Your customers are digital - are you?

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In the hopefully unlikely eventuality that your company executives still need convincing that the internet is going to transform your business, the past few days have provided further evidence of the accelerating changes brought about by consumers moving to the web.

Only last week, I highlighted, "Which businesses are ready to thrive in the internet era?" as one of the big IT questions for 2013. We're already finding out some of those that are not.

Camera retailer Jessops is the latest high-street retailer to suffer, following Comet at the end of last year - both household names that failed to adapt to the digital world.

In the latest round of supermarket financial results this week, Morrisons was the big loser, with its lack of an online presence or a multi-channel strategy cited as a primary cause of its sales decline. Meanwhile, Tesco and Sainsbury's both highlighted impressive online growth as key factors in their performance.

In a generally depressed retail environment before Christmas, John Lewis stood out for a 44% year-on-year growth in web sales making a major contribution to 13% growth in December revenue.

John Lewis is so bullish about its digital plans it has even coined the phrase of an "omni-channel" strategy - which does rather make it sound like Malcom Tucker from TV political satire The Thick of It has taken over - but shows the extent of the department store's ambition.

Plenty of experts now predict that this online shift is not going to be the evolutionary process that many firms hope, but instead more of a cliff. Consumer behaviour is changing so rapidly, that one day you may just find your business goes straight down - in which case, there can be no more excuses for delaying the IT investments needed.

Consumer behaviour is the key consideration. It's not that the internet is changing businesses, it's changing the way your customers think and shop and buy. And when consumers are prevented by a particular company from thinking and shopping and buying the digital way they want to, they just go elsewhere. Bang - goodbye.

The digital King Canutes who want to hang desperately to their old pre-digital business models are not fighting the tide of the web and mobile wave, even if they think they are.

Take the obvious example of the music industry. Here, they resorted to copyright and intellectual property law, and to the rhetoric of turning customers into criminals, to prevent their former, lucrative models from disappearing.

Music firms that claim they are simply stopping illegal piracy miss the point. The reason consumers opted for illegal downloads is because they were stopped from getting reasonably priced, easily available legal downloads. It wasn't about rampant illegality, it was about consumer behaviour changing and the music industry wanting to prevent that change.

If you're doing anything similar, you're on a downhill slope to the cliff. Stop now.

For many, it will be a painful change. Digital often means lower profits. But not digital means no profits. Just ask Jessops.Enhanced by Zemanta

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