Web Design & Development Guide
In the fields of
strategic management, marketing strategy, and operational strategy, digital strategy is
the process of specifying an organization's vision, initiatives and
processes in order to deploy their online assets (as of 2007, these
include: web sites, mini-sites, mobile sites, digital audio and video
content, rich Internet applications, community groups, banner ads,
search engine marketing, affiliate programs, etc.) in a manner which
maximizes the business benefits they provide to the organization.
There are numerous approaches to conducting digital strategy, but at their
core, all go through three stages: identifying the key opportunities and/or
challenges in a business where online assets can provide a solution; identifying
the unmet needs and goals of the customers that most closely align with those
key business opportunities and/or challenges;
and developing a vision around how the online assets will fulfill those business
and customer needs, goals, opportunities and challenges
and prioritizing a set of online initiatives which can deliver on this vision.
Within each of those stages, a number of techniques and analyses may be
Identifying the key opportunities and/or challenges in
Includes one-on-one interviews, group interviews and workshops with a
company's senior management, marketing and sales, operations and service
stakeholders with a goal of understanding the business strategy, challenges and
opportunities, products, organization, processes, supply chain and vendors,
distributors, customers, and competitive landscape, as well as the potential
role of their online assets.
Includes evaluations of a companies main competitors and potential
substitutes with the goal of understanding a companies strengths and weaknesses
relative to their competitors and potential substitutes. While this often
includes steps found in traditional marketing competitive analysis, such as
products, prices, etc. Competitive analysis for Digital Strategy includes two
- An evaluation by a usability expert of the usability and user experience
of a company's online assets compared and contrasted to those of it
competitors and potential substitutes.
- An evaluation of the features and functionality provided by a company's
online assets, compared and contrasted to those of its competitors and
An analysis of a companies financial data (which may include everything from
public financial statements to private ERP data) with the goal of understanding
the financial impact (positive and negative) that certain changes would have on
Identifying the unmet needs and goals of the customers
Includes one-on-one interviews and focus groups with a company's customers
with a goal of understanding customers behaviors, needs, goals and perceptions
of the company and their industry both in the broadest business context as well
as specifically online. In addition to standard marketing strategy methodologies
and questions, customer interviews for Digital Strategy may includes
usability testing, an analysis of how effective customers are at using the
online assets developed by a company for their intended purposes. In digital
strategy this is used to uncover usability barriers in the present state that
may prevent the accomplishment to the online vision.
An analysis of customer behaviors in their environment, for example: field
observations of shoppers at a store. In addition to standard ethnographic
research, digital strategy may include video taping of a customer using their
computers or specific computer applications or web sites.
An analysis of the usage patters of a company's online assets with the goal
of better understanding customer behavior as well as identifying strengths and
weakness of the company's current online offerings. This may include
understanding how many people are visiting a web site, what are the most popular
pages, what are the most popular paths, where are people coming from, where do
they drop off, how long do they stay, etc.
A specific methodology for web analytics where the company's online assets
are modeled as a sales funnel, with a visit or impression representing a new
leads, a certain page or action in the web site considered a conversion (such as
a user hitting the purchase confirmation page) and specific pages in the web
site representing specific stages of the sales funnel. The goal of the analysis
is to provide insight into the overall conversion rate as well as the key weak
points of the funnel (the stages in which the largest percentages of users drop
out of the funnel).
An analysis of a company's customer databases and information repositories
with the goal of segmenting customers into homogeneous groups across one or more
dimension of behavior, demographics, value, product or marketing message
affinity, etc. In digital strategy this often includes the online customer
registration database which companies use to provide access to their customer
specific, protected areas.
An analysis of a customers behavior (such as their purchase behavior or their
service behavior) that looks across all the different channels in which
customers interact with a company's products or information. There are lots of
different ways to do this, be a representative example would be, a company
focuses on the customer purchase process (how a customer becomes aware of a
product, how a customer develops the intent to purchase a product, and how a
customer actually purchases the product). The analysis would look at which
channels (example: phone, catalog, retail store, web site, 3rd party search
engine, etc.) a customer uses at which stage of the purchase process, attempts
to understand why each channel is used, and evaluates the company's strengths or
weaknesses in that particular channel for that particular stage of the process.
An approach to collection customer feedback in a quantitative manner from a
large population. In digital strategy, surveys may be used to validate or
invalidate key questions raised in more qualitative exercises such as customer
interviews and focus group. Depending on the breadth of the survey population
and the degree of variation within the population, survey results may be
segmented to form homogeneous groups across one or more dimension of behavior,
demographics, value, product or marketing message affinity, etc. Surveys are
often conducted online using web intercepts, e-mail lists, or 3rd party panels,
although phone surveys or other offline means may sometimes be used when they
are questions as to the online savvy-ness of a particular target population.
Developing a vision and prioritizing a set of online
A spreadsheet with supporting documentation that quantifies the investments
and returns over time that will result from the execution of the online
strategy. The Business plan also defines the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
that will be used to measure and evaluate the success of the online strategy.
A design of a technical architecture which will meet the needs of the
business vision and conform to the business plan and roadmap. This is often done
gap analysis where the current technical architecture is assessed. A future
technical architecture, which meets the needs of the online vision, is designed.
The gaps between the current state and future state are identified, and a series
of initiatives or projects to fill those gaps are developed and sequenced.
