4 Mar 2019, 12:52 — 8 min read
Summary: We are in the midst of a definitive digital disruption. Is your business riding the digital wave? GlobalLinker member and digital-savvy entrepreneur Dhiraj Bhandari shares his insights on how SMEs can confidently earn their rightful place in the digital economy.
If you are an SME, chances are, you have already transitioned or are transitioning towards a digital economy. If you are a restaurant then you are already present on ‘on-demand’ food ordering apps. If you are a hotel you are likely to be listed on hotels aggregator platforms. Medical facilities and practitioners are likely to be on platforms that allow you to list yourself, receive appointments and reviews. If you manufacture a product, you are likely to be on a digital marketplace. If you are a car owner or driver then on-demand cab hailing companies are seeking you. If you are a beautician, electrician or plumber then services digital aggregators are after you, and the list just goes on.
While one part of you (as a business owner) is really happy to see this sudden business boom from a digitally emerging customer segment that you didn't know much about, the other part of you might be worried because your traditional business channels (retail counters/reference business) are steadily under-performing compared to these new digital channels. A restaurant's business today, unlike a few years back, is slowly getting routed through digital channels.
Offering products and services on a channel closest to the customer convenience and access (smartphones) and with almost perfect ‘WYSWYG’ (what you see is what you get) accuracy, the overnight digital behemoths are leaving no stone unturned to increase their share of the digital economy wallet. Flushed with funds, offering unmatched lowest prices, irresistible offers, and innovative and unrelenting marketing, the new age digital platforms have certainly captured the customer's imagination and diverted significant transaction share towards them, leaving the traditional channels high and dry!
The owner of a popular retail outlet shared with me the grim scenario of his store. Footfalls to his store have lately fallen drastically. Even weekends are now sometimes as bad as an odd weekday; ruing that the e-commerce players have disrupted his business completely! Left with no choice, he too has registered his merchandise on a digital marketplace and manages to sell at tearing margins now.
In business, the terms of engagement and share of profits are dictated by the parties that are close to the customers. And at least for the moment, the digital players have got hold of that envious position. Leaving the capital-intensive traditional business owners worried about their business and the margins. Well as they say, that's the way the cookie crumbles!
Digital disruption is a larger phenomenon we are heading towards and it needs some serious introspection to predict how it will shape the future markets and businesses.
I wish to share my two cents on how traditional businesses can ride this disruptive period by starting to focus on a few bare basics to hold their ground. These tips are especially focused towards micro, small, medium business segment—a segment that I care most about and believe is very under-prepared to deal with the consequences of the on-going digital wave:
1. Present your business online
Your customers have moved online and in order to retain your customers, you too need to step up your game and have an online presence too.
Some basics to achieve that:
A 24x7 up and running, identity verified website for your business with updated, understandable, great looking, grammatically correct content.
A proper and updated business presence on online platforms, directories, marketplaces suitable for your business (Facebook, GlobalLinker, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Behance, Amazon, etc.)
Something very basic - use of official email ids for business communication. Company domain name based email ids are a must-have for communication. Something like firstname.lastname@example.org is considered more professional, reliable, and secure for official communication in the digital world.
2. Make your business more accessible
Today your customers have a smartphone and for all their needs they are habituated to instant access and gratification. Allow your customers access to sufficient and immediate information so that they can decide about your product or service quickly. Tools such as a LiveChat feature on your website can be pretty useful in attending to and helping online customers seek the information they are looking for.
3. Stay connected
Customer connect is gold! If you are a brand (a product or a service) make an extra effort to stay connected with your customers/prospects. Do so by starting to maintain a customer/prospect list and then use that to share regular product and service updates with customers (over sms, email, website notifications). Several on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) solutions allow you to manage this.
4. Invest in digital marketing
Digital marketing out of sight is out of mind! And today your customers are spending most of their time online, so digital marketing could be worth the investment. Promotional Facebook, LinkedIn and native ad campaigns could have a positive impact on your business.
5. Monitor your digital presence
On a digital planet, it's easy for businesses to get compared and critiqued. Few customers not enjoying your service or product may give a bad rating, leaving 10 other prospective customers to assume that your brand is not worth their money. So maintaining a check on your brand's online presence will help. Responding appropriately to an annoyed online customer is better than leaving his rant out there in public to degrade your brand perception!
6. Have a budget for digital marketing
Mind you, all of above recommended tips will cost you! And you can no longer rely on free tools to deliver all this, especially if you really want to win in the digital economy. In digital world things are changing constantly and at a very fast pace, so having reliable digital partners and tools to manage your website, digital presence, digital marketing will help. Also there are costs to hosting, security certificates, email, sms, live chat, CRM solutions. I strongly recommend charting out a sincere budget for your digital spends. Having a budget helps in re-structuring your business for its current needs. I recommend allocating at least 2 to 3% of business annual turnover to cover the above mentioned basic digital necessities for your business. And as you see the ROI (return on investment) then increase the allocation to higher level (which you will know for yourself once you are there).
To summarise, remember your customers are moving to the digital channel and the new-age digital platforms will relentlessly increase their influence on markets and customers only to move the business control away from you. So you need to start making some serious inroads to hold ground (in the short term) and perhaps be able to regain some of the lost control and leverage over medium to long term. May the force be with you!
To explore business opportunities, link with me by clicking on the 'Invite' button on my eBiz Card.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.
Posted byDhiraj Bhandari
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