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Five Mistakes Digital Brands Are Making


by Raj De Datta, Co-founder and CEO of Bloomreach, and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, “The Digital Seeker: A Guide for Digital Teams to Build Winning Experiences

There is a great deal at stake for brands today, particularly as e-commerce has continued to grow and digital has taken over as the first point of engagement between a customer and a brand. This has put an increased emphasis on the experience a brand offers online; they are now being challenged to use this digital channel to form a connection with the customer, one that not only helps them find the products or services they need, but also answers the higher order of intention that brought them online in the first place. The brands that are able to achieve this are the ones that will thrive in the new era of digital — an era that aims to bring the joy back into the internet experience. Yet, not all are poised to succeed.

These are the mistakes brands are making in creating their digital experiences, and how they can pivot to better connect consumers with what they’re seeking:

Mistake #1: Asking “What” Instead of “Why”.

Instead of “What do you want?” successful brands are asking “Why are you here?” They are shifting away from customer-centric thinking that pushed them to simply improve the customer experience and are instead digging for the underlying problem that brought a consumer to their site in the first place. Visitors to your brand have a purpose they intend to fulfill or a task they want to complete — mastering a skill, booking a memorable vacation with their family, feeling healthier, buying a home. We call this visitor a seeker. Seeker is more than just another word for customer. A seeker has a higher order of intention. Before you are a customer, you are a human being with a want or a need. To find the seeker, don’t ask “what?” Ask “why?” When you uncover the seeker’s true mission, you can make them truly happy and deliver a digital experience that will go a long way in driving loyalty.

Mistake #2: Building a Digital Team of Developers.

Even great software developers can’t excel at everything. Today’s digital team needs much more. A wise colleague once said to me: Digital is a row, not a column. It is the theme that runs through all aspects of a winning business. So naturally, a digital team must draw from a wide array of talent. Among the critical digital team skillsets: design, product, data science, merchandise and operations, marketing and sales. And when a digital-first mindset exists throughout the entire organization, it will translate into a more seamless experience for consumers.

Mistake #3: Living in the Past.

In the history of virtual business, we can carve out distinct eras. There was the Brochure Age, in which digital business consisted primarily of creating a web site with basic company info. Then came Google and Facebook. A whole industry of marketers started running campaigns against those websites, and more and more people started arriving there. We can call this the Digital Marketing Age of the internet. Now, digital has become a utility, one expected to “always work.” In fact, it doesn’t just need to work—it needs to delight. The separation between the real world and the digital world no longer exists – they have become one and the same. We can call this the Digital Business Age of the internet. It is where customers are right now on the digital timeline. Are you with them? Or are you lingering in the past?

Mistake #4: Failing to Plan for Disaster.

Every day we hear news of a data breach or systems failure. These disasters can strike in any type of business, in any type of industry. The disaster may be small, like the HBO intern who mistakenly sent a test email to subscribers, but it can also be big, like the cyber-attack on Sony that created a highly publicized international incident. The list of potential disasters facing a business is never-ending, but winning digital brands will be watching and protecting themselves in three key categories: Privacy and Security, Reliability and Performance, Explainability and Diversity. If you don’t plan for disaster in these areas, you’re setting yourself up to be the next headline, and your customers will take note.

Mistake #5: Failure to Max Out the R0 of Digital.

We’ve learned far too much about viruses and their spread recently. COVID-19 is particularly deadly because it has a high mortality rate and a high infection rate. That infection rate, scientifically termed the R0, represents the rate at which the virus can spread. But winning digital brands need to consider another R0 – the pace of e-commerce’s spread. During the lockdown, the pace, the R0, has accelerated. How do you know if you’re ready to max out the R0 of digital? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your business built for the seeker, not the customer?
  • Is your business built on a digital experience platform?
  • Is your business built by a product-centric team?

Those who answer yes are poised to be the big winners of the next two decades.

Consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with the online experience. They don’t just want choice; they have plenty of that to sift through already. Consumers are looking for meaningful digital experiences that help them fulfill a greater purpose or answer a larger need. These are the experiences that they can connect with, and the ones that will make it more enjoyable to discover the products they will ultimately purchase.

The stakes for digital have never been higher, and the opportunity has never been more compelling. Is your brand prepared?


Raj De Datta is the Co-founder and CEO of Bloomreach, the leader in digital and commerce experience. He is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, “The Digital Seeker: A Guide for Digital Teams to Build Winning Experiences“.