Bridging the digital maturity gap: How to catch up to the ‘digital leaders’

By Steven Cassin, Chief Strategy Officer



The Drum Network article

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June 5, 2024 | 6 min read

As agency Unrvld releases its new comprehensive program for digital success, Steven Cassin delves into the Digital Leaders series’ guidance for brands with immature strategies.

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/ Joshua Sortino via Unsplash

Recent McKinsey research finds that companies that are digital leaders in their sectors generate 50% more revenue from their digital investments than their less digitally mature peers. Meanwhile, Gartner has found that 70% of digitally maturing organizations cite their ability to attract new talent is based on their digital vision (versus just 14% of companies in the early stages of digital development).

With leaders outperforming their competition and continuing to attract new talent, the digital maturity gap is set to deepen if left unchallenged.

That’s why we’ve released The Unrvld Digital Leaders Series: to address this issue by offering a framework that embeds foundational digital strategies and accelerates the development of sophisticated digital competencies.

Participants can expect to gain deep insights into creating consistent digital experiences, understanding performance metrics, and developing effective customer engagement strategies. More critically, the series emphasizes the importance of clarity of vision, innovation frameworks, and continuous learning – elements that are vital for cultivating a digital-first culture.

How do we go about bridging the digital maturity gap?

Leadership teams within many established and highly successful businesses know that the digital opportunity remains largely untapped for them. Investments to deliver websites, improve customer engagement strategies, or support ecommerce have taken them so far. But there’s a bigger opportunity and organizations want to grasp it.

To drive digital maturity and achieve the business outcomes that come with it, many companies need a deeper cultural change. They need to re-envisage the approach to market and implement continuous improvement and innovation programmes, which seek opportunities to leverage digital capabilities throughout the customer experience and operational model.

Many look at established leaders like Amazon, seeing their levels of digital maturity and excellence as an unachievable objective. As digital natives and relentless innovators, Amazon has designed and continues to meticulously optimize every element of its business model to drive higher and higher engagement and commercial returns.

Digital re-invention

But there are many examples of ‘innovative incumbents’ within established sectors who’ve augmented, or even reinvented, successful businesses to incorporate digital to optimize customer experience and drive commercial performance.

Kingfisher Group, which owns several prominent home improvement brands like B&Q and Screwfix, has made huge leaps in recent years by integrating digital technologies into its operations and customer engagement strategies. These investments to support omni-channel ecommerce, supply chain optimization, in-store innovations, sustainability initiatives and crucially, customer data and personalization strategies, optimally positioned the business to respond in the pandemic and to bridge the B2B (trade) and B2C (DIY-er) markets in the sector.

At Unrvld, we’ve partnered with brands such as New Era Cap and Smeg, harnessing digital platforms to grow their online revenues by in excess of 60% year-on-year for the last three years; growing a valuable digital channel which complements their core business.

Outside of retail, home building giant Barratt Homes has integrated digital self-service and enablement throughout their home buying customer journey, enhancing the customer experience and driving operational efficiency. Through their customer portal, Barratt has sought to modernize and digitize the home buying process including fit-out options and addition of extras, historically a purely offline activity due to the sensitivity and scale of this purchase.

And despite these successes, vast opportunities still exist for most organisations. Many businesses may celebrate having an appealing website or e-commerce capability but have not fully integrated digital experiences into their broader operations. Those businesses are missing out on potential enhancements in customer engagement, operational efficiency, and overall market competitiveness. This gap represents a significant opportunity for businesses ready to deepen their digital integration and truly transform their operational landscapes.

Is the gap widening?

The growing disparity in digital maturity stems from several core issues, notably clarity of vision and the need for a continuous improvement mindset. Many companies still view digital technology through the lens of discrete projects or isolated strategies, rather than as integral components of a holistic business vision.

Leading digital companies distinguish themselves by embedding a clear and comprehensive digital strategy into the fabric of their business operations. They focus not on temporary fixes or single projects but on continuous improvement and innovation as a part of their everyday culture. This approach ensures that they are not only prepared to use current technologies effectively but are also adaptable to future technological advancements.

However, the truly transformational outcomes are not merely the result of implementing new technologies but are achieved by fundamentally shifting mindsets and aligning strategies. The essence of digital transformation lies in the cultural shift towards continuous innovation and strategic flexibility - qualities that are cultivated, not downloaded. For instance, embedding an experimentation mindset across organisational practices can lead to more significant insights and innovations than merely adopting new tools for experimentation.

As the digital maturity gap widens, the need for comprehensive strategies to bridge it becomes more urgent. Furthermore, in a large proportion of businesses, the responsibility for digital transformation initiatives will fall to effective leaders in other areas of the business – operations, growth, marketing or technology meaning the very leaders charged with leading the digital charge, by their own admission – are often not digitally centred and lack the confidence to lead.

Don’t let your business fall behind in the digital curve. Join The Unrvld Digital Leaders Series and start transforming your digital strategy from a position of strength. Lead the change, don’t just adapt to it.


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UNRVLD is a digital experience and technology agency that puts business outcomes first. We work with results driven organisations worldwide where digital experience...

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