The 3 Rules For A Winning Digital Strategy
Research Intelligence

The 3 Rules for a Winning Digital Strategy

by Sarah Mehlman , Sr. Marketing Intelligence Specialist 8 Min.
February 16, 2022 | Updated June 22, 2022

Video killed the radio star – will digital kill the marketing star? Not if you follow a data-driven digital strategy!

The race for digital market leaders is far from decided in most industries. But companies that don’t take up the glove and rise to the challenge may as well drop out of the competition now.

Let me guess; you landed on this page because you’re anxious to enter the ring? We thought so. This article will help you put your digital business strategy together and knock out the competition. Without digital strategy planning, your chances are limited, and you’ll always find yourself a day late or a dollar short.

We’ll explain exactly what a digital strategy is, what it’s made of, and how to create one. Read on and get ready to win the digital game.

What is digital strategy?

A digital strategy is a roadmap to achieving digital transformation. It covers everything in your business plan that requires digital technology.

Your digital strategy roadmap breakdown: a path to digital transformation.

This consists of digital tools, channels, research, assets, platforms, and processes. It also includes the steps necessary to implement new digital technologies and develop new work concepts that alter the business structure and impact every aspect of the business.

Depending on the nature of your business and industry, and the current level of digital maturity, a digital strategy can mean different things. Even for various business units, the significance isn’t the same. Each team or position is affected differently by digitalization and has its own set of expectations regarding a digital strategy.

To make this clear, we’ll walk through the steps to build a digital strategy and examine its components.

Digital strategy planning in 3 steps

According to the BCG (Boston Consulting Group),

“Good digital strategy starts with a rich understanding of the competitive environment and how it’s likely to change.”

This sentence should guide you like a mantra through the first step of your digital strategy building: research.

It’s vital to understand that a digital strategy needs to address your business and competitive landscape as a whole and not merely the digital side of the business.

1. Research

Research your competition in-depth – understand their product offering, marketing, and point of distinction. Who poses a threat to you in which area, and what role do digital technologies play?

It’s critical to understand that digital capabilities change and advance rapidly, constantly opening new possibilities. Identify trends and envision how they might impact the market forces or the customer experience. What does it mean for your business and the market?

Research and analyze your audience. Understand their motivation to consume and how digital affects their behavior. Identify which digital features are attractive and what other digital tools they could be dreaming of. Ask yourself if you can make their lives easier through digital technology.

Analyze your audience to understand what digital tools are attractive to them.

2. Analyze and set goals

This is where many companies throw in the towel. They’re either overwhelmed by the amount of data or have trouble prioritizing. Another common stumbling block is inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated data.

To overcome both these obstacles, it’s vital to work systematically. There are many methods and analytics models that you can use to extract insights from the data you collected – we recommend using SWOT analysis, a competitor map, or other competitive matrices.

Next, turn to dependable sources of information and business intelligence providers. The fresher the data, the better.

With a rich understanding of the competition, audience, and trends, you can set specific goals for your digital strategy. Remember, they need to align with your business goals. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making digital transformation your goal, but the truth is, digital technology must always remain a tool to reach business goals.

3. Build your digital strategy

Building the strategy means translating what you’ve learned into action items. Start by defining how each business unit and operation is affected. The strategy involves the entire company, which means you’ll need to create plans for the various business units or areas in which digital will cause change.

Drill down and determine which internal changes need to happen, what’s required of your staff, and which technologies are necessary. Your plan includes training your teams in the use of the relevant digital technologies and a step-by-step implementation path.

Keep in mind that digital can accomplish almost anything these days, but that’s another trap to be aware of. Make sure to focus only on what you need to achieve your goals and beat the competition.

Common KPIs and goals that are related but aren’t the same and could distract eager marketers.

Now let’s go through the main areas every organization needs to address.

Key components of a digital strategy

  • Online presence

Evaluate your online presence and compare it to the competition. You may need to optimize the user experience on your website, improve your SEO or add marketing channels.

  • Digital marketing

The research has given you a good overview of the channels that work for you and those that work for your competition. You know what your audience is after and can reach them.

Based on your audience’s preferences and your competition’s most successful marketing channels, you can lay out an optimization plan. Most companies will add digital marketing channels because they simply weren’t aware of what’s possible.

  • Customer engagement + supplier integration

Digitalization has made interaction faster and more focused. Your operations need to support digital engagement on many different levels, including payment services, supplier interfaces, and customer support. Ensure external systems connect with you digitally.

