We have reached a critical point in retail.

As large brick and mortar retail stores continue to shutter and industry experts keep shouting buzzwords like big data, personalization, and omnichannel, the retail landscape is shifting fast.

Sure, the terminology might make it sound like these are all passing fads but, rest assured, they’re not.

One major industry after another is taking the “adapt or die” approach to the digital transformation, as highlighted in this recent study by Russell Reynolds Associates.

Each year, they survey over 2,000 high-level executives to determine the anticipated impact of digital strategies on over 15 different industries.

So, what industries are poised for disruption?

digital strategy examples

Both telecom and retail are listed in the top 5 at 2nd and 4th, respectively.

And for good reason. The wireless industry is notorious for terrible customer service and downright deceptive business practices.

And retail as a whole is undergoing an insanely rapid transformation. Those who aren’t on board are about to be left behind. Fast.

There’s a good chance that your business falls under one of the 13 industries listed in this survey, which should really get you thinking about what your current digital strategies look like.

In fact, when’s the last time you took a good hard look at them?

What it means to have a digital strategy

Having a solid digital strategy essentially means that your business decisions will be data-focused and based on digital solutions.

Many of the industries listed in this survey are massive and well established, meaning they are deeply rooted in their long-held business practices.

For example, many of the tasks and procedures that small business owners still use could easily be automated, saving both time and money.

Customer management and communication in particular is something that is advancing at an incredible rate, thanks to new digital and data-focused technologies.

In English, Doc

Alright, I get it. “Digital strategy” can mean many things to many people. So here’s some real world examples of digital strategies implemented in a small business environment.

You could be the pizza parlor who still takes orders manually with a pen and paper, or you could be the one with the app that tells you exactly who is calling you, what they always like to order, and how you should reward them for ordering food from you for the 3rd time this week.

You could be the clothing store who sends out invites for the launch of your new fashion line to your neighborhood’s mailboxes, or you could be the one who creates a targeted campaign on social media, find only people who are interested in what you’re selling, and gain loyal new followers of your brand.

You could be the insurance broker forcing your sales reps to use the “tried and true” operating system from 10 years ago, or you could be the one empowering your reps with software that will give them the data they need to not just be successful, but excel at what they do.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, but there does need to be a uniform understanding of what your digital strategy is throughout your entire organization.

Digital strategy comes from the top

The thing is, in order for you to bring about this kind of change in your business, it has to come from the top and work its way down.

Hiring the right people with this forward-thinking mentality will ensure your whole organization falls in line.

The best executives will create digital processes and strategies for your whole organization to implement, keeping your business from becoming a dinosaur in your industry. It’s the reason Chief Data, Analytics, and Digital Officers are becoming more common.

The businesses that invest in a true digital strategy will be the ones leading the pack as “big data” becomes more essential every day.

Will you be one of them?

(header image via this Slideshare)

Patrick Antinozzi

Patrick is the owner of RapidWebLaunch, a web design and online marketing firm for small businesses, and enjoys writing things in various corners of the internet. When he's not typing you'll find him traveling the world, playing hockey or ranting about the Montreal Canadiens.

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