How to Stay Competitive in the Digital Era

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 12:44 PM EDT

Adapting to the continually changing needs of the marketplace requires innovation, and at the moment, that means shifting strategies to operate within a digital framework. HarperCollins seems to be on the right track when it comes to leveraging technology to stay competitive.

Samples from 14 new HarperCollins fiction books will be available on iPhone, starting this month. Subscribers can read the first ten pages of chapters one and two, and can then buy or preorder the book within the mobile application. HarperCollins was one the first in the industry to go digital, publishing excerpts of 10,000 titles online.

Jeffrey Rayport of Marketspace, an affiliate of global strategic advisory firm Monitor Group, has some suggestions for staying competitive in the digital era. Although they're aimed at media companies, the information translates for any business with an online presence.

1. Own the audience. Know what your audience wants to see by soliciting consumer feedback and then deliver relevant content. Target your demographic either by location, interest, identity, or condition (e.g., getting married.)

2. Claim the community. Ensure membership has its rewards. You can use contests, surveys, games, or any other interactive tool that allows users to benefit from being a part of your online community.

3. Work the web. Make sure that content flows in and out.

  • Let the outside in. Allow content from the web into your site. You may even want to provide information about your competitors' rates, like Progressive Insurance does. This builds trust, gives confidence, and increases conversions.
  • Let the inside out. Allow syndication of your content and brand through RSS feeds and widgets. Set your content free. 60 percent of YouTube streams are on third-party sites, which lets users do the marketing themselves.
4. Design for the occasion. Customize interfaces for context. Will the user be looking at the information on a web browser? A mobile phone? The user may bypass your site if it is difficult to access from a particular platform.

5. Integrate the experience.Focus on how you can create an overall digital experience for your customers, integrating products, services, and content. American Idol, for example, allows customers to vote via text message, provides interactive activities online, and offers clips that can be downloaded to MP3 players.