  • Mobile technologies

The trend is slow, but steady. Mobile is gaining over desktop. In fact, according to Similarweb data, in December 2021, 65% of traffic was mobile. Here’s the thing: no one expects mobile to replace desktop altogether. It’s more likely that companies need to provide both and adapt their content and functionalities to both.

  • Cloud computing

Cloud computing is the latest addition to the list of essential components that make up a digital strategy. It’s fair to say that no one thinks of digital without also thinking of the cloud service, which is steadily increasing in market share.


Public cloud services end-user spending worldwide from 2017 to 2022 (in billion US$) according to Statista.

  • Data integrity and security

This is becoming increasingly significant even for businesses that aren’t primarily internet-based. For the past few years, personal data protection has been a hot issue; financial integrity is another consideration. Now, with industry 0.4 and IoT, cybersecurity considerations also include physical supply chains and manufacturing.

  • Internal processes

Companies need to ramp up efficiency with digital technologies internally to achieve many of the above improvements. The introduction of digital tools alters the entire internal hierarchy and business structure.

For all these points, evaluate where you stand today and where you want to go. In some areas, you may be more advanced than in others, and that’s OK – it helps you focus your efforts where they’re most needed.

3 rules to always follow when building a digital strategy

3 rules to follow when building your digital strategy.

1. Assess impact and keep options open

Digitalization has forced us to change the way we think about business. We’re experiencing digital technologies being implemented for a specific purpose, but then also bringing benefits to completely unrelated areas. Some opportunities and risks become visible only after implementation.

Since you already know that’s what happens, you can prepare yourself. Evaluate the impact of digital technologies on your business by thinking out-of-the-box. Consider any farfetched scenario for the future and stay flexible. The success of a digital strategy often depends on a company’s ability to adapt to change.

2. Think big

This is the logical consequence of the previous rule. Digital changes often happen faster than we think. Many companies that once leaped forward are out of the game now because they didn’t anticipate the market would simply keep moving forward – think Blockbuster and Netflix.

Plan small steps toward a big goal. Having a vision pays off. Otherwise, by the time you reach your small goal, others who thought bigger and further are already improving on your solution.

3. Be proactive

Keep in mind that the steps you take today are only the beginning of your digital journey. You’re laying a foundation for the future. Digital transformation is still in its early stages and is constantly evolving.

Your digital strategy needs to be scalable and solution-oriented.. An open mind and flexible attitude are essential for the success of your digital strategy. Accept that you may need to try different technologies or approaches before you find what’s best for you.

Digital strategy examples

There are many examples of companies that maintained their market position or established a leading position by implementing a smart digital strategy.

Take Domino’s Pizza or Starbucks, which both quickly created apps for consumers to order, pay, and provide feedback. These are well-known examples that go hand-in-hand with the steps retail stores took to keep up with eCommerce.

It’s critical, however, that you recognize where digital technologies serve you best. Heineken, for example, understood that mobile apps could be valuable on the other side of the supply chain and provided growers and farmers with technology to help them monitor plant health and yield and get professional guidance. The company managed to optimize the production and quality of end products.

Use Similarweb to drive your digital strategy

Remember the mantra that started the digital strategy journey? A rich understanding of your competitive environment and assessing potential changes are critical to a successful digital strategy.

To get that understanding, you need accurate and reliable data that provides actionable insights. Similarweb provides the data to support and facilitate your research and analysis. Our tools are designed for competitive benchmarking and market mapping to allow you to directly compare your company to specific rivals, the best in class, or industry averages. Segment your market to hone in on a group of competitors and investigate any company to your heart’s content

Similarweb also offers advanced audience analysis tools to gain a deep understanding of behavior, preferences, and trends.

In short, you’ll get the digital intelligence you need to support your digital strategy and make your research more efficient, ultimately keeping you nimble and ahead of the curve.

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What is digital strategy?

A digital strategy is a roadmap to implementing digital technologies in business. It’s part of a business strategy and aims to achieve business goals.

Why is digital strategy important?

Digital transformation involves the entire company and impacts every aspect of the business. A data-driven digital strategy lets you keep initiatives synchronized, track the process, and adapt to inevitable changes.

How do you create a digital strategy?

It all starts with research. Cultivate a deep understanding of the competitive environment and your position in the market. Next, set your goals and define what’s necessary to achieve them. Finally, plan the steps to get from where you are to where you want to be.

What’s in a digital strategy?

The digital strategy involves all areas where digital technologies come into play, from web presence to mobile apps, integrations, security, and tools to increase efficiency and more.

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