Digital business is social business27 Mar 2014
Digital technology is enabling businesses to connect with customers in new ways – and the best are recognised by the National Business Awards, writes Alex Evans
Big or small, pure-play or multichannel, mobile or social - any business optimising digital technology to connect with customers or communities could be shortlisted for Digital Business of the Year.
The Beans Group, named Digital Business of the Year in 2013, was recognised for its innovative approach to engaging its target audience via web, social and mobile platforms. “All our content is curated especially for the student market and the website covers three key areas: offers, entertaining articles and student-friendly jobs,” explains Founder James Eder. “Expanding our reach across social and mobile platforms has helped us be where our audience are.”
Digital technology is enabling new, disruptive models of business. It’s also enabling businesses of all sizes to build communities from their customer base and, increasingly, make them advocates to refer new customers.
This approach distinguished two other digital businesses that have won National Business Awards – Zaggora in 2012 and Naked Wines in 2011.
Zaggora launched its now-iconic hotPants brand on Facebook in 2011 and now has over 12,000 customer ambassadors. The brand credits its phenomenal growth to the power of social media and its ability to provide invaluable peer-to-peer recommendation.
“Zaggora’s simple business model impressively demonstrates the potential of social commerce, and clearly showed the scale in sales and growth that can be achieved on a low budget,” said judge Andrew McClelland, COO of e-retail trade body IMRG.
“Our business wouldn’t exist without the internet, and winning this award wouldn’t have been possible without the tweets, comments on Facebook and online endorsement from all of our fans, followers and customers,” said Malcolm Bell, co-founder and CEO of Zaggora.
Naked Wines has won numerous awards for democratising the wine industry through social media. It’s disruptive model is called the 'Virtuous Circle': thousands of subscribers (called Naked Wine Angels) ‘invest’ from £20 a month; with the total amount put towards future orders; which is used to fund independent winemakers in exchange for preferential prices on exclusive wines; which is passed back to customers.
The model is designed around the customer and the enabling power of the web. For example, it set up a feedback group called Naked 2.0, to share new website functionality and ideas with customers before they go live. It even invited its top 50 customers to launch its Naked MarketPlace – which empowers its customers to barter and pay what they think is fair (which increased both site traffic and sales).
After receiving his award for Online Business of the Year in 2011, Founder & CEO Rowan Gormley said: “The confrontational ways of doing business are being overtaken by a more collaborative, more friendly model.”
This collaborative, friendly approach should be a key element in any digital strategy and it’s unsurprising that big businesses like Kia, Beko and even Which? are working with social commerce specialists like Reevoo to increase customer loyalty and engagement.
“Technology is here to enable you to engage with consumers on a personal level, in a trusted manner, influencing their purchase decisions. This is true social commerce,” explains Richard Anson, Founder of Reevoo.
While much of the focus of innovation in this area has been in e-retail, it’s also being applied elsewhere. “There is clear evidence that the B2B market is emulating the success of its B2C cousin in terms of technology, engagement and quality of service,” observes McClelland. “After all, whether shopping for ourselves or ‘procuring’ for a business, we are all consumers at heart with the same attitudes, preferences and behaviours.”
The Digital Business of the Year award recognises any organisation that has optimised online - whether it’s small businesses using digital to punch above their weight, or big businesses to deliver a more personalised or tailored service.
The National Business Awards are now open and the deadline for entries is 23rd May. To find out more about the Digital Business of the Year award and how to enter visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk.