There is no denying that society is hurtling towards a digitalised future. These changes were happening anyway, but the global pandemic has accelerated their uptake, with many commentators arguing that Coronavirus has sped up digital change by 10 years.
Whilst it can be overwhelming, put simply, digitalisation is the business processes of converting material or information into a digital format instead of using analogue or offline systems such as paper or whiteboards. (Not to be confused with digitisation which means to convert something into a digital format, such as encoding of data and documents.) Many businesses will already have these processes in place, or might do now, because of the pandemic and the sudden move to remote work for many. For example, sending messages via Teams or Slack, meeting up with someone via Zoom instead of face-to-face or even booking your doctor's appointment online.
The digital landscape as we know it kicked off back in the mid-nineties with the likes of Yahoo!, Google, and e-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay. This was a revolutionary time as email became an innovative marketing tool joining the likes of TV, radio, print advertisements and telephone sales. These modern technologies allowed users to search for services and products from the comfort of their own home. As we moved into the early 2000s, we welcomed social media platforms onto the scene with LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook, which made inbound marketing via information sharing more possible as users started sharing their data online. Around a similar time, we saw the rise in smartphones, with the help of Blackberry we were able to access our emails and browse the internet all from our mobile device. The world is now a digital place, and all available in our pockets at the tap of a screen!
Since the internet began, we have slowly moved through various versions of the web, of which we are currently in what is known as Web 4.0. In its simplest form, Web 4.0 represents the “always on” world we live in and can be described as the Internet of Things (IoT). It has slowly started to take shape; however, it is thought that it will not properly take off until later into the 2020s.
We already have TVs, laptops, tablets, voice interaction and mobile devices which unlock with face recognition. We have more recently advanced into the world of self-driving Tesla’s, refrigerators that can order the food shop and Nest home appliances, but they are not yet mainstream. The main concept around Web 4.0 is that you can place a chip in anything to make it smart. Smart roads, smart buildings, and smart cities, we are building a smart planet whether we know it or not, and it is all via the internet.
Web 4.0 is about empowering customers with the tools to engage with your business in the right place, at the right time and on their terms. For businesses, the focus needs to be on creating a seamless customer experience whether the customer is experiencing your brand in the offline world or online. Those companies who adopt Web 4.0 will be able to effectively outshine their competition. The digital landscape is constantly changing, and exciting times are ahead.
We understand that for businesses across Somerset, some of the above might not be feasible, especially since the last twelve months have been a trying time for all. Overall, the digital world is there to help make our lives easier and to help businesses thrive. We would suggest starting small and making slight changes. If the digital landscape is alien to you, start by researching programmes and training courses that will help you to gain a wider understanding, for example there are EU funded schemes running in Somerset via the Growth Support Programmes which includes 6 hours of digital transformation workshops, all for free.
A few other points to consider: if your business is online, do you have Google Analytics set-up? Are you utilising social media to reach new audiences? Do you communicate regularly to your customers (and even your employees)? Using newsletters could be a highly effective way to do so.
At Digital Somerset we want to help you make the most of the opportunities there are.
Share with us what digital transformation challenges you are facing, and we will be sure to address them in future posts! Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org