The digital imperative disrupted the business landscape well before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic accelerated digitisation in a seismic way.
As the brick-and-mortar world locked down, customers moved online in waves. The entire business world was suddenly a digital-first world, and many small businesses scrambled to keep up. Digital transformation roadmaps, originally supposed to take years, were implemented in months. New, safer ways of doing business were introduced seemingly overnight. And nearly every consumer discovered the ease and efficiency of 24/7 eCommerce. In a relatively short period of time, the business landscape was radically reimagined.
Smaller businesses that were not digitally mature felt incredible pressure. How could they adapt to new customer behaviour? How could they innovate to create relevant services and products? How could they personally engage with customers in a world of mandated closures? Unfortunately, many couldn’t. And while certain businesses were able to leverage the power of digitisation to propel them into the future, others were left watching from the sidelines.
Some businesses innovated and thrived; others stalled and waited for ‘normal’ to return. As it becomes clear that the old business ways are gone forever, these businesses are at a crossroads. Luckily there’s a roadmap to a better future – and it starts with digitisation.
What does it mean to digitise your business?
Digitising a business introduces new digital technologies to improve processes, functions, and operational efficiency. Companies can use digital tools to streamline operations, drive productivity, provide better customer experiences, and more. Digitising a business is not just about staying competitive in the current moment; it’s about preparing for an agile, tech-driven future.
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Unlocking the benefits of digitisation
Now, digital solutions are what power innovative strategies in the new normal. Digitisation enables small businesses to create and deploy apps, smash silos to unite data, and put the customer at the centre of everything they do. Simply put, digitisation empowers SMEs to be more agile, creative and efficient, with benefits ranging from improved visibility in the supply chain to better-connected workforces and more satisfied customers.
Digitisation not only enables companies to be more productive; it positions them to create new business models and seize more opportunities. Here are three ways that digitisation can empower small businesses to be the best they can be:
- Efficiency: When information is kept in silos and not shared across an organisation, it leads to inefficiency. One of digitisation’s primary benefits is breaking these siloes, uniting disparate data and providing a 360-view of the customer. If data is the fuel for today’s SMEs, you can think of digitisation as the motor.
- Productivity: By leveraging digitisation to streamline processes and automate routine tasks, businesses can free up their workforce to focus on more critical tasks. They can also tackle any skills gaps by using digital platforms to train and upskill their workforce quickly and affordably.
- Profitability: Digitisation lowers operational costs and helps businesses become more customer-centric. By using CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, companies can become more data-driven, provide better experiences, identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, and become more profitable.
6 tips for digitising your small business
Embracing a digital-first approach will help businesses reap immediate benefits and prepare for a future in flux. But it’s essential to approach digital transformation (DX) from a place of knowledge. Not every digital solution will be the right fit for your business’s needs. When done correctly, digitisation can turn organisations into high-performing, customer-centric powerhouses. But where do you start?
Here are a few simple tips for creating a successful digital transformation strategy:
- Have a direction: When introducing digitisation, it’s vital to have a well-thought-out strategy. Figure out your pain points and what you want to accomplish ahead of time, and then create a digital transformation roadmap to get you there. Digitisation can turbocharge productivity, but it’s helpful to have an ultimate goal in mind.
- Make sure your digital solutions are cloud-based: SMEs with limited time and resources will want to make sure that they implement cloud-based digital platforms. Not only can the cloud act as a virtual 24-hour office for on-the-go employees, but it can also reduce the costs of maintaining a dedicated IT infrastructure.
- Get buy-in from all the stakeholders: Some stakeholders may be wary of digitisation, as no one wants to be replaced by a machine. It’s essential that transformation starts from the top down and that the workforce understands that digitisation will make their jobs easier rather than render them irrelevant.
- Assign roles: Getting buy-in from the stakeholders is a great place to start creating a strategy, but including them in the day-to-day DX process is even better. Bringing the team to contribute feedback across functions will provide helpful insights while assigning them roles in carrying out the DX can create new skill sets and drive loyalty.
- Find the right partner: Bringing in outside expertise is a great way to start your digital journey. When choosing a partner, think about looking for someone who can not only provide the right technologies but who can identify your unique business needs and pain points. To offer a solution, you need to understand the problem.
Re-imagine your marketing and customer service: Putting the customer at the heart of your processes and workflows is no longer optional; it’s mandatory. Today’s customer expects relevant, highly personalised communications and seamless digital experiences. Make sure that your digitisation strategy positions you to meet this new standard of engagement.
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Finding your place in a digital future
At times it can feel like every business has already digitised. Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report reveals that 78% of business leaders believe that the pandemic will act as a catalyst for business improvement, and 88% expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives. And this comes at a time when the digital transformation was already reshaping the world.
There’s a growing gap between the digitally empowered and the digital ‘have-nots’ – a gap that threatens further to increase inequality amongst businesses, workers and even countries. As the digital divide deepens, so will the economic disparity. Many SMEs in the UK and EU are operating on a global scale. Statistics show that Denmark, Finland and Sweden have better connectivity than some of their counterparts in other countries. So, how can less digitally mature companies can keep up with the worldwide consumer?
There’s no doubt that the future is digital. And there’s no reason that the future should not be equitable. For companies that have yet to undergo digital transformation, the first steps towards a better-connected future can begin with introducing CRM tools.
By using CRM systems to provide customer-centric experiences, companies can focus on what matters: building better relationships. To get you started on your journey, here’s Your Complete CRM Handbook.