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Read or listen to articles published in this section and via BartonRock’s Digital Careers podcast series – also featuring interviews with high profile business leaders internationally.

Digitally Designing Our ‘New Normal’ Tech Experience

Our interactions have changed. Not just over the last 18 months with each other, but also with how we interact with businesses, organisations, retailers, and brands. Our dependence on our phones as a key source of interaction has had a huge impact in how we shop, travel, socialise and live.

The impact of this behaviour change means that every business from your local school to your supermarket has had to find new ways to create simpler, more streamlined ways to interact. Communicating with key audiences in the fastest and least number of clicks has created a surge in the growth of digital products aiming to solve this problem. Nowadays every smartphone owner would prefer to use a mobile app simply because of the convenience it provides. If you doubt that then think about the last time you went to pick up a takeaway on a Saturday night over a few simple clicks from the comfort of your armchair!

In my recent Digital Careers Podcast, I interviewed Karen Plumb, the former Director of Commercial and Digital Marketing with Premier Inn, a FTSE 500 company and part of the Whitbread Group. During our podcast we considered the biggest challenges companies can face whilst developing and launching digital products and how they fit as part of the overall customer journey.

Online Buying Behaviour

Why and when you should consider developing a digital product?

Karen talked about the alchemy of customer data and creativity needed to create a great digital product that ultimately is a win-win scenario for both the customer and the company, here’s her thoughts.

“I think it’s having the vision of what problem you’re solving for the customer. If it doesn’t solve something for the customer by making their life easier, then what are you trying to do?  You need to hold on to that vision and strategy, and then not be too fast about the roadmap of how you’re going to solve it, especially at the beginning. It’s important to get the whole team involved from an early stage including the analytics team and get the whole company aligned behind what you are doing. I think it’s important to get to the point where 80% is good enough to move to launch phase and get something in front of customers that works; you can develop and tweak it later with their feedback.

When I worked at TripAdvisor we launched a product that was literally just a phone number and a web link on our page and that’s what we were selling to customers. Within years, we had a fully interfaced customer centre with interactive graphs and data pulls which gave us a huge amount of extra information which meant over time, the product increased significantly.  This added value to the customer, but it also added value to the company and what we could charge for it.  A key lesson here would be to start small with one customer segment and get it out to them.  If this product can be tweaked for multiple other customer segments, then work around that, but start with one customer segment and work outwards from there. I think it’s much more important to get something out to the customers. I’m a firm believer in 80% is good enough.”

What are customers looking for in terms of their 2021 digital experience from new products?

Karen cited the trend intelligence platform ‘trend watching’ as a useful source for staying up to date on the world’s consumer trends and noted that wellbeing seems to be topping the list with many brands using this as a theme to introduce into their marketing mix.

“In a lot of ways people don’t want to just rebuild the new normal, they don’t want to go back to the way things were before. There’s a much greater emphasis now on eco-friendly, green convenience and greater personalisation. It really is a brave new world now and we are starting to see a more permanent shift in some of the habits of consumers over the last 12 months including the impact of working from home and mobile & desktop usage.  What’s interesting though is that people seem to convert on a mobile device but it’s usually a lower basket value than on desktop. It would seem we are using our mobile devices more for browsing but desktops for making the more serious buying decisions. The challenge is how to knit those multiple journeys and devices together.”

One of the projects that Karen was most proud of was a great case study in how the introduction of a digital product served to enhance and grow an existing customer segment. The corporate booking portal she devised for Premier Inn provided a more streamlined and advantageous experience for the customer. Once the customer was logged in, they could immediately access a business rate, providing an instant benefit for the customer. The data showed that they were then more likely to book more, spend more and return more often. The added benefits for the customer included simple elements such as the ability to access annual statements, and hints and tips for better usage of the booking tool to enhance their experience.  This heightened level of service meant they were able to build a much stronger relationship with that customer segment and cement their brand within that key market.

Digital Spending

What characterises a strong digital product leader?

Having a data driven curiosity is key as this role really sits between engineering, analytics and marketing so being an excellent communicator is essential.  Aside from the enthusiasm needed for this kind of role Karen highlighted that she really looked for an attitude of curiosity over experience.  The ability to hold strong to the vision of the product and understand that there are many different routes to get to the end is essential; being adaptable and open to listening is key in this role especially with how quickly things have moved in the last 18 months.

With more companies than ever looking to digitally transform their customer journey finding the right people who can blend all this together is more important than ever. Having a recruitment expert on your side to help you find key people with the right balance of data savviness, curiosity and communication skills is essential.


Guy Day is Founder and Director of BartonRock, an executive search firm that specialises in hiring senior executives for digitally transforming companies. For more information visit

About BartonRock: We are the executive search partner for companies where data-driven digital leadership is intrinsic to growth.

We manage the careers of leaders whose know-how and commercial acumen within digital steers the strategic direction and future survival of companies.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to implement and lead data-centric digital agendas.

For more information visit: or contact or call +44 (0) 20 8092 6048.

You can also subscribe to BartonRock’s Digital Careers podcast by visiting Apple Podcasts

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