Getting your message out there isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. Whether you are creating a new website or blog, building buzz via social media or creating mobile apps that enhance your digital marketing strategy, knowing where to put your content is essential. The first step is deciding what platforms you need and where to put each element in order to best reach your audience.
In this post, we find out What Are The Platforms For Digital Marketing, 4 types of digital marketing, digital marketing strategy for a brand, and what is digital platform strategy.
What Are The Platforms For Digital Marketing
The world is a noisy place. If you have something to say, it’s more important than ever that people hear it. The most effective way to get your message out there is through digital marketing. Digital marketing is the use of social media, websites and blogs as well as mobile apps to promote a product or service. It’s easy to get started if you know what platforms are best for your business or organization.
Social media is a great way to reach your target audience. You can use social media to promote your business and build relationships with your customers by joining groups, posting content, and engaging in discussions. Social media is also a way to connect with people who have similar interests, which can help you grow your brand and find new customers.
Some examples of social networks include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
A website is a digital marketing platform for businesses to promote their products or services. It’s like a storefront for the internet, where people can come in and buy those products or services. Your website can also be used as a place to collect data about your customers and then use that information to build brand awareness by sending out emails with special offers on things they might like based on what they bought before.
Blogs are a great way to promote your business and attract new customers. You can also use blogs to increase your SEO ranking, brand awareness, and social media presence.
To build up a blog you’ll need to create posts regularly that provide value for the reader such as tips, tools or information on a certain topic. You should aim to be consistent with your posting schedule so that people know when they can expect content from you and what type of content it will be.
You’re probably very familiar with many of the most popular mobile apps in use today, but did you know that they can be a good tool for digital marketers? Apps are used to promote businesses and brands, as well as provide information to customers. Some apps even allow users to make purchases directly through them.
Apps are becoming increasingly popular with consumers because they offer a seamless experience that makes it easier than ever before for people to buy something from your company.
The main platforms for digital marketing are social media, websites, blogs and mobile apps.
The main platforms for digital marketing are social media, websites, blogs and mobile apps. Each of these platforms provides an opportunity to reach your audience in a unique way.
4 types of digital marketing
Traditionally, brands advertised in the mediums of the day, namely print (newspapers and magazines), television and radio. While those mediums are still used today, the digital marketplace has opened up a multitude of new digital marketing opportunities, including:
In this article we are going to take a close look at the 8 most popular digital marketing mediums, and tell you how they can be used to your advantage.
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a digital advertising model that is used to drive traffic to websites. An advertiser typically pays a search engine (Google Ads, Amazon Advertising, or Microsoft Advertising) when the ad is clicked. You have likely seen PPC in action when you search for something on Google.
In the image above you can see the first two results of a search for “CRM platform” are ads. In fact, the first four results are PPC ads.
Brands bid on a chosen keyword or search phrase, which then puts the ad into one of four ad spaces offered by Google, for example. The cost per click (CPC) is based on the quality score of the site and the competition of the chosen keyword. Brands typically use the tools provided by Google Ads to determine their keywords and the CPC.
Nate Tsang, founder and CEO at WallStreetZen, a stock market analysis service provider, said that pay-per-click marketing can be a very powerful digital marketing strategy when it is done by those who truly understand the practice. “You should only do this strategy if you are familiar with it or hire someone who is an expert in this field. Doing it on your own without the proper knowledge can be a waste of money,” said Tsang. “I have seen many brands waste thousands on pay-per-click campaigns because they are leading them to the wrong webpage or not being specific on what the visitor must do on the page. A successful PPC campaign must have a great and straightforward landing page so you can convert your visitors and not waste your budget.”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art, as it were, of optimizing a website so that when a potential customer searches via Google, or to a lesser degree, Bing or other search engines, the web page will show up at the top of the search engine results pages (SERP). If a brand sells monitor speakers for recording artists, and they have a local store in Cleveland, Ohio, then SEO could be used to bring the website up in the listings by using appropriate keywords throughout the website, in the titles of the pages, in the meta keyword and description tags, and in the various headers throughout the page or site.
This is not to say that the site or page should be keyword spammed, that is, stuffed with keywords without relevant content. Content is still king, and long gone are the days when black hat SEO tactics can be effectively used. Tactics today should include backlinks to the site from all of the brand’s social media presences, and web pages should include relevant content. Content can be created about the topic, as in our example, a page that discusses the various types of monitor speakers and their use, with links to the various monitor speakers the brand sells scattered throughout the page (this is Content Marketing, which we will also discuss). Keyword and Description meta tags are still used, but content relevance is more important today. Also, especially for localized businesses, having a Google business page, which puts a brand on Google Maps, as well as a Yelp business page, will help to pull a brand up to the top of the listings.
