Start-ups and innovation

The seven deadly sins of digitalization

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Everyone is talking about digitalization. It affects private individuals as well as companies and is discussed a great deal, either in the press, at events, trade fairs or in presentations. It creates promising expectations and demonstrates wonderful and successful business models. However, it is driven less by its great promise than by a company’s approach, experience and handling of it. In this article, we collate these experiences and sum up the seven deadly sins of digitalization.

1. User Jungle vs. User Journey

For websites with a commercial background, the important thing is never to confuse the customer. Keep it simple - this is the number one rule in digitalization, but it is also one of the greatest challenges. As a company, companies naturally want to showcase their products, range of services and values, but this often happens to the detriment of customers who get lost and often have no interest whatsoever in what is being presented to them. According to studies, they actually decide in the first ten seconds (at most, often less than that!) of their first visit to a website whether they are bored or not on the site.

Simple usability is therefore called for. But how simple does simple have to be? From experience, websites are either run by agencies that are relatively far removed from the company’s actual business and products, or by staff who implement the requirements of the respective areas. And of course everyone wants to have their say. Everyone on the project knows what a good website should look like, everyone would ideally like to tell visitors what is on offer. They would ideally place the "About us" page right at the front. And then pack all business terms and conditions, multi-page product descriptions, reports, personal statements and vast amounts of sub-pages onto the websites and into the navigation.

Does a lot help a lot? No. Most customers get rather confused or bored by too much text, technical terms and pictures with no meaning. To be able to empathize better with customers, companies should ask themselves the following questions:

1.       When customers access the website via a smartphone (without scrolling!), do they actually know what they are getting?

2.       When did you last view your own website and call up every (!) navigation point?

3.       Open your own website and try to navigate it through the eyes of your customers and understand the content. Do you understand everything?

Keep it simple - this is the number one rule in digitalization

but it is also one of the greatest challenges.

2. Me-Commerce vs. E-Commerce

The content of digital channels is often set out in a way that suits the company and its staff, but not necessarily the customers. "We should put that on the web too" is something often heard and found in the corporate context. Products that a company would like to sell, services and endless discounts are then put into webshops.

This approach is of course understandable. The company thinks that customers should appreciate and will be impressed by the full range of goods and services. But often it is simply too much and customers can no longer make up their minds. Take the decision away from them. Place the highest selling online product or products in the foreground. This is how you boost your sales rather than trying to present customers with products that don’t sell well anyway.

Remember: New products are created and business cases set out especially for the digital channel. Companies are often surprised that customers buy what they want and not what the company wants. The same applies to e-commerce as to classic sales: You first have to build up trust. Customers on the web initially buy simple and cheap products. If everything has worked well, they return to make another purchase.

With this in mind: Begin to use your website and webshop for the benefit of customers, staff and business partners, not for the benefit of the company. 

3. Tragic Moments vs. Magic Moments

Every company dreams of creating magic moments, i.e. moments that inspire customers, and ideally of prompting them to make a purchase.

Unfortunately this moment all too often becomes a tragic moment for customers. They see banners everywhere that pop up all over the web and suddenly offer cheap flights, hotels or shoes. But this is just after they have searched for these flights, hotels or shoes. And even worse: ads also pop up when the purchase has already been made.

To avoid this, customers should be intercepted beforehand and their needs identified. Discover what inspires them in the right and important moment. Find out why customers didn’t buy anything or at least didn’t contact you. Essentially: Try to identify your customers’ needs and sell them what they want and need.

At this point you should be asking yourself the following questions as a company:

  1. What are the needs of the customer who is sitting in front of a PC or smartphone? What inspires him, what enthuses him - can I guess what he wants? What inspires the customer at the right moment?
  2. Challenge the know-your-client credo: How are companies supposed to get to know customers if they haven’t spoken to them?
  3. Who are these customers who order products from me at the weekend, who is actually surfing my website and how did they find it? 

Every company dreams of creating magic moments, i.e. moments that inspire customers, and ideally of prompting them to make a purchase.

Unfortunately this moment all too often becomes a tragic moment for customers.

