We work so hard to build the structure of our media empires – put so much time, effort, and money into making everything just right – that we can sometimes lose perspective. The structure that we have built and implemented becomes indistinguishable from the business itself.
So, while the landscape of our field changes and best practices shift, our businesses remain the same: static and unchanged.
This is particularly problematic for media firms in the 21st century, as customer behaviors and marketing strategies change more rapidly than ever before. By struggling with your current IT architecture, you could be rendering your media business too inflexible to respond to changes in the market. With this in mind, it might be time to rethink your IT architecture.
The direct-to-consumer model
The endgame of marketing has always been to reach each and every consumer with custom-made communication that speaks directly to them. For decades, however, this has been considered impossible and impractical. Instead, each new development in marketing has inched ever closer to this goal, without hope of actually reaching it.
This has led us, particularly in the media industry, to develop increasingly sophisticated audience segmentation, lead scoring, and consumer data collection, as well as other techniques designed to eliminate mass marketing from the vocabulary of the modern business owner.
In its place is the direct-to-consumer model – a more personalized and client-oriented marketing philosophy.
A few years ago, this would have put a media business head and shoulders in front of the competition in terms of customer satisfaction and retention. However, things have changed. Consumer expectations have shifted. Customers now expect to be treated in an individual and highly personal manner and to be able to leverage the advantages that come with this.
Failing to deliver on this leads to businesses getting left behind in the market.
If technology now supports direct-to-consumer marketing, and this is a viable way for businesses to develop strong relationships with their customers, why isn’t it more widely adopted? To put it simply: why isn’t everyone doing it?
One reason is IT architecture. Many firms are still reliant upon architecture designed for yesterday’s market, and which struggles to support the high levels of data insight required to make the direct-to-consumer approach work. This is the IT impediment which has torpedoed the recent marketing initiatives of many business owners, leaving them unsure of which move to make next. In fact, business owners have suddenly found themselves in a bit of a bind.
On the one hand, their reliance upon physical servers, inefficient data collection methods, and outmoded storage and management structures are leading to them being left behind in the market. Meanwhile, on the other hand, they cannot afford to simply shut down their businesses for X amount of time while their systems are brought up to speed. The dilemma is a serious one.
In their heart of hearts, these business owners understand that adaptability is key, and that their approach to IT architecture is due for a rethink. But, how can this be achieved?
Back in 2015, Gartner posited a solution: bimodal IT. In layman’s terms, bimodal IT simply refers to a two-step model; i.e. the deployment of a modern, digital IT structure atop the existing architecture. As the business begins to make gains with the digital IT system, they can transfer IT duties from the old to the new, achieving a seamless transition.
Achieving the transition to a flexible next-generation media platform
Let’s look at some examples of forward-thinking media companies who have successfully made the transition to a new IT platform that delivers more agility to media companies and supports new business models and behaviors.
A US-based educational publisher has successfully transformed from a book publisher to a products and digital services company. The go-to-market offerings have dramatically changed as the content is digitized and any combination of items can be bundled together into a package that can be sold on an on-demand or subscription basis. The company has transformed its digital core and rethought customer-facing business processes to accommodate new requirements for subscription-based services and the desire to move more into the direct-to-consumer market.
A European classic print media company was losing advertisers and subscribers. In response, it sought to improve efficiency through digitalization and gain value-added time to explore new business areas, support customer retention, and obtain new customers.
The company standardized and consolidated processes for the complex organization structures in its 100 companies across the world and achieve the transparency and flexibility needed to create new systems in new business units. With real-time insights across all departments, the publisher transformed business both internally and externally.
Another European print media company was facing significant threats due to digitalization and free content online and a dramatic decrease of advertising and subscription revenue. The company was looking for a solution to link content across titles, events, and other offers – all tailored to the specific needs of the consumer.
With an online commerce platform, they implemented a flexible, integrated, paid-content platform serving several payment wall types, ideally suited to publishing’s subscription-based business models.
So what does the ideal IT architecture look like? After you have successfully transitioned from the inflexibility of the old, what can you expect from the new?
Below you will find some of the hallmarks of a robust, flexible, and highly capable and modern IT solution. These will, in turn, support the deployment of a direct to consumer business model.
Businesses need to know their consumer base inside out. What do they want from your products and services? What is their background? What are their major motivating factors? The more knowledge a business can gain from their customers, the better.
An effective IT architecture will be agile enough to collect data in each and every channel where interaction takes place. While traditional systems have struggled to adapt to the omnichannel environment we exist in today, digital IT structures can gather information from a variety of sources and pull this information together, ready for real-time deployment.
It is difficult to overstate the true power of data insight. A modern, digital-based IT architecture is able to achieve more than ever from the data we collect. Through advances in machine learning, data can be interpreted and fed into predictive calculations to give us a far-reaching understanding of future shifts in the market.
This provides us with a fairly reliable model of what we can expect from our business and from the ecosystem it exists within, influencing and directing our decision making.
One of the key stumbling blocks of earlier, outmoded IT setups was Big Data. Or, more specifically, the storage and deployment of this data.
This is because data has changed, particularly in terms of volume. More data was produced between 2013 and 2015 than in the whole of human history leading up to that point. This rate of increase is growing.
There is almost (“almost” being an important word here) too much data, so we need powerful and intelligent IT systems to make sense of it. Through artificial intelligence, cloud storage structures, and robust data-management platforms, we can wield the data we need and gain the insight necessary to engage the consumer in the right way.
Narrowing your audience
It is this knowledge and insight that provides businesses with the capability required to narrow their audience. By knowing and understanding the customer and his or her motivations, businesses can create precision-targeted marketing strategies with devastatingly effective results.
Not only this, but business owners can ensure that these strategies are cost effective. The days of prohibitive expense and guesswork in relation to this kind of marketing are behind us. All that is necessary to achieve a high-quality, direct-to-consumer business model is a move to digital IT architecture, and the shift in company philosophy that is sure to come with it.
Perhaps it is time to give your IT structures a rethink.
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