Think back to 1999. The internet was in its infancy and full of possibility. Google was a few months old (seems like they had a better business model than us). We set out to help people take advantage of the internet. It was the new gold rush. In the gold rush of the mid-to-late 1800s in Australia and America, often it was the people selling picks and shovels that made the money (the major department store known as Myer was founded on the goldfields of regional Victoria), rather than the people trying to find gold. We believed that building websites was similar to the ‘picks and shovels’ model of the modern era. Focusing on striking gold by developing the killer website, felt risky (eg myspace.com vs facebook.com), building them seemed to be more sustainable.
We set about creating websites from each business’s existing materials such as brochures and product catalogues. The concept was to digitise the existing content and reach a broader audience. Making the brochure or catalogue available on the website would mean that both existing and new customers could access it. Sounds a little simplistic, doesn’t it? It was. And at the same time it was revolutionary. The early adopters saw a future where traditional markets, marketing and interaction would largely all be digital.
The widespread adoption of the internet took a lot longer than expected. As internet speeds increased, more users came online. Their trust in putting their personal and credit information over the net increased as companies like Facebook and Amazon created trust and connection. With the release of the smartphone, the game changed dramatically. People now had a browser in their pocket and were using their phone to interact with the web. As a result, digital agencies focused on creating mobile experiences first and then the tablet, followed by desktop. This was a dramatic change to programming and the way content was thought of and created.
Over time, the fact that your website worked on a mobile became a standard and consumers started to look for content (mobile, tablet or desktop) specifically designed for them. The traditional approach of talking to everyone with the same message no longer worked. Companies adapted and shifted their focus from simply publishing content and hoping users would consume it, to crafting tailored and seemingly personal experience to solve that specific user's problem. To do this companies/agencies need to research user needs and behaviour.
The advent of user experience research became a major part of digital strategy. While digital strategy was often focused on implementing the brand marketing strategy, the strategy now needed to include the customer experience. Agencies expanded their user experience research capabilities and began defining the customer journey. This process helped identify each of the different touch points during a customer’s interaction with the company. This broadened the role of the agency to focus on both the online and offline interactions that make up the customers overall experience.
The traditional approach to getting a fixed price quote for a website has changed. Now companies often engage an agency to provide a team of people of different disciplines to understand both the problem and the user. The team works directly with the client in an agile way of working to craft the experience together. Engaging teams with an agile approach requires a different way of thinking that arguably gets a better result for the end user as the team adapts and changes to new information during the project.
The ultimate change in the way that company’s approach their digital strategy is the view that websites and digital interactions have to continually evolve in line with a digital road map and the marketing strategy. External factors such as new social media platforms emerging, impact the road map as well short term content and digital marketing campaigns. Companies now seek to develop fully immersive, omnichannel experiences. And this is just the beginning. In time we will see technologies like AI, machine learning, voice, and augmented and virtual reality will play a bigger role, leading to an essentially frictionless human relationship with technology.
Society and technology have changed dramatically in those 22 years. We have seen the rise of smart phones, massive advances in computer power and science, eCommerce being a normal part of life for many, the polarisation of public discourse and even downfalls of people and societies due to social media. We have seen our industry transform from publishing content to crafting experiences. From being tech focused to being customer focused. We have adapted and evolved, becoming a pivotal partner for many clients over all of those years. And ultimately becoming a great place to work.
This month we celebrate our 22nd birthday and we want to thank our clients, team members (past and present), suppliers and partners for your trust and support over those two decades. A few years ago we became carbon neutral and this year we became a B Corp. We continually look for ways to improve as a team and as an agency. The internet, society and Luminary have all evolved over those 22 years. Here’s to the next exciting chapter for all three.