5 things startups need to consider when creating a digital identity
Whether it’s an online fashion business or a breakthrough idea for a new financial service, starting a business today will invariably require some elements of a digital journey between the product or service and the end user, if not in its entirety.
Consumers expect to be able to easily find and interact with almost every type of brand digitally and across multi-platforms. They will want to experience a seamless journey between all the different touchpoints, including in-person interactions.
For this reason, the digital identity and functions of a business are as integral to its success as the people and products behind it, defining large aspects of the ongoing relationship that a customer will have with a brand.
Getting the strategy right from the very start will not only create a solid platform for success and growth, it will also be pivotal in differentiating the business from its competitors. This, in turn, will prove crucial in securing onward funding, so don’t be afraid to workshop all of the ideas below to ensure that you’re setting off in the right direction.
In this article we’ll outline the top five considerations that every startup should make when setting out to establish its digital identity and function.
1) Understand your customer base before deciding on technologies
Defining how your business idea will play out in the digital space is one of the most important first steps for a startup and it needs to be determined by how and where your customers will use and interact with technology.
Are you making your products and services as accessible and inclusive to everyone within your target audience as possible? There won’t be one answer to this, as everyone uses technology differently, but you’re going to need to find a solution that meets your customers exactly where they like to play.
Carefully consider the profile of your target customers and create personas based on things such as their age, location, lifestyle, job role, responsibilities, as well as any restrictions, special needs or specific desires they might have when it comes to your business. These factors will heavily influence an individual's preferred types of interactions with your business.
You will probably be trying to reach more than one persona too, but the key thing is to define and understand each of them before making any decisions on the role that technology can play in making your business more accessible or appealing to them.
2) Don’t overstretch for the sake of it - find and unify the right platforms for your business
Technology is a very broad church – some of it will be absolutely crucial to the functionality of your business or the concept of your brand, while other features or platforms won’t.
For example, take a business that wants to combine a physical leisure activity, such as yoga or golf, with an onward relationship with each customer. This business will want to focus on making sure that its digital content includes things such as the ability to host useful multimedia resources like training videos, personalised progress trackers or channels to interact with the instructor for feedback.
On the other hand, with the focus very much on the one-to-one relationship, perhaps other features might just overcomplicate things, like hosting lots of generic information about the sport, or an active Twitter feed that’s trying to communicate with the masses.
Take what you need and refine it to perfection. You can always add in more elements and channels as and when they become relevant.
3) The experience you offer is your niche, so make it central to your digital strategy
Creating a completely unique business from the ground up is near impossible these days. Whatever idea you’ve got, unless your timing is perfect or it’s a totally revolutionary concept, there’s a good chance there’s already a business out there doing something similar. But as they say, if you can’t be the first, then be the best.
From a digital perspective this means making your user experience as simple, clean and friendly as possible. It requires a great deal of careful consideration over everything from the layout of branding, fonts, imagery and colour palettes, to how easy the customer journey is made from the very first interaction through exploring the information and then converting into sales.
With so much choice out there, consumers can afford to be ruthless when they come up against any type of barrier to their experience, so work hard to remove them all. On the other hand, it’s amazing how a strong mobile App or a compelling user experience can put leagues between you and the competition, startup or not.
Most of this will be outside your skillset, so working with UX/UI experts will be essential. Of course, this doesn’t mean handing over full control. Instead, a good agency will want to work through the important decisions with you and be a part of the process, working together to achieve the excellent user experience and design that will differentiate the business.
4) Listen to feedback
On this note, you should always make yourself open to criticism and advice from the experienced people around you. If you’re in the process of testing new ideas, be sure to broaden your network and reach out to potential partners as much as possible - their honesty and trust will prove invaluable as your business grows and develops.
Lean on the experts as they can help you deliver best practice while you focus on your own priorities. Everyone will have an opinion about design, for example, but often you also have to trust and hand over some control to design and technology experts. Again, a good partner will want to be a part of this process and the best way to get to the crux of important decisions will be to workshop them with a group of people and experts that you can trust.
Equally, surround yourself with friends and family that aren’t afraid to challenge you. You need to have people around you that will give honest feedback, that will deliver for you when you need them, and that will make recommendations that put you and your business first.
5) Forget what your business is; consider why it is
Today’s consumers are less concerned with what your business is doing and far more concerned with why it exists in the first place. Where’s your company’s place in the world? What’s its agenda? What problem does it solve? What social injustice does it endeavour to put right?
So how do you make sure that this comes through in your digital presence? Technology can be a great enabler. Perhaps you want to redefine customer service in your field, then how about including a helpful chatbot, or making it as easy as possible for a customer to get in touch with a real person via a video call.
Perhaps there is a focus on getting deliveries to customers as quickly as possible - then tie in a helpful booking system and creative delivery trackers to keep customers up to date on progress. Yes, the values should be communicated when talking about the business, but to be authentic they also need to be lived, and there are a multitude of ways to leverage technology in achieving this.
Over three-quarters (77%) of today’s consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that proudly wears its values on its sleeve. It’s never been more important for your start-up to figure out who it is, why it exists and what it brings to the table beyond the products or services it offers. So why does your business exist? Now there’s a good starting point to consider!