The introduction of digital technologies and creation of a digital sphere is not only a major change for business but also something that will facilitate ever faster, ongoing changes. The speed with which one can and needs to respond to customer and competitor behavior will only get faster. This post highlights some of the core insights discussed by our panel at the Rakuten Future Forum events held last year.

Selective innovation
Businesses need a balance whereby they can embrace the need for change but also be selective. Progress needs to be made by continually adapting and incorporating these advances. John Hammond of Currency Cloud explained that successful companies are those that are agile enough to accept and embrace change. At the same time, innovation needs to be true to the core of the business and work toward achieving business goals. Henry Lane Fox of Founders Factory discussed how having an appreciation of the applications of new technologies is as important as having a robust understanding of the technologies themselves.

The core user experience
Often the biggest downfall for businesses is in overcomplicating the process and trying to incorporate too much. In doing so, they lose sight of prioritizing the customer experience. The best digital companies are stripping complexity out and focusing on the core user functions and maximizing user-friendliness. Businesses must ensure that the consumer journey is seamless and aligned to their needs. The importance of this is reflected in the increasing use of usability labs – a powerful tool that can provide compelling insights. Juan de Antonio of Cabify explained they operate under this principle whereby they select the option at every step that enables them to offer the best service to their customers.

Utilize big data
Digital technology has redefined the meaning of target audience and businesses must utilize the data available to understand their customers in ever increasing detail. Companies are now able to apply big data analysis to identify consumers more precisely and understand their behaviors. Eric Chang from OgilvyOne explained how this translated to business’s ability to drive sales and meet customer demand, achieving the highest impact results. Leanne Kemp of Everledger reiterated that the availability and interpretation of big data is a fundamental advantage. For example, Everledger pioneered the insertion of diamond data into a public ledger or blockchain. This is aimed at increasing transparency and significantly reducing fraud in the trade of diamonds.

Digital integration
Digital needs to be integrated into all aspects of the organization to create synergy. A digital department or project lead can accelerate growth, but for the long term, these skills need to be embedded across the organization to create a holistic approach. Kathryn Parsons of Decoded reiterated that the people making the big decisions need to understand the building blocks of the technologies that underpin their business. She believes that technology is changing lives and businesses and there is not a facet of life that is left unaffected. For Decoded, it’s critical to close the gap between techies like developers, and the rest of the business, in order to better enable collaboration and innovation.

With digital activity now at the heart of so much of business life, commentators are already questioning, at what stage will the constant need to identify things as ‘digital’ itself become superfluous?