We know online sales are increasingly important but do we all have a truly "digital mindset"?
The winners in the online world continue to evolve this mindset in line with new thinking about how to use the internet as a sales channel.
As a result, they are delivering exponential growth in online performance.
Whatever our ambition, how do we move forward? Here are four areas needing your attention.
1. Find out what's working
Changing your mindset needs a commitment to time investment: read, network, learn about what others are doing online. Boldly ask basic questions to gain insight rapidly. Focus your questions on the following:
• Results – Establish that there's value to be gained. What proportion of revenues come from online sales, how long did it take to generate meaningful online sales, how much comes from mobile, how does profitability compare to other sales approaches, what have they spent on creating and running their online offering etc?
• Actions – Understand how they got here. What are they doing today, what tactics worked and which were abandoned, what external support did they use, what drives people to their site, what does their 'conversion' process look like, what would they do differently if starting again, and what's next etc?
• Management – How do they manage online sales. Who's in charge, how many resources do they have involved, is there conflicts between the online and physical sales teams, has that changed over time etc?
2. Think Mobile
Increasingly people interact online via their mobiles. If you know where the development of devices and functionality are likely to be going, you can bear this in mind when developing your online offering. Mobile is so vital that many start by designing their website and app to work on mobile devices first and then adapt it for the bigger screen. Smart software will increasingly block unwanted ads and calls and screen incoming callers on behalf of the user. What are the critical messages that you want to convey to get you past these electronic guardians?
3. From Research to Action
The key to success is willingness to experiment and try what's worked for others. This means putting people on the web team that like learning, testing and refining ideas and who don't mind dumping stuff that isn't delivering. If step-change is your goal, then make sure you've researched companies who've done that. Then create a plan of actions that you want to try – from promotions and banner exchanges, to social media campaigns and low-cost sponsorships – have a 3-6 month schedule of what you want to try each week or month, monitor it, measure it, learn from it and refine the strategy. Be willing to adapt plans in the face of evidence from the actions you are taking.
Keep looking out for new ideas and encourage the whole business to do the same and generate their own ideas. Key here is being honest about what you are worried about – e.g. damaging your reputation, irritating customers who see a lower price than the one they paid, or giving too much away to your competition. The more you share of these concerns, the more your team can think about how to address them when seeking out and generating ideas.
4. Finding Customers – Look for What's Hiding in Plain Sight
Look for opportunities to present yourself where potential customers are already. Airports, train stations, shopping centres, sporting events, festivals, markets, and other live events all have ready-made audiences. Taking pop-up stalls in these venues gives you an opportunity to try out a different way of meeting and engaging with potential customers and then encouraging them to provide you with their details so you can continue the relationship. I may love the locally made chocolates that I tasted from a pop-up stall in Cambridge station, connecting online means I can keep buying the goodies even if I never see the stall again.
The keys to success lie in constant learning, asking the right questions, recognising how the technology is evolving and planning accordingly, deploying the right people and adopting an iterative, experimental and constantly evolving approach both to what we actually do online and how we go about attracting potential customers.
Fast Future Publishing
Fast Future publishes books from future thinkers around the world to explore how developments such as AI and robotics could transform existing industries, create new trillion-dollar sectors and reinvent society, government and business over the next decade. To find out more please visit www.fastfuturepublishing.com
Rohit Talwar is a global futurist who brings a highly practical and no-nonsense approach to helping major global businesses get out of their own way and give themselves permission to open and consume the gifts they are being given by a rapidly changing and increasingly digital world. From law firms to auto manufacturers, he helps leaders create the environment and a culture where digital is embraced and rapid experimentation drives learning and step-change growth. He has a particular interest in Artificial Intelligence and is the editor and contributing author for The Future of Business, editor of Technology vs. Humanity and co-editor of a forthcoming book on The Future of AI Business.
Steve Wells is the COO of Fast Future Publishing and an experienced Strategist, Futures Analyst and Partnership Working Practitioner. Steve has conducted research and analysis into emerging technologies for a range of client organizations; conducted scenario development and futures analysis for the UK affiliates of a number of global pharmaceutical companies. He a co-editor of The Future of Business, co-editor of Technology vs. Humanity and co-editor of a forthcoming book on The Future of AI Business.