In a 2019 survey from Tech Pro Research, 70 percent of companies shared that they’re investing time and energy into digital transformation. But why is the urge to go digital so ubiquitous? The short answer: digital businesses work smarter — not harder.
Adopting digital business concepts can help boost productivity, improve customer experience, and leverage business intelligence. In this article, we’ll take a holistic look at what it means to run a successful digital business from concept to completion. We’ll share case studies of both digital natives and traditional businesses that went digital and dive into the strategies and tools that can help you transform your company.
What Is a Digital Business?
In today’s work-from-home world, it feels like everyone is running a digital business. But the reality is that top business leaders have different definitions of what it means to go digital. As a result, priorities vary when it comes to technology adoption and transformation.
Generally speaking, digital businesses rely on technology to operate and grow. Depending on your industry, that might look like:
- Using productivity apps and task management systems to automate workflows
- Leveraging AI to improve customer experience
- Capturing data to improve business intelligence
- Or, for online-only companies, doing 100 percent of your work via digital platforms
But just downloading a few apps doesn’t make you a digital business. True digital transformation is the slow process of shifting away from manual processes and toward a customer-centric, technology-focused business model.
Becoming a digital business impacts every part of your organization, from employee experience to customer service to back-end maintenance and management.
4 Concepts of Digital Business
Becoming a digital business is a foundational shift, so it’s important to consider the key concepts guiding your transformation.
What are businesses looking to achieve by going digital? Most organizations cite the following four concepts:
Our world is constantly changing, and companies are looking for a business model that allows them to be more flexible. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, businesses realized that technology could help them pivot from on-site to work-from-home and back again without creating a logistical nightmare. Going digital allows you to adapt to change quickly without the dead weight of time-consuming manual processes.
With scalability, processes match fluctuations in your workload. Digital businesses can quickly scale up or down to meet the needs of the organization. As an example, a scalable business can efficiently onboard new employees during periods of growth or expand their data storage when taking on a large client.
Digital business requires changing how you operate, and this starts with changing how you think. To truly become a digital business, you need your staff to be on board. Though tech leaders in your organization may be at the forefront of this work, building a philosophy of productivity, efficiency, and automation into every department's mission is vital to success.
Our final digital business concept seems straightforward, but it’s important to keep in mind that quality is key as you make big changes. Often, we become swept up in innovation for innovation’s sake. But this won’t add value to your business. If your new processes aren’t enhancing quality, you need to rethink your strategy.
Examples of Popular Digital Businesses
Digital business isn’t just a transformative trend for major companies like Home Depot and GE. Many digital businesses start online (and remain online) with 100 percent of their operations existing in a digital space. Online-only digital businesses often have low startup costs and can quickly scale to meet the demands of the market, making them a popular choice for both experienced and fledgling entrepreneurs.
Sellers on Etsy, the popular ecommerce platform offering handmade goods, are a common example of the digital business trend. Etsy reported in 2017 that 97 percent of the business owners selling on their platform ran their business from home, and more than 75 percent were one-person operations. Despite being considered a “microbusiness,” many successful digital business owners on Etsy said it was their sole occupation – about 32 percent of sellers.
Other popular digital businesses include:
- Social media and content marketing
- Web design
- Online retail (clothing companies, online bakeries, bookstores, etc.)
- Industry consulting
- Wedding planning
- Virtual assistants
How to Build a Successful Digital Business
With so many benefits to starting a digital business, you might be wondering: how do I get started?
Whether you’re taking your traditional business into the digital world or starting a company from scratch, here are five tips to help you build a successful digital business.
Digital businesses have one thing in common: they automate everything. Why waste time doing mundane tasks that AI can do for you when you could be spending that time growing your business? Examine your processes and start automating wherever possible.
2. Train Your Team
People are the foundation of everything you do. Invest in upskilling your team so they feel confident using new technology. They’ll help you find new ways to embrace tech as your business grows.
3. Stay Agile
Digital transformation takes time, and staying agile is one of the foundational digital business concepts. By making micro-adjustments to your digital business strategy as you go forward, you’ll have a more satisfactory end-product. Evaluate your transformation frequently and gather as much data as you can to help you make the right long-term decisions.
4. Invest in Digital Marketing
You can have the most efficient organization in the world, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t have any customers. Invest in a smart digital marketing strategy for your organization. Train your marketing team on the best digital marketing strategies for today’s market, from SEO optimization to social media management and beyond.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Big
Digital businesses have huge room for growth, so don’t set your sights too low. There’s no telling where this new technology could take you.
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