- IMD Business School
Digital Transformation

What is Digital Strategy? 8 Foundations for Success

Digital strategy has become an integral part of business processes. Companies that don’t innovate with digital services and strategies are left behind. 

Take brands like Blockbuster, RadioShack, and BlackBerry. At one time, they were kings of their industry. But because they ignored digital trends and developments and failed to innovate, they lost their place to their competitors.

We don’t want that to be your brand’s story. Learning the ins and outs of digital strategy will help. Let’s start off by looking at what a digital strategy is and how it works.

  1. What is digital strategy?
  2. What are the foundations of digital strategy?
  3. What are some examples of successful digital strategies?
  4. How to gain a deeper understanding of digital strategies at IMD?

What is digital strategy?

A digital strategy is essentially an organization’s roadmap of how it will use digital technologies to reach its goals.

Every business and industry will have a slightly different digital strategy. 

For example,  a digital marketing company might look at tools that help them with  digital channels like social media and email. Healthcare providers, on the other hand, would be more interested in technology and digital services like telemedicine and artificial intelligence.

Whether you have a small business or run a huge company, there are digital platforms and tools that can help you grow your business. 

It all starts with having a solid strategy.

What are the foundations of digital strategy?

1. Set clear goals and objectives

Your goals will be a major driver in how you build your strategy, including what tools and tactics you use. 

The main question here is, what do you want to achieve with your strategy?

Here are a few common goals that companies set:

  • Increase sales
  • Reduce costs
  • Improve customer service 
  • Build brand awareness
  • Increase collaboration
  • Create partnerships

As you lay out your goals, the more specific you can be, the better. Don’t just say you want to increase sales. Set a reasonable goal to increase sales by X amount by a specific date. This will help you measure your progress in tangible ways.

2. Understand your target audience

Who are you trying to reach with your digital strategy? 

Create a clear picture of who they are, including their needs, wants, thoughts, and concerns.

This will help you mold your messaging and content, as well as determine what digital tools will best serve your target audience. 

3. Choose the right channels

These channels are how you reach your audience — but not all channels are created equal. 

Some digital media channels are very goal-focused. For example, if your goal is mainly to increase brand awareness, social media and website optimization will help. But if you want to nurture leads you already have, then you’ll need tools to support an email marketing strategy.Which channel you choose may also come down to your audience. If you’re trying to reach B2B professionals, you’ll be more productive using a channel like LinkedIn over a popular Gen-Z-focused channel like TikTok

4. Create high-quality content

Content is the foundation of a good digital strategy, and high-quality content ensures that your foundation is a stable one.

Content includes all the digital assets that make up your business, including an official website, e-commerce store, blogs, and social media.

If your content is not high-quality, people won’t engage with it. 

High-quality content is well-written, informative, and engaging. Whether your content educates or entertains your audience, it should do it well.

How do you do this?If you decide to create your digital content in-house, then take the time to research your subject and create content that both educates and engages your audience. Make sure to edit or review it before using it to make sure there are no glaring mistakes that could distract from your objective.

5. Use data to track your results

Tracking your results is essential to your strategy. After all, how else will you know whether you’ve reached your goal or how close you came to it?Tracking metrics helps you see what in your strategy is working and what is a waste of time. Knowing this, you can make data-driven decisions and adjustments to your strategic plan.

6. Be patient and persistent

In digital strategy, there are no quick fixes. While you may see short-term results, it’s really about playing the long game. 

It takes time — and some trial and error — to build a successful digital strategy. So don’t expect to see results overnight. Be patient and persistent. 

If you stick with it, you will eventually achieve your goals.

7. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends

The digital landscape is constantly changing with new platforms, tools, and tactics. If you don’t keep up with those changes, you risk falling behind your competitors. 

When it comes to digital strategy, it’s essential to adapt your strategy in line with the latest trends. 

Let’s take the e-commerce industry as an example. Many companies in this space have adopted augmented reality into their strategy. Using this previously untapped technology, companies have given their customers a more immersive shopping experience. It’s the closest thing to in-person shopping that people can get online — delighting customers and putting brands ahead of their competitors.

8. Be creative and innovative

At the end of the day, digital strategy is all about forward motion. The best strategies leverage creativity and innovation to bring new opportunities and ideas to the table. 

So don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. It could lead to a dead end, or it could lead to a brilliant discovery that makes a splash in your industry.

Either way, the more creative you are, the more likely you are to stand out from the competition.

“Digital transformation is a fundamental reality for businesses today.” – Warren Buffet

What are some examples of successful digital strategies?

Let’s look at digital strategies in action, with three standout examples of brands that are winning at digital right now.

 - IMD Business School

Nike

Nike is a leading sportswear company that has successfully used digital technologies to improve its customer experience, increase sales, and gain a competitive advantage.

Nike’s digital ecosystem includes a strong focus on social media, mobile, and e-commerce — and the company is crushing it.

Among its digital wins, it has 100 million followers on social media and its own mobile app with 50 million users. Not only that, but it has built up its e-commerce presence to the point that its online sales account for over 30% of total sales

By transitioning its business strategy to take advantage of digital tools and tactics, Nike has edged ahead of other sportswear brands and remains relevant to its audience. 

 - IMD Business School

Zappos

Zappos is an online retailer that has built a reputation for excellent customer service. 

Most of Zappos’ digital strategy has focused on providing customers with a personalized and convenient shopping experience. 

Zappos uses data analytics to track customer behavior and preferences, and it uses this information to personalize its website and marketing campaigns. 

Because of its focus on the customer experience, Zappos has gone a step further than its competitors. This includes offering free shipping and returns, as well as a 24/7 customer service team that is available to answer questions and resolve issues.

It is this strategy focused on customer service and personalization that has won Zappos loyal customers and a great brand reputation.

 - IMD Business School

Netflix

Netflix is a streaming service that has disrupted the traditional television and movie industry.

Netflix’s digital strategy focuses on providing users with a personalized and convenient streaming experience. Netflix uses data analytics to track user behavior and preferences, and it uses this information to recommend movies and TV shows that users will enjoy.

Netflix also offers a variety of subscription plans at different price points so that users can choose the plan that best fits their needs.

Not only has Netflix spearheaded changes in the TV and movie industry, but its digital strategy has continued to push the fold of how intuitive and easy streaming can be.

Gain a deeper understanding of digital strategies at IMD

Taking the time to integrate digital initiatives into your business model can help you streamline your company and thrive in your industry for many years to come.

Ready to take your digital strategy to the next level? Enroll in IMD’s online Digital Strategy, Analytics & AI course and gain a deeper understanding of how to integrate AI into your business model. 

With advances in generative artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, you have the opportunity to make smarter decisions, build better business models, and unlock new value for your customers. Our comprehensive program offers a framework that seamlessly combines digital strategy, data analytics, and AI, allowing you to thrive in the era of digital transformation. 

Over five days, you’ll explore platform ecosystems and discover how they differ from traditional business models. Gain the knowledge you need to connect platform strategy with data analytics, AI, and your overall data strategy. Through hands-on experiential learning, you’ll acquire practical tools and the confidence to leverage digital strategies, analytics, and AI, ultimately creating a sustainable competitive advantage for the long term. 

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to revolutionize your digital approach. Enroll today and propel your business forward.

Discover more about our Digital Strategy, Analytics and AI program »