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Why digital strategies fail


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Digital strategies

Have you ever wondered why the digital strategies adopted by your company are not generating results?

Or are you one of the few who think your company's digital strategy is a winning strategy? If this is the case, congratulations!

An research finished a few years ago by McKinsey showed that only 8% of companies believe that their business models will survive digitization. Only 8% of the companies surveyed said that their current business model would remain economically viable if the sector continued to digitize in its current course and speed.

Companies are used to change. However, the strength and speed with which digital changes occur is unprecedented.

Knowing that the threat is so clear, why do most digital strategies fail?

Most digital strategies do not reflect how digital is changing economic fundamentals, industry dynamics and competition.

This is why some digital strategies don't work:

Tactics and techniques, not strategy

In general I could say that most digital strategies are not strategies, they are just tactics.

Do you think that adopting some digital initiatives constitutes a digital strategy?

A strategy comprises a holistic, long-term view. It must take into account all the nuances of the business and direct it to a future point, with profitability.

What we see most today are companies, agencies and consultants preaching a strategic approach to the most varied activities. Growth strategy, SEO, CRO, SEM, inbound, etc.

Strategies are sold and what we actually have are blocks of activities that are generally disconnected from the business objectives.

Read too: "SEO and PPC: combining for better results

This is even more evident (and it is more serious) in large companies when there is no integrated management of multiple agents (service providers - agencies, consultants, internal staff).

Read too: "Where's the strategy?


When I talk to some leaders about what they mean by digital, some still understand it as the updated term for what their IT department does. It is quite common for SEO and analytics projects to be spearheaded by the IT department and can move away from marketing or BI for example.

Others focus on marketing or digital sales, with no concern for technology and development.

Few have a broad and holistic view of what digital really means.

Beware of vague or mistaken definitions and concepts.

The digital needs to be seen taking into account:

  • Economic impact: radically changing profitability curves.
  • Operationalization: continuous advances in data analysis and connectivity bring new insights and new business models.

Misunderstanding of the digital economy

Unlike non-digital models, the digital economy disproportionately transfers economic value to consumers. This decreases the revenue share across the chain.

At the same time, benefits pathfinders. Pioneers receive the largest share of revenue, those who move quickly receive a little and those who delay or not move are left behind.

Simply defending a position in the market is no longer a winning strategy (something that often happened outside of digital).

Executives need to quickly learn how to compete, create value for customers and keep a little for themselves in a world of ever-decreasing profits.

Take Tesla as an example. Tesla “Captured” the value of the first engine in electric vehicles. Seven years ago, existing automakers could have bought Tesla for about USD 4 billion. Nobody made the move, and Tesla accelerated. Since then, companies have invested money in their own electric vehicle projects to compete with Tesla's leadership. In the last three years alone, GM has invested more than USD 20 billion in R&D (mostly in sensors like Tesla's), 5 times more than the amount invested by Tesla.

Neglecting ecosystems

Do not underestimate ecosystems. Industries become ecosystems. Digital platforms like Amazon break down barriers between industrial sectors.

The value migrates to the platforms instead of going to the traditional chains.

The economy of digital platforms and ecosystems changes the fundamentals of supply and demand. The best companies have the scale to reach an almost unlimited customer base, use artificial intelligence and other tools and benefit from the production chain. Unlikely business models come true. Facebook is an important media player even without producing content. Uber and Airbnb sell mobility and accommodation without owning cars or hotels.

Overvaluation of “common suspects”

Look beyond existing players. Most companies are concerned about native digital threats, their actions receive the most attention.

However, market entrants can bring about as much disruption as digital natives. As? One way is to move on a large scale.

B2B digitization grows rapidly. Automation of production lines and back-office tasks create value and allow movement on a large scale.

Absence of digital duality

Do not lose sight of the duality of digital. Companies cannot just choose to transform their core business or innovate into new business models. They need to do both.

A very common thought is that to be disruptive you need to create something completely new. This thinking is understandable and becomes an impetus for an innovation strategy. However, for most companies, the pace of disruption is uneven and they are unable to deviate from their current business model.

They need to digitize their current businesses and innovate through new models.

Digitization does not go away and only tends to accelerate. If companies want to survive, they need to change where and how they are playing. Furthermore, they need to do this quickly.

How is your company's digital strategy? Are you making any of these failures?

Keep reading: "Digital Marketing Metrics: Which Are Important?

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