BUSINESS EYE: Ignore digital at your business’s peril

There is a relentless, powerful revolution taking place in the world of commerce.

Most of us are aware of it, but too few have adjusted fully to what it means for our businesses.

The ways we each consume knowledge, browse and shop have seen seismic, permanent shifts. There are profound consequences for all businesses of all sizes.

Two years ago my lighting business saw requests for 35,000 catalogues. This year, for the same advertising spend, we will mail fewer than 10,000 booklets, yet our sales are growing. How come? More and yet more prospects are comfortable to browse, self-inform and shop online. Your website matters more today than it did yesterday.

To put the shift into context, the circulation of the UK’s top 10 national newspapers fell by over 40 per cent between 2001 and 2014. The same period saw a proliferation in the number of TV channels, each finding a niche audience. New digital TV channels mean advertisers can target specific demographics. On Sky, for example, are you aware that you don’t see the same adverts as your neighbours?

The changes have ushered in big changes in how advertising budgets are spent. Last year alone saw a 16 per cent uplift in digital advertising, 11 per cent on radio and eight per cent on TV. Meanwhile classified and display advertising spend in the press dropped by seven per cent.

The reason is simple. Far from being the sole domain of the young, the digital space is now used daily by over 60 per cent of those aged 55 and above. Seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of social media users, and they have money to spend.

It’s easy to see why advertisers like their digital campaigns. It is not only possible to rifle-target it on to, for example, sewing enthusiasts on Facebook, but also to tie sales to spend so you can learn what works, and what doesn’t. Ignore digital, stay a secret.

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