Below the PPC ads are the organic (non-paid) results, which also include the “People also ask” section, which features pages in which a specific question is answered by the content of the page (search engine gold — this tactic is heavily used by SEO marketers).
Often, SEO is done through a third-party company that specializes in SEO, rather than an in-house SEO team or the marketing department. SEO used to be fairly simple, but continual changes in Google’s algorithms have made it more of a precise practice that involves specialization.
Ian Sells is founder and CEO of RebateKey, an online rebate provider, and like many marketers we spoke with, SEO is at the top of his list, because if customers cannot find your website, no business can occur. With so many websites out there on every possible topic, it’s challenging to get on top of the search engine results pages. “Being on top of SERPs, that is, being on page one, gives you a lot more traffic since your site gets seen by more eyes. The advantage of this is, while it takes a lot more effort initially, once your site gains the momentum, you don’t have to spend so much on it, unlike in ads where you have to continuously spend,” explained Sells.
Social Media Marketing
As one would imagine, social media marketing is when brands use their social presences, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter, among others, to target their customers. This is accomplished through targeted marketing ad campaigns, “like” campaigns, and posts offering special offers and discounts. Detailed demographic information about gender, ages, locations, times on the site, and more can be used to target specific demographics and groups of people.
“This is actually very powerful since a lot of people are on social media. We’re actually revamping our Instagram strategies as well as our Facebook strategies because we’re seeing the potential of the traffic they bring to our site,” said Sells. “The disadvantage of social media marketing is, sometimes, the engagement stays there. That’s totally useless, if your conversions happen on your site. So you have to make the effort to bring the traffic from your social media handles to your site.”
We briefly discussed content marketing in the SEO section of this article, when we spoke about creating pages that do not directly sell products or services, but provide information and details about specific subjects that are related to the products or services a brand sells. By providing relevant content that appeals to a brand’s target audience, brands can attract customers to their website, and this content also helps improve SEO for the website.
“Content marketing is broad. In our case, we use several kinds of videos on YouTube, primarily informative ones,” said Sells. “These are helpful to increase awareness about your brand and help people who are interested to get to know your brand, product, or service even more. Sometimes, just a little explanation is enough to convince people to try your service.”
Brad Touesnard, founder and CEO of SpinupWP, a cloud-based server control panel designed for WordPress and he can attest that the right content can be a gamechanger. “We are in the server industry and our most popular blog post compares five of the top server providers. Our experts ran tests on each provider and we shared our results in our blog post. The blog post generated a lot of interest from industry professionals who were eager to see our data,” Touesnard said. “Currently this blog post generates 23.4% of the total search engine traffic to our site and ranks on the first place of Google’s search results for its primary keyword.”
While many marketers might believe that email is a dying marketing channel, the opposite is true — email marketing is still one of the most effective channels a brand can use. This really shouldn’t be surprising, given the number of email users worldwide. According to a report from Statista, in 2020, approximately 306 billion emails were sent and received each day, with 3.9 billion people using email every day. That’s half the global population! Marketers should take note that according to the DMA Marketer Email Tracker, for every dollar that’s spent on email marketing, the average expected ROI is $42.
Unlike other marketing channels, marketing emails are only sent to those customers who have given permission for the brand to do so — which means they are actually interested in what brands are offering, unlike ads on social media where they do not have a choice but to see ads.
Typically, marketers use email marketing software which allows them to automate the process, send personalized emails, and often includes performance optimization and analytics functionality. By tracking key performance metrics, brands are able to determine which email marketing campaigns are effective, and which ones are not.
Influencer marketing is still relatively new, and relies on people who have gained a following on social media either for being entertaining, informative, or being an expert in their field. Influencers typically promote themselves through blogs, videos, and social media posts. Brands look for influencers that are connected to their customers in some way. Perhaps the influencer has a cooking show on YouTube, such as Sam the Cooking Guy. Not only does he sell his own line of cooking utensils and books, but he is sponsored by Catalina Offshore Products and Lars Remodeling and Design. In the case of Sam the Cooking Guy, these two brands recognized that Sam, who has 2.93 million YouTube subscribers, reaches many people who are likely to be interested in their products or services.
