To be a digital company, change your core

Want to know whether simply creating a Facebook account constitutes ‘going digital’? Peter Veash, CEO of digital business The BIO Agency, explains why it’s not.

Many companies still believe that by introducing a mobile-optimised website and a Facebook page they are multichannel, but this is simply not the case.

Technology is changing exponentially and to be ready for now – and more importantly the future – business models must change to place digital at the core.

Businesses need to evolve to make space for digital, building their businesses around digital opportunities, rather than trying to incorporate these into an existing, outdated model.  In reality, if businesses started again digital would be at the heart – not how most brands treat it today.

Changes don’t have to be big either. At the recent World Retail Congress Tesco Korea announced its Smart Wallet, which sends discounts and promotions to customers and they can pay using their phone.

A transaction via mobile wallet takes 15 seconds, as opposed to the average of 49 seconds. Tesco intends to introduce the wallet in the UK when its bank launches current accounts next year. Small changes in the way a company interacts with a customer to make their lives easier and fits with their constant online life are necessary to encourage customer retention.

We know change is hard to do, which is why brands need to consider incubating teams to deliver some change while the business continues. Otherwise it is very hard to change. 

Digital shouldn’t be siloed into the marketing department; it needs to be at the heart of the business and that means employing this expertise at leadership level. Digital roles are currently in the shadows.

In a recent interview digital boss at Marks and Spencer Laura Wade-Gery argued that without champions for digital investment at the highest level, the boardrooms of multichannel retailers may not be ‘sufficiently digitally literate’.

More on being a digital business:

There are different ways businesses can go about making these infrastructure alterations. This year travel specialist Thomas Cook created a 12-person digital advisory board drawing on the knowledge of executives who have spent time at Microsoft.

Incorporating digital advisory boards can be a wise move, but in reality retailers still need someone who is digital-savvy to make the final decision. Argos’ recent appointment of former Amazon exec Bertrand Bodson as digital director highlights the move to help steer the retailer’s bid to be a digital-led retailer. We have since seen Argos bring stark digital change with the announcement of MyTablet and a link-up with eBay to introduce a ‘Click and Collect’ service.

I believe that the board of the future will require a very different skill set. I expect the roles of the CIO and CTO in unison, or indeed the digital savvy COO, to become increasingly valuable to the business, in leading digital developments.

It is not that boards are unconvinced on digital, but that they don’t know how to do it. A digital approach and thinking has to dictate every decision and direction that a business takes, and every pound that it spends. As these new infrastructures become more widely embedded within the leadership, we’ll see true changes to businesses outside and in that truly reflect digital change of the future.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

Related Topics

Digital transformation