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Whether you like it or not, digital has changed the business world.

Today, companies are faced with a stark reality, either move with the times or get left behind by those leveraging digital technology to boost their business. Modernising a business takes time, it also takes an understanding of your customers, your industry and the technology currently available for you to use. Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ process to thrive in the digital age, we’ve identified 5 key areas that all businesses should be paying attention to. 

Understand current social trends

In order to modernise your business, you need to understand how the modern customer shops. By analysing key social trends it’s easy to pinpoint consumer needs and desires, but how can this data help your business succeed? Today, convenience is key as customers want to access everything they need with a few clicks or swipes on their smartphone. There is a sense of urgency for modern shoppers, with businesses that fail to answer queries immediately facing the consequence of being labelled as redundant. For online shoppers, this could be something as simple as being able to find a website for a business, or a Google listing that offers the key information about opening hours and locations. In store, customers need equal attention, are you able to offer them more than just what’s on the shelves?

The rise of ‘millennials’ is a great case study for adapting your business to meet the needs of a modernised group. Born between 1980 and 1995, millennials live in a world of immediacy, and with their natural dependency on technology, they frequently turn to organisations that can provide maximum service for minimal cost. Millennials will heavily depend upon social platforms for purchasing decisions and unsurprisingly, conduct most of their shopping online. Mark Stead of Daniel Footwear, identifies the level of social media input that is required when aiming to inclusively connect with people aged 18-35. “We understand that millenials and younger, are the main consumers of social media currently. We have had to invest time and money to tailor our social media marketing in order to connect with those of that age, otherwise you risk not being able to influence them”.

Once millennials receive exceptional customer service they can become digital ambassadors for the brand, using their own social platforms to promote and review the service they’ve received. At the other end of the spectrum, a disappointing experience can lead to backlash from those expecting more from a business. Negative feedback from digitally savvy customers can damage any brand so ensuring you’re providing the right experience for the modern consumer is vital. 

Embrace eCommerce

Having a website is vital in this day and age, but many business fall short when offering an online experience for their customers, simply due to a lack of eCommerce understanding. The eCommerce industry is fiercely competitive and businesses have a wealth of tools available to help push their website in front of their competitors and their customers. Optimising a website covers many different things, from the content placed on the site to attract search engine traffic to customer reviews and testimonials to boost user experience. It’s now easier than ever for a customer to go online and browse different stores to find the cheapest place to buy a product or service, without a properly optimised eCommerce store, you’re running the risk of sending customers straight to your competitors.

An awareness of search engine optimisation (SEO), an understanding of your customer’s online journey and the knowledge of what your competitors are offering will ensure you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to eCommerce.Web manager of Westbrook Cycles, Phil Harrison outlines how taking action on improving their website is significant in a highly competitive industry. “With the large amount of cycle shops out there we know we have to appear as high up the search engines as we possibly can. Optimizing our website has certainly benefitted our website, particularly in comparison to other retailers our size”. Although directly optimizing your website is worthwhile, constant analysis of your progress is of synonymous significance. It’s imperative that we constantly review and monitor your eCommerce strategy to make sure you’re still current, outdated tools and optimisation practices could end up being detrimental to your online visibility. 

Use social media to your advantage

With over 3 billion users, social media has become a major driving force in customer engagement and sales. With a wealth of social platforms available for you to use, it’s important to know exactly which ones will benefit you the most and how you should be using them to interact with your audience. Businesses must train staff in the use of these digital tools and ensure that everyone is prepared and aware of why they are so important to the business. Emma Burke, Web Editor from Jules B highlights why you have to plan for results. “Before creating a social media strategy, we take the time to analyse our current social presence. For instance who we are looking to connect with via Facebook and Twitter, and are our customers using platforms such as Pinterest?She goes on to explain the need to develop social media understanding. “We try to stay on top of new advancements in social media technology, test out platforms to see if they’re worth integrating into your overall social strategy and make sure you’re utilising these tools to their full potential”.

Regardless of age, the new consumer is looking for a business to relate to their interests, to engage with them beyond the traditional ‘sales spiel’ and promotions. Any content that you produce as a business should be shared with customers on these platforms along with exclusive deals, offer and incentives to loyal followers. By understanding social media marketing you can utilise it as a powerful marketing tool to communicate, educate and grow your online following. 

Make use of multi-channel

Thanks to the growth of multi channel marketing, there now more spaces than ever available for businesses to promote their services. Businesses that pigeonhole themselves into traditional advertising techniques or those only advertising online could be missing out on valuable platforms to promote products and services by ignoring cross-channel opportunities. For instance, a modern business may wish to promote their services via traditional outlets, such as brochures or in-store, as well as exploring more modern methods, such as mobile outlets, Snapchat and audio ads.

Adam Jones, Marketing Manager of kitchen and homeware retailer Andrew James, speaks of how they use multiple channels to their advantage. “We’ve been using additional marketplaces (Amazon and eBay) for a number of years now. Their function is undeniable for contemporary businesses, as they provide an additional and more importantly accessible, platform for selling. Businesses shouldn’t view these marketplaces as a competitor, merely an extra source of revenue. Similarly, in recent times we’ve branched out into social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise our products, and provide the option to purchase without having to leave the social network”. 

Finding the balance between traditional and contemporary advertising is key for a business and one that’s easier to identify when you know where your customers are. Experiment with new methods to gauge their effectiveness, some platforms may not work for you but understanding them and using the data to influence your own multi-channel approach can help put your business out in front. 

The future of marketing 

As a business, it’s important to always be looking into the future. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the next big trend will be, as marketers it’s imperative that we’re ready to embrace it. We may not have a crystal ball to see what will have the biggest impact on the future of marketing, but we are starting to see shifts towards new technology and trends. Mobile shopping will continue to grow and brands must continue to leveraging the power of mobile to create a personalised experience for shoppers. Convenience will continue to be a driving force for consumers and delivery times will soon dictate which businesses are pushing out in front. Companies like ASOS have launched a same day delivery service, setting the standard for what businesses need to be offering in the not so distant future.

Transparency will still be key for businesses looking to engage with customers. As we witnessed with the rise of millennials, brands are now expected to offer more than just a standard experience, modern customers want real value and full transparency when dealing with a business.

One of the most exciting developments that will shape the future of marketing is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI has the potential to enhance almost every part of our lives and for business owners it’s an exciting step towards utilising intelligent marketing technology. AI can influence every part of the consumer journey, eventually having the ability to tap into vision, emotion, speech and language services to create meaningful shopping experiences and transform the industry as we know it. 

Moving forward

Regardless of your view of modern business tools and technologies, modernising your business is the only way to stay ahead of your competitors. From increasing social visibility to delving deep into the needs and desires of your customers, taking the steps towards ensuring your place within the industry will take time, but the benefits are insurmountable. Whatever the future of marketing brings, there is one thing that all businesses need to remember – standing still is not an option. Embrace the modern age and update your business plan with contemporary strategies that look forward, not back.

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