“Majority of the videos we have on YouTube by other people are not sponsored. A lot of sellers and buyers really enjoy our products. And to be honest, this is really more powerful than paid ones. People trust other people’s reviews. Videos from influencers or at least people with a following are also helpful. If influencers say your product or service is cool, people who are following them are more likely to try your product primarily because the influencer said so,” explained Sells.
Dave Herman, president of EZ Surety Bonds, told CMSWire that thanks to the constantly changing digital landscape, there are many different types of digital marketing to take advantage of, but not all of them are appropriate or effective for every business. “Influencer marketing is becoming increasingly popular these days as more and more people gain fame and recognition on social media platforms. This is why a lot of businesses are taking advantage of it. While it really helped many brands grow, not every business can get the growth they need from this type of marketing. It is also not as easy as most people think it is. You need to research the right influencer that will represent your brand and ensure that they get the engagement you need to market your products or services.”
Related Article: Social Media Influencers: Mega, Macro, Micro or Nano
It makes sense for marketers to focus on mobile marketing, given the vast number of mobile users. A report on mobile usage from Statista indicated that in the third quarter of 2020, mobile devices accounted for 50.81% of global website traffic. With those kinds of statistics, it’s pretty obvious that mobile marketing can be used to reach millions of customers.
Seth Lytton is chief operating officer at The Detroit Bureau, an automotive industry news publication, thinks mobile is a big opportunity for marketers. “Millions use their phones every hour. Mobile marketing gives you access to millions at once, and many customers have their phones with them at multiple times during the day. You can accurately determine your audience with mobile marketing,” said Lytton.
That said, as Lytton explained, brands must be careful not to overuse mobile marketing, at the risk of losing their customers completely. “On the other hand, many find ads annoying on their phones,” said Lytton. “Some people go out of their way to avoid some advertisements by using ad blockers, and more still get so annoyed with advertisements that they may blacklist the company entirely.”
Viral marketing typically relies on social media networks, but unlike social media marketing, the marketing is done by customers themselves, as they spread information on various social media networks about a product, service, or brand with other people. Marketing is thought to be “viral” when it reaches the point where it’s being shared by the general public, not just the brand’s target audience.
An example of viral marketing is memes, which may include funny text written above an image. Crazy Nate created a meme that features the character Nemo swimming in the ocean, next to a box of McDonald’s fries, with the words “Watching Finding Nemo; Why I Want McDonalds” superimposed on the image. McDonalds obviously had no part in the creation of this meme, but one can be fairly certain that they definitely do not mind that it went viral.
Brands such as Wendy’s, Dennies, and McDonalds will often create funny, lighthearted videos, Tweets, or memes themselves, and post them on social media such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other sites. They will then be shared by people who found them to be humorous, and those they shared them with will also share them with others, causing the video or meme to go viral. Here is an example of a Tweet from Wendy’s roasting McDonalds:
Keep in mind that viral marketing is never a certainty — one cannot force something to go viral. Either it goes viral, or it doesn’t. Whatever the case, social listening should be used to monitor mentions of the brand on social media.
digital marketing strategy for a brand
While the wave of COVID-related lockdowns may be a distant memory, the impact it’s had on businesses is still very clear: they no longer have a choice about having a presence in the digital space. This has turned digital marketing from a possible afterthought into a must-have for any business.
Your digital marketing strategy involves using different marketing channels to achieve your business goals, whether that’s through social media, website adverts, or email marketing. The channel you choose, the angle you take, and the type of content you produce are all part of your digital marketing strategy.
If you’re looking to up your marketing game, but find the concept of setting the strategy daunting, we’re here to help. Our first recommendation would be to find out exactly what it would cost to get some professional support – our digital marketing cost comparison tool lets you do this for zero cost and in a matter of minutes. Give it a go.
Our second piece of advice: get inspired! Below, we’ll share with you some inspiration-worthy marketing campaigns from well-known brands, and explain how your business can emulate their strategies in order to grab the world’s attention and grow.
UGC (user generated content)
Founded in 2000, ASOS has since become one of the trendiest names in online retail, shifting over 300,000 dresses and 85,000 men’s shirts every week, to 18.4 million active customers from around the world.
How has this British brand become such a pioneer for online fashion? It comes down to its digital marketing strategy – compared to its competitors, ASOS is cut from a different cloth when it comes to attracting visitors, sales, and brand awareness.
