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We recently attended the Manchester Digital #DigitalRevolution conference hosted at AutoTrader in Manchester. The event, as usual, was another fantastic event full of insights from the digital world and how things are significantly changing for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

With the recent announcement of a £4,00,000 fund for Manchester to support the launch of Tech North, this is a clear commitment how the world is changing and how every businesses needs to adopt digital technologies throughout every aspect of their business. While this isn’t a huge sum of money, it is a great start and builds upon the work from many other digital organisations, groups and partners within the Greater Manchester region.

We first heard from a panel of speakers who took a step back in time to look at where we have come from and how we have got where we are now. Taking Google as the example in comparison to the dominant search engines of the time, Alta Vista and Lycos (if you can remember those!) and looking at how Google managed to gain such an enormous market share. Current data puts Google’s market share in the up at almost 90% which is unbelievable. The one thing they did though is make their search engine easy to use for people. While all other search engines at the time kept adding more features, functionality, content, widgets and other clutter to their homepage, Google kept things simple and just allowed people to search. After all, that is what their entire business model is built on so why get in the way of people searching? In addition to this, Google’s AdWords platform was, and still is, industry leading. To the point whereby there is no real competition to this for targeting potential customers searching for your products or services.

The discussions soon turned to the skills gap that every business currently faces related to digital technology. A topic of conversation at every Manchester Digital event. The point was made about continual learning and about how essential this is for anyone and any business touching on digital. If you don’t move, you get left behind. It really is as simple as this. Whether this is related to personal career development or as a business. The build it once and forget about it approach is not suitable and if this is still your approach, you will soon (if not already) be in a position whereby your website and digital assets are out of date. We take continual learning extremely seriously which is why we are always getting out and about to industry related events, conferences and exhibitions along with sharing our insights on our client friendly blog and our developer blog.

On a personal level for your staff, are you investing enough in their skills and career development? Most companies within the SME bracket aren’t. I’m sure you have heard the saying “What if we invest in training and people leave….What if we don’t invest in training and they stay….” This couldn’t be truer with how fast the digital world moves. We run regular digital training events and also run bespoke training sessions for your individual business needs which cover many of the topics and more listed on our events page.

Next it was reiterated about utilising all of the digital marketing opportunities open to your business, SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Social Media, PR, Branding, Marketing and more. Simply doing things in silos isn’t going to cut it, there needs to be an integrated marketing approach across all channels.

It was also predicted that by 2020 we will have homes with no computers. To the point whereby regular devices around us would allow us to connect with the digital services seamlessly. We have already seen the proliferation of smartphones and how this has changed customers’ lives. Only last year, the BBC announced over 50% of their traffic to iPlayer and recently announced that now over 65% of traffic to the BBC website is now using a mobile or tablet device. This is an enormous change in a very short space of time. Which is one of the reasons why Google recently announced that they are going to be giving a boost in the search engines for mobile friendly websites and penalising websites that aren’t mobile friendly. This point was stressed to the point whereby if your website isn’t being built with a mobile first approach then it is soon going to be obsolete if people simply cannot use key functionality on your website. People are inherently lazy and don’t want to go back to their laptop or desktop computer to complete a task.

Another prediction, which I personally don’t agree with, but it was predicted that Facebook would lose 80% of their users within 5 years. We will see how accurate this prediction was. With over 1 billion monthly active users on Facebook globally, I can’t imagine this changing so dramatically.

Going back to the point about continually investing in all digital areas of your business, we were reminded about how giants can fall with examples cited including Nokia and Blackberry. Continual innovation of your digital assets, products and services is essential to survive.

Discussions soon turned to educational establishments, with a bit of unfair bashing as we are starting to see many leading organisations such as MMU and Salford University running courses designed for the needs of the digital world. That said, there are still many educational establishments who are still running marketing courses that don’t even touch on the digital world, which are totally pointless in this modern day and age we live in.

Google’s recent 5 predictions were highlighted on the day which I’ll expand on a little to put them into context;

  • Acceleration of everything: This needs no further explanation. The rate of change for digital technologies shows no sign of slowing
  • Ubiquitous internet: Internet is soon going to be available anywhere and everywhere. People expect this. Manchester city centre now offers free WiFi, most bars/cafes/restaurants offer free WiFi. This significantly changes how people behave, to the point that they have access to everything from anywhere. This does raise some serious security related issues which we will cover in more detail in another blog post as it is a serious area businesses need to consider and plan for.
  • Any and all screens are a gateway: The idea of a computer has gone. Anything can be a computer these days to the point whereby screens and devices are simply a gateway for you to access anything you need online.
  • Everyone is informed: No longer does information or knowledge have to sit in silos. The Government Dashboard is a prime example of the UK Government leading the way in this area.
  • Internet of Things: This is going to change the world we live in

 

The idea around watching YouTube on the TV, Game of Thrones on the PC, playing games on a mobile device and watching iPlayer on a tablet is natural to the younger generations. There are no longer clear boundaries of what activities you perform on different devices. KPMG put together a global report that looks at The Changing Landscape of Disruptive Technologies [PDF] which is well worth a read through the key statistics and findings. Putting this into perspective, a piece of technology launched a few years ago from NEC was brought up. The technology turns traditional billboards into smart billboards whereby content is personalised to you as a person. The billboards can understand your gender, approximate age, facial recognition and more. Personalised advertising using traditional methods. More information can be found here and here. While I’m not too sure this will come to fruition on the masses, it is never the less interesting technology and shows where the future is heading.

Next we looked at open data and the importance of sharing data across towns, cities and countries. Leeds have the fantastic Leeds Data Mill which shares over 140 open data sets within the city. With data sets ranging from locations of parks, fire stations and more, it is a good starting point to a fully open data platform for anyone to access.

All in all, another insightful event discussing lots of topics that businesses of all types need to take advantage of. With endless changes in the digital world, it can be confusing for a lot of businesses to see how these apply to your own situation. We speak with a lot of companies in very similar situations, whereby they are a little confused about where to start. Let’s meet up for a coffee to see how we can help your business.

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.