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How to Use Digital Solutions to Drive Small Business Success

woman sitting outdoors working on a laptop: digital-first companies, digital first
Digital-first businesses are better positioned to adapt to unforeseen market changes. [Ivan Gener/Stocksy]

Being digital-first is an actionable mindset as much as a shift to a specific app or technology.

Salesforce research shows that digital-first small businesses have the advantage over their less tech-savvy counterparts when it comes to being strongly positioned to succeed. 

By embracing digital solutions, businesses can meet the rising customer demand for digital interactions, leverage data for customer insights, and benefit from automation-powered enhancements that drive productivity and efficiency. Customers also expect great digital experiences; our research found that more than half of consumers prefer to purchase online than in-store and 57% prefer to engage via digital channels.

What being digital-first really means

So what makes a truly digital-first small business?

1. It’s not just about the technology

For starters, being digital-first is an actionable mindset as much as a shift to a specific app or technology. Digital-first businesses are always looking for opportunities to replace traditional methods with digital solutions that will make them faster, more accurate and more cost-effective. Think of it as a strategic outlook.

2. It means using digital solutions to prioritise the customer experience

It’s about being able to offer a digital experience to your customers so they can engage and purchase across a range of platforms and channels — a website is just the beginning. Digital-first businesses also leverage the power of email marketing and social media, and they might even offer self-service portals or chatbots for FAQs and simple requests. 

3. It means applying digital solutions across all business operations

Being digital-first means operating your business with digital solutions wherever possible across marketing, sales and service. It’s also about digitising the internal processes of business operations. 

CRM is usually the framework for a digital-first business. In fact, our research has found that 67% of growing SMBs have harnessed CRM. By contrast, only 48% of stagnant or declining SMBs use it. 

Let’s look at why SMBs go digital, and some actionable ways your business can leverage new business technologies.

Insights from more than 2,500 small and medium business leaders

Find out how small and medium businesses are responding to the digital imperative.

Why businesses choose to be digital-first

The Small Medium Business Trends report found three key motivators driving growing SMBs to accelerate their technology investments:

  • Increase productivity: the pressure is on for businesses to do more with less. Digital solutions can make that happen by automating manual tasks so more time can be spent on building the relationships that boost sales now and into the future. 
  • Improve business agility: digital-first solutions allow small businesses to innovate and scale faster and to stay ahead of increasing customer demand across myriad platforms and channels.
  • Increase data security: customers want more personalised experiences but want to know their data is secure. Our research found 79% of consumers say they’d be more likely to trust a company with their information if its use was clearly explained.

Which digital solutions to prioritise

So what digital solutions should SMBs be focusing on in their drive to become digital-first? 

Research shows that growing SMBs are meeting the digital imperative by accelerating their technology investment across departments, with customer service, sales and marketing as the top three categories of investment. 

  • 51% of growing SMBs have accelerated technology investment in customer service, compared to 32% of stagnant/declining SMBs
  • 53% of growing SMBs have accelerated technology investment in sales, compared to only 29% of stagnant/declining SMBs
  • 51% of growing SMBs have accelerated technology investment in marketing compared to 31% of their lower-performing counterparts 

Here are some key areas of focus for each category.

Service: automate for better customer service

Ninety-four percent of customers say a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to purchase again. So prioritising digital solutions that support the customer service experience is critical. Harnessing automation should be at the heart of your digital-first service solutions. Look for self-service options to take care of straightforward customer enquiries and simple interactions so service agents can spend time on more complex matters. CRM can do the heavy lifting when it comes to integrating data and providing a 360-degree view of the customer so service agents have all the information they need at their fingertips, in real-time. 

Promotions management company Audata uses bots and Salesforce Knowledge to automatically answer at least 45% of customer enquiries, while Salesforce Voice automates activities like call transcription for service reps.

Sales: automate for increased efficiency and productivity

Sales reps are spending 72% of their time on non-selling activities. Use digital solutions to turn that figure around. Automation can transform how reps sell by taking over time-consuming manual tasks like data entry, while AI can help sales reps forecast more accurately, identify leads, and ultimately convert sales.

Workplace learning and development provider, Go1 uses Sales Cloud to track and manage all opportunities so reps have a complete picture of every lead and customer allowing them to sell faster and with a better experience. Marketing Cloud Account Engagement has doubled the speed at which all inbound leads are assigned to a salesperson. And time spent on reporting has been reduced by more than 50%.

Marketing: automate for improved customer experience

Look for solutions that boost the customer experience. A Customer Data Platform (CDP) for instance, can combine data in real-time for hyper-personalised experiences. Automation-driven tools can help you segment audiences and streamline the customer journey while tailoring messages.

Using Marketing Cloud, membership-based hospitality group Norths Collective segmented its 60,000+ members and used data insights to create more personalised interactions and more meaningful customer experiences. Its average email open rate tripled from 18% to 56%. 

Digital solutions for small business success

Increased scrutiny on budgets means it’s more important than ever to make informed decisions about where technology investment dollars are best spent. For small businesses starting their digital-first trajectory, a focus on tools that automate manual processes, empower their teams, and provide deep insights into data should be the priority.

Insights and tips from nine ANZ businesses

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Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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