ASOS has been so successful because it knows its audience: millennials. And ASOS knows that 90.4% of millennials use social media, and that the average person spends just under two and a half hours per day browsing social channels.
One of the brand’s best social media campaigns involved UGC (user generated content). ASOS asked its Instagram followers to share their favourite ASOS outfits online with the hashtag ‘#AsSeenOnMe’, with the opportunity of being featured on the ASOS social media channels in return.
ASOS created an interactive campaign which created a huge brand buzz
This strategy ticked all the boxes – there are currently 1.84 million posts with the #AsSeenOnMe hashtag – showing that small businesses should think about using UGC. Encouraging your audience to share content not only fosters brand engagement, but also results in free advertising – two of the biggest reasons why the #AsSeenOnMe campaign got such positive results.
There’s no chill when it comes to Netflix’s marketing strategy – this brand is always on the ball when it comes to the latest shows, trends, and memes. Netflix, with its ever growing audience of 140 million worldwide subscribers, is the leader of customer retention.
How does Netflix keep customers interested? It gets personal.
Personalisation marketing is an effective way of cutting through the noise. In fact, 91% of consumers say that they’re more willing to engage with businesses that provide offers directly to them. Not only does Netflix personalise to perfection, it doesn’t pressure its customers too much, either.
By this, we mean Netflix doesn’t bombard subscribers with suggestions. It knows that online consumers are more likely to respond to one, relatable email rather than a bucket-load of non-specific content. As a digital marketer, you should always stagger your emails to get staggering results.
Netflix sends highly personalised emails and push notifications that are easy to read, with a clear CTA (call to action) button – which usually just says ‘Play’. For example, as a Netflix customer, you’ll receive an email that recommends a film based on your previous choices, while addressing you by your first name.
Just remember, personalisation is key when it comes to successfully communicating and connecting with your customers.
Netflix sends simple, but personalised, push notifications to get the best results
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Do the sportswear giants just do it when it comes to marketing? Definitely not – Nike takes great care and thought over its digital campaigns. It’s produced some brilliant adverts over the years, but one of our recent favourites involved an AI (artificial intelligence) bot.
In 2018, Nike partnered with Facebook Messenger’s chatbot platform, Snaps, in order to promote its Jordan brand. The bot’s purpose was to deliver content from the latest Jordan blog, newsletter, and website, to Nike’s Facebook followers via Messenger.
Users could interact with the Jordan bot about the latest releases, and they could even customise the times they received notifications. This strategy was a huge success, with the brand claiming it saw open rates of 87%, which is enormous compared to the usual measly 21.33% open rate for emails for all industries.
Why are chatbots effective? It turns out that consumers just love them. A recent study by Convince and Convert found that ‘24-hour service’ is the number one benefit of chatbots. This means consumers want instant responses, which is something chatbots can deliver. Perhaps it’s time your business had a chat with an AI developer, too?
Nike Jordan teamed up with Facebook Messenger’s chatbot to give users a unique shopping experience
Social influencer marketing
Having built a huge community of renters and hosters – approximately 150 million active users – Airbnb is now one of the highest flying names in the travel industry. The key to Airbnb’s success has been through building trust, which has primarily be achieved through social influencer marketing.
With 1 billion active monthly users on Instagram, this social media platform is ideal for influencer marketing given the amount of celebrities that use the platform themselves.
Airbnb has partnered with many famous names in order to generate a buzz and brand awareness. In 2015, Mariah Carey shared an Instagram post of herself in an Airbnb property which gained over 45,000 likes, which was the travel brand’s first of many influencer posts.
More recently, Airbnb announced 600,000 new dog-friendly properties in celebration of national dog week in the US. To announce this, Airbnb partnered with Marnie the Dog – a four-legged Instagram celebrity with over 1.3 million followers – and posted a video of her staying in a luxurious mansion.
By aligning itself with famous celebrities, Airbnb will always been associated with the luxurious lifestyle, and therefore with high quality. When it comes to brand success – or indeed failure – celebrity association can be a real driver.
Airbnb used an ‘Instagram famous’ dog to create awareness for its new dog-friendly properties
Does your brand need more success online? You should consider starting, or revamping your current digital marketing strategy – that’s where a digital marketing agency help. We can match your business with some of the smartest digital marketing brains in the country to suit your unique needs. Keen to get involved? Simply tell us a little bit about your business, it only takes a minute.
