Digital platforms: How to choose what's best for your company

By Martin Ray

Digital platforms: How to choose what's best for your company

This pivotal moment in history has forced most businesses to drastically and rapidly increase their digitalisation efforts. However, transforming into a new digital and onlinified operations model while simultaneously building and assembling a new digital platform is exceptionally challenging. So how should you choose what's best for your organisation?

The key is to focus on three main areas; for whom are you building the platform? How can you create an accurate and complete picture of every customer journey? How can you optimise time to completion while maximising outcome? This post will guide you through these main steps to selecting the best digital platform for your organisation.

What is a digital platform?

According to Zooma's definition, a digital platform is:

"The digital infrastructure that a company build to facilitate commercial interactions between itself and its costumers. It requires an online business interface and encompasses, e.g. a WCMS, Marketing Automation, CRM, and Customer Support".

On a large scale, companies such as Amazon and Google are examples of digital platforms. However, every company or organisation that facilitates business online will require a digital platform.

Aim to build one platform

Digital infrastructure, in most companies and organisations, has been built piecemeal from the inside-out. The reason is that different parts of the organisation have matured at varying paces, and the IT department's role has traditionally been to offer support when the need arises. As a result, most organisations have a jigsaw puzzle of disparate software that wasn't originally built to fit together. 

When you set out to construct a new digital platform, you should think holistically and endeavour to build a single system within one coherent software ecosystem. 

What is the best digital platform for your organisation?

When it comes to choosing the best option for your organisation, the first thing you have to ask yourself is: For whom are you building the platform? 

Too often, companies start from the point of view of their operational model and the organisation's way-of-working. What you should do instead is to look from the outside; what are the end-customers needs?  

The best way to approach any digital transformation project is to take a customer experience approach, focusing on the people that will ultimately use the platform. For most companies and organisations, that is typically their end-users – customers and prospects.

How can you create an accurate and complete picture of every customer journey?

To create a complete 360-degree picture of each customer journey, you need to aggregate data across your organisation. However, in most organisations, customer data exists in multiple siloed databases, such as; marketing, sales CRM, customer service, and accounting. This makes it almost impossible to create an accurate single view of a customer. 

What you want to do instead is to create "a single source of truth" where one database becomes the source of reference for the most current data on a specific customer. Typically this means that you need a single data card for every customer (and prospect) that synchronises data from various customer touchpoints.

While this doesn't necessarily mean that you need a single database for everything (it may, for example, be inevitable to have an accounting system that is separated from your CRM), keeping the number of separate systems and databases to a bare minimum help to build a complete 360-degree view of every customer. Although it is theoretically possible to develop integrations between almost any kind of system and the next, experience shows that this virtually never happens and is exceptionally costly and resource-demanding.

Why create a 360-degree picture of your customers?

The primary purpose of creating a 360-degree view of your customer should be to offer a more captivating and engaging experience for the customer, ultimately resulting in more sales for your company. Here are the key benefits you can accomplish:

  • Personalisation: By having current and accurate data on each customer, you can personalise your communication at every touchpoint they choose to interact with your company. 
  • Consistent experience:  Each customer will get a seamless experience regardless of when and where they interact with your company, from marketing to sales, to customer service.
  • Analytics and insights: By having a complete picture of all customers, you will construct more accurate segmentation and behaviour models and ultimately become more relevant to your customers and prospects.
  • Predictive forecasts: By synchronising information from across your customer touchpoints, you will predict what a customer may do next and automatically alert you when you should prioritise prospects and customers at a certain point in time.

Consider the total cost of ownership and time to completion

While it can be tempting to go for a best in breed approach when deciding the setup for your digital platform, it usually ends up costing a lot and taking a long time to implement. The primary reasons for this are that the various systems (such as CMS, Marketing Automation, and CRM) don't work well together, or the required integration is overly complex. Additionally, sharing data across the various systems always proves challenging and operating many different tools tend to eat into resources, including personnel, financial, and time.

An all-in-one platform approach is usually much more cost-effective and faster to implement. While this approach means that you will have to compromise on some of your business requirements and whished-for features, adapting your process and way-of-working to fit the system is usually much more cost-effective and sustainable in the long term. Since all the solutions are from the same vendor, the system's integration will come out of the box. You will also benefit from having a familiar user-interface and logical flow throughout the platform. Moreover, you will reduce business risk when having a single point of failure. This is a bit counterintuitive, but while a major system failure at one vendor would undoubtedly have major implications for a customer, history shows that multiple points of failure (i.e. multiple systems, middleware, and integrations) dramatically increases the likelihood of downtime.

If you want some additional help in your digital platform journey, I've created a free guide that helps you understand how to think when evaluating platforms, shows where you can find reviews and testimonials for different options, and what your end goal should be - regardless of the platform you choose. Click the button below to get access to it.

Get the digital platforms guide

Of course, if you want more answers to this difficult question, feel free to book a meeting with me - choose a time that suits you and we can talk about it. 

Martin Ray
Chief Analyst & Digital Strategist since 2011. Martin helps clients interpret how online and digital impacts their business, and how to plan and execute a strategy to achieve maximum results in the digital age.
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