Ashok Lalla

Ashok Lalla is an Independent Digital & Marketing Advisor who helps enterprises use digital to accelerate business impact and growth.

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How Digital Will Impact Businesses And Brands In 2017

A look at key digital drivers and what their influence might be on the various aspects in the coming year of 2017 ...

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Audience: Audience dispersion will increase, and so will the challenge of reaching them in the digital space. More and more audiences will lock into specific interest streams and social groups, thereby necessitating the need to map and create audience-interest based outreach initiatives.

Broadband: Digital connectivity, in terms of ease, cost and quality of access will determine how widespread its reach and influence can be. And whether #DigitalIndia will continue to be limited in real usage, or if it will embrace Bharat along with India. 

Content: The chaff will overwhelmingly dominate the wheat as brands continue to seek to win the “content marketing” war. The result will be a dramatic content blindness as users shut out content by muting streams and brands. Smart businesses will focus on winning Share of Context, rather than simply chasing Share of (content) voice.

Demonetisation effect: At least over the first half of 2017, this will mean more caution, more focused marketing and less sumptuous spending. This may well put digital in the spotlight and see its share of activity spiking. Giddyup digital industry!

Ecommerce: The Amazonization of ecommerce, aka, the big players getting bigger, as the smaller ones either get swallowed by the dominant players, or simply fade into oblivion. For businesses looking to exploit ecommerce, it would mean building stronger brand preferences and uses the big ecommerce players as a distribution and sales partner, through a newer symbiotic ecommerce play.

Followers: Numbers alone, be it of fans, followers, likes, engagement will mean less and less. Reach without relevance will lose even more relevance. Less will be more. With better focus on the less making up for the numbers. Quality will be the holy grail to win fandom.

Google: While it will remain the elephant in the room and be hard to ignore, it will start feeling the heat from Facebook in the absence of a strong social play as businesses will go wherever consumers congregate. The nature of search will continue to move from the search bar to wherever users are, and smarter content delivery will further blur the lines between editorial and advertiser content.

Hyperlocalization: Will lead to better hyperlocal sales and marketing programmes, and smart businesses will define and pursue zipcode cluster-based marketing rather than regional or state-level initiatives.

Ideas & integration: Digital is not an island unto itself. The glue that will make it work will remain strong ideas. And their smart and seamless integration across channels. On-ground digital activation will trump pure play online digital.

Moneys: Businesses will realize the importance of focused spends that deliver a digital escape velocity to their campaigns and brands, rather than simply spreading their eggs across many baskets. Greater spends on dynamic outreach rather than creating and maintaining digital presences will separate the smart from the rest.

Noise: The cacophony created by growing content streams and user participation, and growing residual digital deadwood will have the effect of consumers tuning out more and more. And businesses who will win the digital ears of these consumers will be those that add smart sounds, not louder noise to the cacophony. 

On-the-go: Without a doubt, mobile digital will rule the digital highways. This will be driven by a combination of the urge of people to interact with others and to get what they want wherever they are, and the immense possibilities of hyperlocalization for targeting and transactions. As well as innovations such as missed-called marketing and its 2017 evolution.

Partners: The smarter way to manage one’s digital programmes will be by putting together and leveraging an on-demand agile digital partners’ ecosystem rather than building one internally. This will ensure the digital initiatives benefit from the best of the best, and evolve as opportunities do.

Quick resolution: Yes, quick responses alone to customers is passé. The expectations of users have risen and will rise further in 2017. Serving this need will demand of businesses to realign the fundamental ways they are designed to deliver solutions to customers. Customer resolution management will influence the customer relationship metrics businesses achieve.

Referral: Will soon become the R in CRM programmes as smart businesses will seek to grow their influence via the influence of their customers, through their extended social and real networks. Early indications in this direction are already evident from how businesses in e-payments and hyperlocal delivery are going about customer acquisition through referrals.

Social: A viewpoint on digital trends without explicitly naming social would be deemed incomplete! 2017 will see social media convergence, where the best features and functionalities will be offered by virtually everyone. Already, the lines between Snapchat and Instagram are blurring. Consumers will start becoming platform agnostic but choose to go wherever their social networks of friends and acquaintances resides.

Transformation: Another buzzword in digital, 2017 will see smart businesses transforming mindsets and breaking down the walls of legacy. Rather than hoping that a set of digitally-enabled initiatives can transform their businesses alone. A more agile, multi-pronged effort rather than a linear approach to transformational change will show real results, quicker. Investments will shift from building stuff to plug-and-solutions with a heightened customer-oriented outreach-based focus.

U-tals: These refer to personalized portals. That are customized by consumers based on their preferences. Done right, these will take apps to the next level. And start to address the malaise of dropping usage level and abandonment that plagues most apps after the initial installation euphoria.

Voice: In a digital world filled with increasing levels of bots, fake content and abuse, the quality of the voice that a business and its brands use is increasingly important. Quality refers to the authenticity, consistency, and availability to interact and respond. The bedrock of what a brand stands for must form the core of its voice, even in the digital and social space. Else, businesses risk brand voice schizophrenia. 

Websites: More in 2017 than ever before, websites should no longer be seen as a singular shrine to a brand, but should be the seamless and dynamic amalgam between its owned, earned, paid and shared presences. The lines between these are fading and that is a new reality that businesses must accept to stay relevant.

X: The X factor in how a business uses digital will differentiate the leaders from the herd. A focus on creating next practices, not simply emulating best practices or past benchmarks will keep brands ahead of the digital curve.
Youth: Yes, the millennials. While they may not be the consumers for several businesses in 2017, they certainly form the most important influence group for most purchases. And will be consumers of the future. Make millennial focus a special focus.

Z: It is impossible to write the last word on Digital 2017 sitting in 2016. But what is clear, is that if businesses ignore the key digital markers and trends taking shape, they will miss out on the golden opportunity to turn digital to their advantage in 2017, and beyond.

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