For this supermarket giant, every little bit of customer data helps with its digital marketing strategy. In 1994, Tesco introduced the Clubcard, which revolutionised the loyalty programme industry. There are now 16 million active Clubcard members, and Tesco uses the data collected by these loyalty cards to send segmented, or ‘targetted’, emails.
Segmentation in marketing involves separating your audience into different groups, based on things like demographics, buying behaviour, and geographic location, allowing you to send personalised content to that specific group.
Recently, Tesco has been using Clubcard purchasing history information to identify families, in order to send healthier recipe suggestions – based on what the family has bought previously – and other targeted content like deals and discounts.
Why should your business bother with this? Like many successful brands, Tesco takes advantage of the fact that segmented emails increase open rates by 39%. Email marketing software company Mailchimp also found that segmented emails saw 65% higher click rates than non-segmented emails.
Tesco sends targeted emails to ensure its customers receive personalised information
In order to build a brilliant email campaign, it’s vital that you make the most of your customer data. You can segment your audience in many ways: you could send tailored content to customers with different interests, locations, or recent activity.
what is digital platform strategy
The term, ‘Platform’ isn’t anything new. You must have heard it several times but when it comes to business platforms, it is something to look upon. In order to succeed an organization has to focus upon various aspects with utmost care and attention. So, in relation to that let me bring light into the fact that how important platforms are for today’s businesses. In this article, we will get deeper into the platforms by understanding every facet of it.
What do you understand about a platform?
It is generally observed that there is a lot of confusion in the market regarding the commonly used term, ‘Platform’. But why so? It is because platform is an ambiguous word which is used in multiple levels. For instance, at times it’s just a term used for a suite of applications. Then there are platforms that are well designed to provide support for particular functions or industries. You will find business model platforms such as Apple’s iOS, or Facebook which offers a foundation for everyone to develop on, and some platform business leaders consider that effective platforms can be well defined by their capacity to make other organizations successful.
In true sense, a platform is essentially needed by every business in an environment filled with digitalization, competition and constant change. A foundational technology platform expedites an organization’s capacity to deliver better value for consumers. With the help of a well-built platform, a much more agile approach can be made towards a business. Even though these platforms can be seen as dominated by giant tech companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, it’s obvious for the average companies to have a concern regarding their approach towards such platforms. But the panel experts have confirmed that industry domain skills, strong relationships with consumers, and eagerness to cooperate with partners can help the average companies to succeed in their endeavor. So, now the traditional companies are showing interest in capitalizing on such platforms to increase innovation and stay ahead of their competitors.
Let us now take a look at the different platforms categorized by Deloitte for creating value for the organizations and their participants.
Aggregation platforms. They help in bringing together a wide array of suitable resources and enable users of the platform to connect with the most relevant resources. These platforms are generally transaction or task based and consist of marketplace and broker platforms.
Social platforms. They include some of the broadly known social networking sites, and are similar to aggregation platforms in bringing together many stakeholders. The long-term nature of the relationships which these platforms provide is really unique. Their goal is more about to align individuals around areas of interest than to complete a transaction.
Mobilization platforms. They take common interests to action. These platforms tend to go beyond conversations and interests and prioritize more on moving people to act together to achieve bigger goals. Since, there has always been a need for collaborative action over time, these platforms along with supply networks and distribution operations look for prioritizing long-term relationships across short-term and isolated transactions. They cover a wide range of industries such as consumer products, automotive and financial services.
Learning platforms. These are multi sided networks which help in transferring knowledge, bringing together participants in order to share insights over time. These platforms look forward to encouraging deep, trust-based relationships, with participants able to recognize their capabilities only by working together.
Here are the benefits that can be gained from utilizing the different types of platforms.
A platform is considered to be of a great quality if it is able to make its participants concentrate upon the activities which they do remarkably well and also to shed other activities to the ones whom they connect via the platform. For example, a lot many small focused product vendors and merchants are now dependent on Amazon’s selling platform to manage a variety of complicated and scale intensive activities, also including managing the websites and operations fulfillment. One of the great things about such a platform is that the partners who pick up others’ nonessential work are actually entities who have willingly decided to specialize upon those activities, and will certainly perform better.
By following the footprint of their businesses, the firms are seen preferring for either organic growth or growth by acquisition. Some platforms opt for opening up a third path and that is enabling participants to benefit and connect with the abilities of others and also make them accessible to their customers in such a manner which creates important value for both the platform participants and the customers. Here is an example, Li & Fung has successfully grown into a $20 billion global organization in the supply network business although its sourcing business does not get involved in the actual production itself.
