Doomsday has arrived, Marketers can no longer ignore the digital backbone required to build a strong online presence, drive brand awareness & create seamless customer experiences. A brand without a robust digital ecosystem (DES) is already uncompetitive.

So, what is this virtual quagmire & why so critical? 

A well deployed DES connects customers, retailers and suppliers in a seamless mesh that serves the needs of all parties. Customers get exactly what they want when they need it & at the best price. Retailers connect directly with customers, know what they need and provide it instantly. Suppliers get real-time data to improve inventory management, manufacture & logistics. Brands get powerful insights into all aspects of transactions and can optimise the business model to ensure the ultimate in competitiveness.

Business nirvana indeed! But the DES needs to be built and tailored to the needs of each particular category. Impulse snacks & OTC pharmaceuticals are available from neighbourhood stores, but the customer journey is specific to each. 

Your brand is already operating in the global digital ecosystem, its available on Amazon & the websites of the various ‘click & brick’ or pure play retailers operating in your segment but are you in control or at their mercy? What control do you have over pricing or brand tone of voice. Are you getting the 1st party data that will inform your sales activation & five-year strategy. Probably not! Big risk!

This is all about how brands ‘showup’ in the virtual world. Marketers need to get on the front foot and ensure that their brand will be fit for the digital future. This responsibility cannot be left in the hands of the CIO or CTO, not if you want to create unparalleled customer experience (CX) – the cornerstone of brand love over the coming decades.

Of course, you want your brand to be present where your consumers are, but it’s even better and more powerful when those consumers come to you because you have built a better world for your brand. 

So what does this look like in the real world?

Coke Wabi is a B2B2C platform developed by Coca-Cola with a range of features like order tracking, invoice management, and product recommendations. It also offers training and support to help retailers improve sales and marketing efforts. 

Starbucks Rewards,  a  key driver of the brand, powered by a DES, allows customers to earn points for free drinks and other rewards. The program has over 30 million members & delivers more than  50% of brand sales. A powerful B2B2C ecosystem that drives loyalty and repeat purchase.

Integration of technology and digital platforms allow both these brands to streamline operations, provide personalized experiences, and drive growth, not to mention the reams of invaluable data that powers all brand decisions & strategy.

If this sounds obvious my challenge is to ask yourself how good is your brands DES? Are you keeping up? The real question is how to build & operate your DES - big consultancy or bespoke boutique? That’s a question for another day.

Ian will be writing a column for MAD//Insight regularly throughout the year and chairing a panel on this topic at MAD//Fest this July.