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Innovate, Don’t Replicate – Leaving Behind Precedence Led Digital Strategy

The successful competitor. The other guy that always seems to get it right—every business has one. All the while you are desperately trying to keep up, faithfully recreating ideas from their website or that great customer experience—they’re busy creating tomorrow’s ‘next big thing’.

Innovation plays a major part in market leadership. The kind of innovation that punctuates every business decision from operation to product development. And while we would be less likely to look to the competition when formulating a logistics plan or HR guidelines; digital strategy is one area of business where we’re naturally inclined to follow the pack as opposed to take the lead.

The Digital Marketing Precedence

Influences on our digital decision making are as varied as they are ever-present. With digital business being in its relative infancy, it’s tempting to follow the lead of others and remain faithful to the tried and tested when formulating a digital strategy.

Internal Precedence — We’ve all heard it. “…well, it’s just the way we’ve always done it”; an argument apt to fall apart under even light scrutiny. There are two sides to an established internal precedence: perceived barriers or a fear of the unknown; and more dangerously—a false sense of self-assurance. Digital business is in a fluid state where technical capabilities and customer expectations are ever evolving. A digital strategy which yielded great success 2 years ago, is likely obsolete and in need of a rethink today.

Digital Marketers and Directors alike should continuously ask themselves of every long-standing digital strategic decision, ‘Why do we do it this way?’. Do the perceived barriers to digital progress really exist—and if objectively they’re a genuine block—is the right decision to sacrifice your digital ambitions, or to re-address the block?

Vertical Precedence — Industry competitors operating in much the same market are a logical and necessary influence on the direction and substance of digital strategy since it is often the market leader who sets the bar for user expectation. It is all to easy however to become entrenched in the approach of a single competitor whom you may hold in particular regard, and begin to build your digital strategy solely around their offering.

This insular approach is often futile—particularly in new website projects—at the end of which, following both great time and expense, you are left with the digital store front that your leading competitor had in place some years ago.

Break this infinite cycle of chasing the competition by keeping your range of digital strategy influences broad. Rather than focus on any one competitor, cherry pick the greatest features from a range of competitive customer experiences—and vitally—adapt and evolve these ideas, how can you make an idea work for your users, and the way they interact with your online presence.

Horizontal Precedence — Looking outside of one’s own industry at generally great digital campaigns and websites is a great source of fresh inspiration for elements which can be borrowed and adapted to meet your own user’s needs and improve their experience.

However, use caution!

Ideas for website features and digital promotions go viral because they’re easy to do—the web design industry has a lot to answer for here—not because they’re necessarily going to be effective for you or your users. The ever-present banner slider—wasting space and time on the landing page of an incalculably high percentage of websites—is possibly the most prominent example of this phenomenon.

When picking up outside-industry influences, focus on ideas and features which actually improved your own experience, and actually encourage you into an action, whether purchase or email signup. This will often exclude highly proliferated features which allow a marketer to cram more messages into less space!

External Precedence — The digital strategy tips and methods which are pushed by consultants and digital agencies the world over. Often of the moment, these are the practices which although current, can be suggested for a variety of motives. For example, A common and entirely legitimate web design practice is to recycle ready-built features across many projects, saving the developer both time and money—but only if that feature can be re-used extensively.

Scrutinise the reasoning underpinning your chosen web designer&rsquo’s decisions and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns or objections to a given direction.