7.30am on a bright sunny Manchester morning and the room is packed with a vibrancy. The Insider Digital Breakfast has pulled a hungry to learn crowd.
Digital Business is increasingly a hot topic. Governments across the world want their economies to be digitally driven. Today’s event gave some good examples of what that can mean to business when Digital Technology is embraced and integrated into infrastructure and marketing with an appropriate strategy.
NW Insider Editor, Chris Maguire hosted the discussions. A lot was covered with the following speakers:
- Steve Oliver, founder and CEO, Music Magpie
- Jayne Riley, managing director, Photolink Creative Group
- Steve Whitehead, group commercial director, The Hut Group
- Paul Bason, director of digital innovation initiative, Manchester Metropolitan University
- Matthew Kershaw, digital policy manager, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
- Lawrence Jones, founder, UKFast
- David Grimes, managing director, myParcelDelivery.com
- Anna Wilson, digital strategist, The Juice Academy
- Elliott Mueller, CEO, Metronet UK
Three main themes struck me as the discussions progressed.
1. Digital Works. None of the businesses were presenting possibilities all were actually using digital in their marketing and infrastructure to deliver value to shareholders and customers. In particular Lawrence Jones spoke about how the UKFast customer service is heavily digitised and works efficiently with minimal human resource input. David Grimes’ (myParcelDelivery.com) entire business model relies on the efficiency that digital aggregation creates to allow his business to pass on cost savings for package delivery to small firms that are normally only seen with large-scale orders.
New Business Models are emerging specifically because of the efficiency that Digital, when strategically implemented, can bring. Music Magpie founder, Steve Oliver, spoke about his ambition to grow in the emerging ‘Recommerce’ (Reverse Commerce) market to allow the resale of goods by the public using Internet technologies quickly and easily. This reinforces one of his main views that things should be made easy for the consumer and presumably now the seller.
However Matthew Kershaw from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce made the strong point that many smaller businesses are being held back because they cannot access adequate connectivity on their sites.
2. The Digital Skills Gap. This is quite complicated because the Digital Skills Gap is not just about coding (which is woefully under-represented in education) but also about strategic understanding of what the technology can and cannot do for business and what it costs culturally and financially.
Projects such as The Juice Academy are using the apprentice model to train up young people into a Social Media savvy workforce. These projects are important because the reality is that at the moment Digital technologies sit outside of UK formal education. When young people arrive in the workforce they will probably be familiar with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc but they won’t have learnt how these can be used for work.
The problem is compounded by many senior executives not being engaged with Digital. The result is that many businesses are implementing the technology with no real strategic purpose. This something we at 3 Sheep are addressing with our Digital Strategy Executive Workshops.
3. Digital is a Whole. None of the companies today spoke about a specific technology strategy. Digital was the strategy and the various technologies e.g. apps, web, digital video etc. were tactically implemented as and when they added value. It was particularly interesting to note that TV Advertising is the biggest driver of traffic to Music Magpie’s service, especially around live events. Unlike many businesses which keep their marketing segments in silos Music Magpie and the other businesses today where letting them interact and complement one another and reaping the rewards.
I’ve written recently about how the Digital Economy is on the Critical List in the UK and it is. Far too many businesses are still not engaging with the technology. Today’s Insider Digital Breakfast showed that when businesses do engage with Digital and take bold steps they can reap the rewards.