Distributed creativity and innovation
Some of the companies are prioritizing the use of platforms to gain creative and fresh ideas and problem solving from a wide and diverse range of third parties via the help of the contests which provide exciting rewards to the ones who come up with the finest approaches towards opportunities and challenges. For instance, XPrize has supported Spur Innovation in a wide range of areas like space travel, automobiles, and oil spill removal.
Shaping strategies for more value
Let me here give you an example for better understanding. Just look back at the beginning of the credit card business, when Visa was founded by Dee Hock. Simply by convincing banks to depend on a shared utility in order for the back-office processing of credit card transactions-a platform- he was successfully able to restructure a complete industry. So, for the banks, the platform enabled them to turn a money losing product to a beneficial business. You will today find various opportunities for restructuring entire markets and industries with the help of designing new platforms and providing good incentives in order to motivate third parties for active participation.
Does your business really need a platform?
Is it really necessary for companies to experience the platform journey? Sometimes the companies can give NO as an answer. But why? Let’s find out. So, basically a company which is trying to examine an idea would like to focus upon developing more softwares to bring that idea into the market and look after the results. While the organizations grow in size and complexity, yet systems are developed to serve specific business functions such as product development or inventory management. It is also seen that the businesses depend on technology to such an extent that they get completely tangled with each other. As, because systems are mostly developed in functional silos, areas of friction start to materialize and the procedures might be repeated throughout the organization, or even become more complex than necessary.
Addressing these frictions becomes essential to the enterprise’s capability to perform and innovate. Zhamak Dehghani, Thoughtworks Principal Consultant says, “Businesses want to move faster, experiment with new offerings, new markets, new capabilities. At the same time, they deal with a lot of legacy systems that have trapped their data and capabilities in certain functions. To be able to get where they want to go, they need smaller building blocks that play well together.”
Ryan Murray, Director of Digital Platform Strategy at Thoughtworks, expresses, “In platform strategy these ‘blocks’ represent separate capabilities, with steps taken to enhance efficiency and reduce complexity in each so they can be used more effectively by engineers and the business to build, deliver and measure customer experiences, and ultimately serve the enterprise’s growth ambitions. Rather than functional challenges to be tackled, the blocks become “great opportunities to accelerate time to market, bake in security and enable repeatability, for the rest of the organization.”
Therefore, we can conclude that every business regardless of its industry and expertise are in great need of such business platforms which are designed to create better economic value.
How do you prepare for a platform transformation?
For building a platform an organization needs new digital ways of doing business and a lot many major adjustments with people, processes and technology systems have to be made. The most challenging part of the entire process is in knowing where to start and how to bring proper balance upon measured thinking with strong and crucial decisions. For building a platform an organization needs new digital ways of doing business and a lot many major adjustments with people, processes and technology systems have to be made. The most challenging part of the entire process is to know where to start and how to bring proper balance upon measured thinking with strong and crucial decisions. At Deloitte, they approach these issues with the help of the context of the digital industrial transformation framework that acts as a guide for companies looking towards large-scale digital transformation. Their digital industrial transformation framework starts with strategy formulation, then the strategic choices move towards a digital platform business model redesign, next comes the development of required capabilities, later the creation of an operating model comes into being and finally it ends with acquisition of necessary people, process, and technologies. To know more, read about going paperless, enterprise-level digital transformation, how pandemic led the businesses to reimagine their operations, the pandemic-driven digital transformation and digital readiness.
Prioritizing Business Value
When you take the decision of building a digital platform, it is actually only the start of your responsibility to support the business value of your digital platform. Although the motivation for a platform strategy might be compelling at a high level, there are many decisions that are taken with great attention and detail regarding finalizing the suitable features and the manner in which they can be offered. Further, the business justification for your features will change over time as the state of technology advances, the requirements of your company develop and both cloud providers and other vendors release new and enhanced offerings which compete with your homemade solutions.
If you want to deliver the desired value to your company, you will have to plan for a greater proportion of constant enhancement against product innovation than end-user facing products. In order to keep the platform handleable and costs under control, the operability-related items need to be emphasized in the backlog. Since your users value stability, consistency and reliability over a stream of new features, you will have to look after meeting their expectations. Additionally, each product which you deliver must be able to deprecate in favor of a new product on the market. Since, depreciation is a basic part of the platform product lifecycle, and inability to consider it might lead to failure in attaining the business benefits as per decided.
