Digesting all the information at #LeWeb conference 2009, I wrote up what I found were the nine most interesting points in three separate posts (one, two, three).* Here are the consequences of these highlight points, as I see them, for business:
Even if it’s tera-bly fast, it’s still a slow long tail. The digital world is a seemingly fast paced world, but there are not so many short cuts to create the real world. The rules of engagement on the internet are not fundamentally different from the real world. As my friend Mitch Joel says, it goes so fast, it goes so slow, thinking more about the take-up of internet by the mainstream corporate world, but the statement also applies to the notion that you can’t hurry or hustle up a strong community spirit. And, as time progresses and the internet becomes more ‘clogged’, the easy opportunities to go truly fast are probably diminishing. But, regardless of the many unique opportunities which remain, one of the major messages is that digital solutions and marketing will not provide the quick fix for which so many companies wish. You can’t buy friends (social network) like you used to buy customers (through ads). With the oncoming notion of social search, building an authentic network will clearly be absolutely critical — and if it is to be a large circle of friends, that can only be built up over time with care. Developing a digital strategy — and a subsequent online presence and network — requires time and commitment. But, it a true digital strategy requires alignment with the overall company strategy above all else. If you are not (yet) a customer centric organisation (B2B or B2C) than there is less benefit from hitting the digital waves.
One of the most common questions I encounter when I discuss with CEOs about their digital strategy — in a seemingly pavlovian manner — is: What’s the ROI? The issue is that the ROI is along different axes than companies are used to measuring. For example, doing a blog can cost zero dollars; the investment is time and energy to create great and valuable content. Content is the new media, as Mitch Joel says in “Six Pixels of Separation“. Why would you want to give away great information? is another mainline executive refrain. Because the return can be customer engagement which can foster, over time, long term loyalty and a desire to share with their personal network. The real question is how much is that worth? Much more than a singular product launch, I wager. New(as in innovation) is still an important concept, but collaboration, conversation and community are becoming the real levers of business and trust truly is going to become the new currency. Learning how to put the customer at the heart of the business, whether it is B2C to B2B, is the crux of the issue. As Chris Brogan said at LeWeb after he heard about Zappos‘ sense of customer service, “Now, I know the ROI of customer service: $928 million” (the price at which Zappos was sold to Amazon). And the opportunities to provide excellent customer service are infinitely augmented via the digital waves once the company has the right disposition and employee workforce.
Another important facet of the LeWeb conference was the human factor. As virtual as the digital era may appear, the digital natives have humanity inscribed in their core values. Human contact, emotion and a deeper sense of meaning are vital triggers. Well beyond devising a digital strategy, companies need to keep these issues in mind because the digital natives are, first and foremost, natives — born, natural and community-focused. Social media is essentially social, where the long-term values of society are just as valid.
And finally, the overriding presence of Apple among so many early adopters at LeWeb surely indicates the path of things to come. Not that other companies will not find great alternative solutions, but the key is that that iPhone is paving the way and attitude of ubiquitous connectivity. The question for companies is going to be less about their internet strategy and more about their mobile strategy — and for some companies, that seems like an awkward stretch considering their difficulty to adopt the new ways of the internet. If slow food and quality of life remain aspirations for the healthy of mind, the fleet of foot in the new world — in our palm — have a unique opportunity in the coming 2 years to take markets by storm by reinventing how they interact with their customer.
What are your reactions? Which companies are doing a great job of taking advantage of the new world?
*I first published this post on Dec 23, 2009, on www.minternet.biz, but have chosen to transfer over to this blog.