness | E-E-A-T
Being familiar with these guidelines and Google's helpful content update allows us to craft our content so it performs at the highest level. Even though this update was shared in August 2022, it's one of the most comprehensive pieces of guidance on common-sense rules for ensuring your digital content accurately reflects your digital strategy.
- Search Generative Experience | SGE
The latest update to Search shows that there's always something new to consider when aiming to craft powerful content. A test-and-learn approach is going to be powerful as we continue to evolve.
Regardless of your goals, whether it be greater brand awareness or a higher ROI, you need to remain knowledgeable about how your content will perform in today's fast-paced digital space, and use the tools available to help you be agile.
5. Gamification and AI are here to stay
There are a lot of rules to follow when creating a strategy or rolling out a capability programme. However, your strategy needs to be based on one fundamental truth — the end consumer is, first and foremost, human. You need to develop a strategy and materials that will provide an engaging experience.
As gamification and AI become more commonplace, the associated technologies and opportunities will become more prevalent. Consumers engage with gamification and AI daily, so the bar is high, particularly internally when you motivate and scale learning to your teams.
It's important to think about how you can deliver your material in a way that injects a more enjoyable experience. A simple quiz or chatbot can liven up the experience, while leaderboards, rewards, and a more 'human' experience will keep your capability materials feeling fresh in the digital space.
Don't take every step of the strategy-building process so seriously. Digital can (and should) be fun. Consider the role that interactive experiences play within your strategy. Find the joy and allow yourself to be playful!
6. Metaverse adaptation
The metaverse is foreign territory for many brands, so I'm often asked whether a metaverse strategy is necessary and whether we need to think about it.
The simple answer is YES, even if that strategy concludes with 'not yet.' This ties back into having fun with your strategy as you test and explore.
One way to approach a metaverse strategy is to keep learning and lean into the newest tech. Even if you can't justify the budget yet, you'll be inspired with even greater ideas to inject into your digital strategy. If you're hesitant, Matthew Ball is an excellent starting point. While the stats surrounding the metaverse are changing, Ball is a trusted source that can help guide your exploration. I'm not a huge fan of books about business tech, but I find his work completely absorbing.
Here are just a couple pieces of data to help you grasp the metaverse's impact in the coming years from Ball's perspective:
- The metaverse is modelled to be around 30% of the digital economy in 2032. Planning for implementation today can help you remain competitive in the coming years. For example, we are already seeing the amazing possibilities of healthcare in the metaverse.
- Gen Z consumers spend twice as much time socially interacting in the metaverse than they do in real life — with 52% saying they feel more like themselves than in real life. So, as this population pool grows, we must understand what's on the horizon.
The metaverse is here to stay, so embrace it. Be open-minded to new strategies that will allow you to become more innovative. And if you need more convincing, read Matthew Ball's book!
7. The importance of testing emerging channels
When TikTok launched in 2016, many thought it was just another social media channel. By Q1 2022, it was the most downloaded app, reaching over 3.5 billion downloads. Once lawmakers started talking about a potential ban, it was almost as if this platform was too big to fail.
Many businesses didn't test TikTok or consider it for their evolving strategy, which may have been a costly decision for some. Don't be shy to test new channels while continuously improving those you know work.
At Oxford, we're exploring emerging channels at pace. However, we've always delivered digital learning. Online capability and learning mean that people can control the speed at which they absorb and learn. It's what we call blended working — meaning you don't need to travel to your place of work.
Considering how you may need help with digital strategy consulting? At Oxford, our strategy consultancy team helps some of the world's largest organisations drive meaningful growth. We focus on innovation, capability, strategy, and purpose — and digital strategy consulting is woven into every step.
The seven trends above showcase only a selection of insights that can work as an enabler to help us find the right interdependence between people, governance, community, customers, and the environment. This approach is the foundation of everything we do.
Contact us to discover more.
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