Emphasize Product Thinking
Since with the help of your product development team, you are developing products to satisfy your customers, the developers shall not face any difficulties in using your platform. Even if there is any flaw in API usability or a gap in documentation, it can be an obstacle to the successful accomplishment of the term business value of the platform. You will certainly have to prioritize the developer experience, since any product which no one uses is not a successful product, regardless of its technical merits. Therefore, to attain return on investment for your internal platform, your product development teams will have to utilize it well by understanding, appreciating and being aware of its different features. More details on product thinking and project thinking use cases here.
While adopting an internal platform, you are supposed to ask your product development teams for a good deal of trust. Your platform becomes a major dependency of the systems your company uses to achieve its function. Therefore, operational competence requires to be adequate enough to justify the trust. It means your platform teams need to have a proper understanding about the basics of software infrastructure such as networking, scaling and disaster recovery. If your platform engineering teams face difficulty with the underlying technology, then they won’t be able to develop robust products for your product development teams. Additionally, modern operational excellence tends to go beyond infrastructure and also into some practices which provide reliability.
Excellent Software engineering
A platform organization can’t only be considered as a department of operations, consequently, it will require much more than operational capabilities. Let’s say, if you don’t look forward to writing substantial custom applications, your templates, scripts and configuration files happen to swiftly assemble complications. Therefore, if you wish to maintain the capacity to swiftly and securely change your platform, you will have to create it in the correct order. Let us look into the three core practices of infrastructure as code, as described by Kief Morris in his book Infrastructure as Code:
So, if your company is able to continuously apply these practices, you will be able to meet your platform vision. There isn’t any doubt that without them also you will be able to look after your infrastructure well but you won’t be able to sustain the pace of transformation your development teams’ growing needs and expectations will demand.
Good team effort
Individual skill is always valued but team efforts bring different perspectives and combined brainstorming. It is convenient to have autonomous teams who have clear missions to accomplish, avoiding individual code or system ownership. They are supposed to invest in knowledge sharing, documentation and onboarding in order to successfully maintain their platforms. To know more, read about team building and team health.
To get a better clarity on how digital-native organizations tend to design their strategies to make use of the powerful platforms, McKinsey conducted a survey among 1,600 C-suite executives in organizations over various sectors and major geographies. It was found that there were multiple kinds of platforms. Starting from the platforms which were created by incumbents, industry focused, controlled by third parties, and global players with huge platforms.
The very first insight which we received from this survey is the extent to which platforms have become an integral part of the business landscape and not just the domain simply of digital natives. Some of the incumbent organizations such as Nike, Daimler and Unilever have successfully launched their own business platforms as their business models mature, even-though it was found that only half of them have possibly taken this way. Over the products, sectors and developed economies, it was observed that a single digital platform prevails 75% of the time. On the other hand, platforms are seen less popular in markets with lower digital maturity, like pharmaceuticals and healthcare (55 percent), than in retail banking (95 percent). Also, business-to-business sectors (with a 65 percent platform presence) and diverse importantly from business-to-consumer ones (85%).
The common rationale provided by the organizations that are using such platforms (31 percent of all companies) is that they put an effort to successfully combine individual services and integrate them into a full-service offering. One more motivation, expressed by more than 20% of respondents, is the willingness to create a large customer base across categories at scale, also focusing on to drive prices down and collecting data into a shared, cloud-based utility.
The second observation was that any kind of platform play whether with the help of an organization-owned or a third-party platform, and either collaborating or competing with a global platform is able to improve earnings above the benchmark level of not playing. Organizations with platforms had an annual improvement in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of 1.4 percent, in comparison with the 0.3 percent profits of nonplayers. Also, the organizations which joined much wider cooperative arrangements progressed lightly better than those operating their own platforms.
The survey estimates recommend that over a period of five years, platform players will be able to capture an additional 10 percent in EBIT growth-an organization’s 2% EBIT growth, for instance, would rise up to 2.2% in the fifth year.
Lastly, the survey wanted to find out how incumbents which deployed platforms have finally engaged with bigger global ones. It was seen that most of them either decided to cooperate with these wider business ecosystems or to compete against them. The rest of the incumbents chose either not to engage with global ecosystems utilizing the platforms they designed, or even had no platform at all.