4. Small Brain vs. Big Data

"Data is the new gold" - but if gold isn’t processed and refined properly, it isn’t worth much either. Thousands of reports from analytics tools, endless data from users and customers, structured and unstructured, are on offer - companies potentially know a great deal about customers. But does the customer feel they are getting any benefit from this? The problem lies in turning the question around: Companies have a great deal of customer data and initially think what to do with it rather than thinking before the analysis what their precise aim is and what data they need for it.

They don’t need big data, but the right data. In short: A company does not need to know the customer’s shoe size and favorite meal if it wants to sell vacuum cleaners. But it should know the customer’s living arrangements and circumstances.

For the next Google Analytics report, ask yourself what precisely you should do with it and what practical steps should be taken. What kind of conclusions can you draw from it in the sales context? The aim is to apply an optimization process in service and sales based on data. The simple "good to know" approach does not generate any sales without practical measures. 

5. Single Channel vs. Omnichannel

Other important sales channels are often forgotten ahead of brash digitalization. Mainly those that are offline. For example, think of the unique experience of a weekly market, whether at home or on holiday - you talk to the trader, he tells you where the fruit came from and how it was cultivated, you hold the goods, smell and feel them. These markets have been going for more than 10,000 years and they’ll keep on going.

Obviously a great deal has changed and there has clearly been a shift from offline to online shopping. However, coordination across sales channels and a multi-channel shopping experience is crucial for customers - this is referred to in technical jargon as omnichannel management. Unfortunately many companies have opened up webshops in addition to their classic sales channels without adapting their business model and organization. What incentive is there for sales staff in the shop if they prompt the customer to conveniently buy the product online at home after a consultation? Do your sales staff know that the customer was already on the internet or had a look there afterwards?

With all due respect to digitalization: personal contact should not be underestimated in business of the future either. Nonetheless, in sales, the salesperson should always try to be more of a partner and advisor to the customer and not just be technically competent, but above all, they should be experienced and familiar with the products. This is because customers are better informed and more prepared than ever before because of the internet. If at this point an advisor also knows the customer and can link personal advice with life circumstances, there is not much to prevent a deal being struck. 

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6. Mobile Last vs. Mobile First

For many users, smartphones and tablets have become closer companions than their own partners or friends, and smartphone usage is still increasing. These customers are looking to be intercepted.

More than 30% of online purchases are now made using mobile devices. More than 90% of access to social media content takes place using mobile devices. Unfortunately not all companies have recognized this and still invest relatively little in mobile websites or social media posts. The result is too much text, endless navigation points, unscalable images or text that is too small.

The motto is "reduce to the max". Web designers, developers and content managers should have the possibility of developing sites specifically for small screens. This way they would recognize and minimize the effort of scrolling without a mouse, excessively long menu titles, minute image captions or lack of functions on mobile devices. A small screen cannot and should not be a carbon copy of the web browser. Reduce to the essentials.

7. Misruption vs. Disruption

Disruption means destroying everything old and reinventing something new. This revolutionary approach is the current aspiration of many companies and mostly starts with innovation departments and labs, often without achieving the required result. It usually leads to frustration among those involved: no budget, no business case, other priorities are the arguments that creep in after the initial euphoria. Of course there are exceptions, but only if the whole company is also geared towards the disruptive approach in thought and action.

Disruption means changing the company’s whole DNA. Beginning with the product, through processes to sales and marketing. It should lead to a change in the corporate culture. Change needs to be experienced. As companies, you should not start a project that lasts longer than six months - this is because in the digitalization universe, the world will have changed again after this period, with new tools, new trends or changed customer patterns. This also means making processes quicker and introducing them in stages.


Those involved with digitalization should start to use it primarily for the benefit of customers, staff and business partners, not for the benefit of the company. Success will follow if the strategy is implemented intelligently and efficiently. Digitalization and the right approach in thought and action should be securely rooted in the corporate culture in order to be successful. Look at digitalization as a support for your business success and not as the sole factor responsible for failure.

And apart from theoretical knowledge, digitalization needs experience. A tool, webshop or social media account alone do not mean successful digitalization - how it is dealt with is crucial and this needs experience and courage. You and your staff should be confident and just try things out. You will be delighted if simple changes work and bring success.

Good luck and we hope you have good experiences with your digitalization!

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