David Brunnen

Creating New Markets in the Digital Economy

As business leaders start the New Year there’s growing understanding of the impacts of the digital economy.

Without expending too much effort most firms have gained savings from reduced transaction costs, easier access to distant markets and the general relief from those niggling everyday hassles that get in the way of doing business. Harvesting these low-hanging fruits was easy – all that was needed was open mind, a modicum of ICT literacy and a decent digital connection.

But 2013 promises to be far more challenging. The digital economy is gathering pace – and if you don’t believe it take a quick look at the Government Data Service. ‘Digital by Default’ is not some wishful thinking plan destined for the digital recycling centre. The pace of change over the past year has been impressive; the public sector is taking the lead and bolstering the understanding that there is no part of the UK economy that is not being touched by digital digits.

In the coming year the inequalities between businesses that are switched-on to the new realities and those who are slow on the uptake will be profound. Digitalisation makes life easier – but it changes the rules. The digital transformation could be a positive force for rebalancing the economy across sectors and regions, or it may reveal that the imbalances will get even greater – reflecting the quality of local leadership and disparities in urban and rural digital infrastructures.

But for businesses of all sizes and ambitions 2013 will be about much more than the adequacy of local connectivity. The disruptions in the way we all do business may be thought of as creative and long overdue but for those who will see their markets vanish – rendered unnecessary by newly empowered customers – the search for new opportunities should start now. For a good selection of useful clues the opinions gathered for Nesta’s ‘13 for 2013’ is a good place for reflection in the dying days of the old year.

But if business leaders need to drill deeper, this is the time to reconsider the meanings of ‘value’ and ‘worth’. The central challenge – how to refashion products and redesign business propositions to match the changing value perceptions of customers – is now the subject of a new book, ‘Value and Worth: Creating New Markets in the Digital Economy’ by Irene Ng. Written from her academic position, as Professor of Marketing at Warwick University, the work builds on her considerable business experience. The book’s messages will be hugely encouraging for switched-on business leaders, but, for reluctant travellers, coming to terms with this digitalised economy will be a massive upheaval.

‘Make of it what you will’, our brief review of Professor Ng’s book, tries to capture the sense of co-creation that lies at the heart of changing customer perceptions of values. There seems little doubt that readers who undertake the journey through these ten chapters will take away a mix of messages – and what they learn will inform their fortunes throughout 2013 and beyond.

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