- Organizational and process assessment
Similar to a technical assessment, organizational and process assessments
look at the changes that need to be made to an organization and its processes in
order to achieve the online vision. They may involve a series of
business process reengineering projects focused on the areas of an
organization most affected by the online initiatives.
A way of prioritizing various initiatives by comparing their cost of
implementation to their expected business benefits. This is often done by
creating a two by two matrix where cost of implementation runs along the x-axis
(from high cost to low cost) and expected business benefit runs along the
y-axis, from low benefit to high benefit. Individual initiatives or projects are
then plotted on the matrix in terms of their calculated costs and benefits and
priorities are determined according to which projects will provide the greatest
benefit for the least amount of cost.
A plan detailing the allocation of media spending across online media (as of
2007, this includes: search engine marketing, banner advertising, and online
affiliate networks) usually as part of the customer acquisition or retention
portions of the digital strategy.
Graphics representations or comps of key ideas or processes of the digital
strategy. These are often created in order to better communicate a key concept
or to build excitement among stakeholders when building consensus or socializing
a digital strategy.
A high-level project plan which details the durations and dependencies of all
the initiatives in the digital strategy. The roadmap will often include
checkpoints to assess the progress and success of the digital strategy.
A description of the
key performance indicators used to measure the effectiveness of the digital
strategy as well as the process for collecting and sharing the information. The
measurement plan usually covers the financial, operational, and e-business
metrics and their relationships.
The organizational structure, roles, and process description of the
operational entity the will manage the initiatives in a digital strategy. The
governance model describes who is responsible for what, how decisions are made,
how issues are escalated, and how information on the performance of the projects
is communicated within the organization.
As of 2007, a trend in digital strategy is the use of personas as a framework
for using customer information to prioritize online initiatives. Personas are
character sketches which represent a typical member of one customer segment and
highlights their needs, goals and behaviors. Because it is representative of a
customer segment, it allows decision makers to prioritize various features based
on the needs of the segment. Because it is a character sketch, it is sometimes
easier for decision makers to internalize the key needs of the segment than it
would be by reading reams and reams of data. A typical approach is to create the
segment based on customer analysis such as customer interviews, ethnographic
research, and statistical surveys. Then assemble key decision makers or
stakeholders, present the findings of the personas, and use them to kick start a
brainstorming session around different online initiatives which can meet the
personas needs and goals.
Execution of a digital strategy
Historically, execution of a business or digital strategy is done as a big
bang, with large initiatives such as site redesigns and transactional systems
taking 6-12 months to develop and often an additional 6-12 months before they
delivery any results. As of 2007, a trend has emerged where companies adopt a
more iterative approach to rolling out their strategies, one which leverages a
series of smaller tests, which are carefully measured and analyzed and used to
modify or optimize the digital strategy. An example of this
test-measure-optimize-scale approach is that a company might take some key pages
on their site and test a number of versions of those pages with different
marketing messages, design approaches, user experience optimizations, navigation
optimizations, and even new features and functions using a
multivariate or A/B test. The company would then identify the page which had the
best combination of changes in terms of some key business metric (such as
conversion), analyzing the results to understand which changes where most
instrumental in affecting the high conversion rate, and applying those learnings
to future pages and future tests. The advantage of this approach is that in the
long run, it tends to be more successful in delivering business results, because
each step is measured and adjusted for. In addition, it tends to favor smaller
(less risky, less expensive) steps rather than larger (more risky, more
expensive) initiatives before getting the payback. The disadvantage is that
over time this approach tends to converge on a solution (local optimum), not
necessarily the best solution (global optimum) that might have been reached if a company starts from scratch
instead of building each step on the previous one. Another disadvantage is that
although this solution tends to favor smaller, more incremental changes, there
is often a larger up front cost to setting up all the measurement systems and
staffing a company with the right analysts and change processes to react to
these tests in a timely and effective manner. As a result, companies often adopt
a mix of big bang efforts augmented by some smaller, more iterative efforts as
part of their overall strategy.
Digital strategy vs. online strategy
As of 2007, these two terms tend to be thrown out somewhat interchangeably.
However, there is beginning to emerge consensus around the differences between
digital strategy and online strategy. Digital strategy is beginning to refer to
the strategy a company takes to become a digital company, where digital connotes
deeper interactions with their customers, more customized and personalized
offerings and interactions, data driven decision making, and an organizational
models and processes which are more nimble and reactive to changes in the
company's environment. When digital strategy is the imperative, companies tend
to look to well regarded digital companies such as Google, Amazon, and eBay as
their aspirational models. In this context, a company may use the term online
strategy to be limited to the development of plans to deploy their online assets
to maximize business results and digital strategy to be the more transformative
step of changing the organization.
Enabling a Customer-Focused Organization: Thought Leadership Summit on
Digital Strategies, Center for Digital Strategies at the Tuck
School of Business and Cisco Systems
Ready for the Digital Future?,pg. 30-31, Supply Chain Management
How Big is the Difference Between Websites?, Jakob Nielsens
Optimizing the Online Business Channel with Web Analytics,
Tactical Uses of Web Analytics, Web Analytics Association.
The Application of Technology to Marketing: A Twenty Year Perspective,pg.
5, Center for Digital Strategies at the Tuck School of Business.
Reinventing The Marketing Organization: Customer Groups Should Trump
Channels, Products, Or Geography. Forrester.
Leaders Take A Strategic Approach To Web Analytics. Forrester.
Lessons From AD TECH Persona Panel, Forrester.
Davenport (2006): Competing on Analytics, Harvard Business
Review, January 2006.
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