Digital agencies – a place for product and service innovation

This year’s Society of Digital Agencies (SODA) report into the digital media industry concluded that 1 in 5 clients will, in the long term, look to their lead digital agency for product/service innovation. To clarify, we’re not talking about innovations or campaigns in marketing but innovations in product and service development – the very things they’re trying to sell.

Here are four reasons why this insight will change the remit of digital agencies.

We get change so we deliver accordingly

A great digital agency innovates to deliver products that resonate with users. Because the digital landscape is changing rapidly the solutions agencies deliver also need to evolve. This iterative way of approaching software development and digital services could suit any type of product, especially one where the market conditions have changed or are in the process of change.

R/GA successfully contributed to the product development of the Nike+ FuelBand. A crucial part in Nike’s ecosystem the FuelBand tracks user’s movements and provides a daily ‘Nike Fuel’ score that can be gamified and socially shared. R/GA provided strategic, creative and technical input into the entire customer/user experience turning an expensive bracelet into an innovative product.

We got skills

Another key insight in the SODA report was that agencies are offering more digital education and training to clients, developing incubators/labs to encourage/prototype innovation and increase IP development. Innovation is increasingly becoming part of the values of great digital agencies.

This culture is all about finding new ways to solve problems or make life easier for people. Amongst your roster of suppliers who is best to look to for this type of thinking? Turn to the guys who do it every day.

Call on the strategist with his pursuit for the insightful truth. Hit up the UX guru and her customer centred design approach. Ask for the creative team who generate wow-cepts and pixel perfect designs. Talk to the tech lead for his experience in delivering new technologies. Rely on the production team who start with the unknown and deliver the goods. Last but not least, contact the suit – you’ll have their number and they can make it all happen.

So digital agencies have the culture and the talent to bring new ideas to any table.

We’re experiencing a digital revolution

Digital is the biggest development in the history of mankind since the Industrial revolution. Today’s pioneers are digital innovators. 16 out of the top 20 most innovative companies this year are tech companies. Out of the remaining 4 only one was included for non-digital related thinking – Seechange Health worked out that by incentivising healthier living they could reduce the cost of health insurance. Oh wait – they do so by a tech solution that is ‘behind some of the largest and most successful consumer engagement and health incentive programs in the US.’ So there you go – the top 20 most innovative companies this year are all pushing the digital envelope.

The top 20 list also highlights the growing trend towards ‘the internet of things’ which is a lovely way of saying ‘more connected stuff’. Some examples were recently listed by Harvard Business Review and they include Daimler Group’s investment into mobile services such as car2gomyTaxi, and moovel; GE using the “Industrial Internet” for engineering services; LG promoting the idea of “smart homes” with IP-enabled televisions, home appliances and related services. This shows a conscience shift from companies focussing on traditional products to web-based services. Old school producers in traditional fields from toys, movies, t-shirts, drugs or cars are suddenly not only competing with their traditional competitors; they are also been taken on by new digital players. So to digitise the physical is crucial and a digital agency is in a great position to assist the progression.

We understand the why

Finally, to innovate successfully you need to solve the right problem.

Burdened marketers have many pressures. No one wants to buy product X because they prefer competitors products, our after care isn’t as good as the product itself etc etc.

We can communicate how great the products benefits are but at the end of the day the overall experience is a let down.  However, it is this very challenge that digital agencies can help you do something about by understanding why the product is struggling and encouraging conversations and feedback that provides data the Board can relate to.

Understanding ‘the why’ can often result in a road less travelled where we occasionally fall over but persevere through research, whiskey and old fashioned courage.

So embrace the changing landscape, up skill and be brave. Talk to your digital agency – not just about your Facebook likes – but all of your business problems.

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