For many companies, growth seems to have become elusive. The sudden rise of digital has shifted operating models and remade market dynamics, leaving many adrift. Yet, it is precisely at the cutting edge – the new interface between creativity and digital – that innovative sources of growth are being tapped by a forward-thinking few.
Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital South Africa, emphasises that businesses have a new opportunity to capitalise on this set of emerging capabilities, with digital set to act as a growth catalyst across a broad range of industries, both B2B and B2C.
On one hand, changes to the market have been consumer-driven. Consider everything from online shopping to banking apps to IoT-enabled wearables – in the new experience-driven landscape, users demand both personalisation and the most sophisticated, intuitive digital interfaces. Liquid expectations mean, moreover, that the benchmarks continue to rise – the best-in-class, hyperpersonalised experiences offered by the digital giants lead consumers to expect equally seamless offerings everywhere else.
Moreover, there are deep drives around integration. Promotion, service, purchasing and advertising were once siloed concepts – no longer. Today, end-to-end consistency is what drives consumers’ immersion in products and services.
On the other hand, increasing volumes of data, decreasing costs of storage, virtually unlimited cloud computing power, open source platforms, machine learning and more have also caused far-reaching ripple effects. These capabilities have not only led to the digitisation of more and more business areas, but the creation of entirely new business models – consumption is becoming dematerialised; ownership decoupled from both service provision and production.
According to Accenture research, the result is that many executives face a dilemma: investment in digital has become a clear business priority, yet a large number in the C-suite unsure of where, specifically, to invest to promote growth. This is despite the fact that 54% of executives cite digital technologies as the direction they would most likely reinvest cost savings. (Digital is followed by launching new products and services, at 46% and expanding into new product or service lines or customer segments, at 45%.) Yet, new routes to realising today’s digital imperatives are opening up. For consumer-facing industries, for example, tapping the capabilities of experience architecture is coming to redefine not only customer interaction, but the entire purchasing process.
One part creative agency, one part business consultancy and one part tech powerhouse, experience architects focus on integrating specialist skills across once-isolated domains spanning user interface, design, data and machine learning. The result is the ability to provide creative, engaging content of an agency standard backed by the data and artificial intelligence capabilities that only specialists embedded in digital are able to provide.
Recent Accenture research underscores the need for a rethink – particularly when it comes to marketing. The numbers reveal that a mere 18% of the consumers CMOs reach through digital and traditional channels are actually in-market. As such, less than a fifth of people reached by a marketing message are in fact the right people for the product or service on offer – four-fifths of marketing budgets are wasted spend.
Consumer-facing industries are not the only ones being remade. Other industry-specific solutions are also developing in both sophistication and ubiquity. Consider financial services institutions, for example, many of which now make use of a host of anti-money laundering, finance and risk tools. The communications, media and technology (CMT) space has seen growth through the rise of omnichannel customer service optimisation at the levels of both B2C and B2B. Within the resources space, intelligent retail solutions, upstream corrosion management, fuel retaining and predictive asset maintenance are seeing increasing uptake, as are niche solutions in health and the public sector. Meanwhile, in manufacturing, growth is being driven by Industry X.0.
Essentially, Industry X.0 refers to the application of new technologies including blockchain, machine learning, autonomous vehicles and ‘digital twins’ within a manufacturing or industrial environment. Under this new paradigm, everything from high-tech wearables to consumer staples to the manufacturing process itself becomes dynamic, reactive and responsive.
This approach to production allows real-time data from consumers, the supply chain and more to create not only ‘smart’ products, but an entire intelligent industrial ecosystem, capable of predicting and reacting to changing consumer tastes and trends and optimising operations on the plant floor. Although many executives face certain barriers to sustainable execution of growth-oriented programs, many remain certain that reinvesting savings in digital is the right strategic move, viewing digital as an enabler for both growth and advanced operating models.
With c-suite alignment and a willingness to operate at the digital-creative edge, forward-thinking companies may stand poised not only to access the growth they seek, but to drive industry-wide innovation.