Take the next step: Understanding a digital platform strategy
What is a digital platform strategy? Digital Platform Strategy can be considered as the backbone of digital transformation. With the growing customer needs and expectations, all the organizations felt the need of adapting their business models to become more personalized, convenient and responsive. Thoughtworks expresses that their digital platform strategy offers strategic analysis, prioritization models and communication frameworks in order to maximize investments in modern, cloud-native technology tools, practices and patterns. Their approach helps in co-delivery of mission-critical architecture and software along with the clients, also assuring platform technology strategy delivering tangible value. Additionally, Thoughtworks also provides the required engineering and architecture company upskilling which allows the clients to steer their platform attempts into the future.
The digital platform strategy blueprint
Digital Platform Strategy framework is a blueprint for platform building which consist of five important pillars. Let us view those five key areas.
Delivery Infrastructure. It is a holistic approach taken to infrastructure, develop and release support, and observability. Coupled with simplified build, elastic infrastructure and related tooling, deployment, and monitoring allows engineers to deliver quickly and securely, with suitable controls and audit support. This pillar straight away addresses delivery friction, lessening your time for the latest products and services.
Architecture and API Remediation. Engaging customer experiences which evolve to reach the constantly changing market necessitate increasing the value of the current company assets and business capabilities. The approach to API and platform architectures consist of methods or procedures for building net-new capabilities utilizing modern service-oriented (SOA) and event-driven (EDA) approaches, along with practices for remediating legacy systems so that they can efficiently expose the basic current assets to developers. Platforms of well-factored, self-service APIs which hide the procedure technical, and operational complexity of the underlying capability enables teams to move swiftly to experiment with and production-alize new customer-facing solutions.
Self-Service Data. Businesses today depend on real-time analytics to power decisions. Data and application architecture can be seen merging increasingly as we create more real-time, data-enabled business capabilities, also supporting advanced data science-driven analytics. The application developers shall focus on contributing to the company data stream and selectively tapping into it. Moreover, your data platform becomes ubiquitous. There is a need to reduce friction by streamlining the utilization, management, and operations of complex data technologies such as Hadoop, Kafka and Spark. It also needs to expose a self-service ecosystem of present data assets, addressing data strategy issues like data ownership, data lake design and authorization issues. More on the business value of having sound data strategies here.
Experiment Infrastructure and Telemetry. Innovation lives and dies by the capacity to learn swiftly via purposeful, measured experimentation. With the help of canary release processes, toggle architecture, and meaningful instrumentation, your experiment infrastructure enables you to make the correct decisions about your experiments and investments.
Customer Touchpoint Technology. Customer knowledge is the foundation of delivering value. Altogether, a constant content strategy, a single view of the customer, and transparent telemetry facilitates unprecedented customer insight which allows personalized product offerings.
The approach building competitive digital platforms comprises three steps.
Mature organizations are seen spending years making investments in new business capabilities, integrating business acquisitions, and updating technology stacks to offer the best products and services. In order to protect their investments, they face difficulties in finding ways to patch over the shortcomings of their IT systems. It might sound fine in the short term, but over time, these workarounds either become non-sustainable or too resistant to change. Therefore, this approach enables IT organizations to rapidly iterate, launch customer-facing applications while minimizing changes to slower back-end systems. Rather than looking to enhance those systems, the clients are advised to focus their digital eﬀorts on delivering compelling customer experiences which will drive top-line revenue: prioritizing two or three differentiating customer experiences; identifying what capabilities your digital platform development needs to offer those experiences (also any dependencies on legacy systems); and then provide an advanced environment in which a well dedicated team having proper digital skills can swiftly develop and bring those experiences to market.
Establishing your foothold
It is certainly a challenge to run a traditional production environment, managed for scalability and reliability, along with API facades. At the company level, you are efficiently managing two ‘businesses’ separated by a wall of seemingly incompatible manners and objectives. On one side, a team immersed in an agile environment and motivated to experiment and iterate (fail, fix, and move on), works on either daily or weekly release cycles, and the other one, an experienced IT team operates at a more moderate pace in order to successfully keep the business running.
If the digital platform team wants to evolve, it’s important to protect and reinforce the API facades in order to have a proper foundation in place. Let us look at some major key areas which need to be considered while running dual systems.
You can start executing microservices with distributed data management capabilities of their own by maintaining a firm boundary between the digital platform and traditional production systems in place. You can go through some integration guidelines to consider during this final phase of your digital transformation attempts.