How do you create a compelling digital proposition for 2021 after such an uncertain 2020?

Dan Archer is marketing director at Freestyle.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things change quickly. And when things change quickly, a business needs to adapt and respond even quicker.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last 6 months has seen changes that no one could have ever predicted: the global tourism industry facing the loss of 120 million jobs, the permanent closure of approximately 14,000 shops in the UK, and nearly half of people in employment in the UK working from home at some point this year. This has resulted in new evolving customer needs reflecting an uncertain world of rising unemployment, and physical restrictions driven by lockdowns and health and safety concerns. It is more important now than ever before to create new digital propositions, or pivot existing ones, to respond to market challenges in order to better serve customer needs by staying relevant in fluctuating market sectors.

Research vs. experiment

Designing propositions in its simplest form is about finding value for your customers in terms of positioning your product or service. Historically this has been centred around research, – analysing market trends and patterns of behaviour over a certain period. But now this type of research is becoming less and less relevant. Even looking back at the last couple of months, with the speed that changes are occurring, is not necessarily a true reflection of where we are now.

Experimentation is a key component to designing propositions. With more people online than ever, now is the time to play the wild card – trying something that may not have made sense to try before, might actually work in these changing times. It’s becoming more accepted that people are behaving differently, and more difficult to predict what will work and what won’t. So accept that for every venture that you partake in, not all of them will succeed, but by taking the risk you will have a better idea of what will.

So what is value?

The first step in your proposition is finding out the type of value you currently give to your customers – objective or subjective. Microsoft, as an example, is objective in its values – its customers save time through the efficiencies delivered through their software. Subjective value is emotion-led – how it makes you feel. Fitbit is a great example of this as it keeps its customers motivated with their exercise by showing the fastest time, sharing status’ with friends and rewarding users with virtual high fives.

For businesses offering subjective value through their product or service, it’s key that this is incorporated into their business strategy as this is what resonates with their customers. Ethical principles around sustainability and care for the environment are more important than ever – brands need to demonstrate they have a social conscience. Businesses can also consider repositioning their values to offer additional value to their traditional offering.

With over 55 million users, Strava is the market leading fitness app aimed at runners and cyclists using GPS tracking. Offering both a subscription and free-of-charge service, throughout 2020 they have implemented new changes and services which reflect the new needs within the fitness community. Simplifying their premium service to one super low price point, adding an extensive training insight to track progress against goals, and gamification through virtual trophies have all been rolled out. 2020 has allowed them to refocus on their purpose – “we’re now leading the company with a single purpose: rededicating Strava to our community. We’re obsessing over our athletes – over you – and no one else.”

But how do you know it works?

Testing ideas on a small scale, quickly and repeatedly, is the most effective way of actually knowing if they work or not – both technically and from a marketing point of view. Consider positioning in terms of copy, tone of voice and imagery – then analyse how these impact the product from a technical point of view to ensure all values are met.

Once a prototype is in place, test with a select group of real users. Trust them and make them feel a part of the business decision-making process and make them feel more genuinely valued. Design with them, for them. In return you will receive honest feedback from customers who care about your product or service, enhancing your brand reputation as a business that prides itself on customer centricity.

When creating a new proposition, adopt a JTBD (jobs to be done) approach – gain a true understanding of the higher needs and ambitions of your customers – what are they ultimately trying to do. Without this knowledge, how can your new proposition truly satisfy their needs or ensure that you stand out from your competitors in the eyes of your target customers.

In the current climate, businesses who fail to understand the power of proposition development face an uncertain future. Embracing digital propositions – improving the online customer experience – is essential for businesses wishing to stay connected to customers. Focus needs to be given to understanding current customer demands and responding to market changes in order for businesses to survive.

Top tips when creating a digital proposition

1. Identify what’s the reason behind the reason – understand the higher needs of your customers.

2. Don’t be afraid to test – push the boundaries of testing and allow experimentation internally. Accept failure, it’s not a bad thing, providing you use it to inform the next thing.

3. Find the value category you currently offer and try to tap into both the objective and subjective value.

4. Don’t be afraid to pivot – it’s likely your current value is no longer valuable, a strategic switch in direction may be what’s needed

5. Involve your customers – design for them and design with them. You’ll build further loyalty and they’re your core audience

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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