Digital Transformation for SMEs - Inertia or Innovation

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VISA issued a report recently called "Digital Transformation of SMB's - The Future of Commerce" . It's 53 pages, and it contains some quite interesting findings for anyone who is interested in supporting Small Businesses in their Digital Journey. Whilst the report is US focussed, the core findings hold up in the UK as well.

Online Presence

80% of customers say they are motivated to shop at a business if they have an easy to use digital presence

81% will browse, research or compare products digitally

70% will then make the purchase online

However

        50% of businesses don't have an online presence

 

Most businesses do actually appear online - through the plethora of online directories. But these will at best list phone number and address, maybe opening times. In a search for local printers, the top 5 results were online directories. But my eye was immediately drawn to the results below these which were for individual businesses.

I speak to businesses all the time, quite often I still hear people saying that their customers prefer the personal touch, to talk to someone, try things on, obtain their item immediately and so there is no need  to do anything digital such as a fancy website or mobile app. Also, they point out that they appear in a couple of online directories so anyone looking online will find them. All these things are true, but as we know in a very competitive marketplace, they are generally not enough to find new customers.

Another point that is not covered well in the report, is that digital transformation is not only about finding customers it can also be about cost saving automation.

An example:

My local car mechanic posts MOT reminder letters to all his previous customers. When I quizzed him on why he does this, he says that his customers like it. I personally, like the reminder, but I would be just as happy with an email or a text message reminder, which would be much cheaper for him than the 58p second class stamp (I had to look that up!) plus admin time. Perhaps he should ask his customer what they would prefer.

The digital solution can also contain a Call to Action, such as "Click here to Book".

 Shopping Local & Offers

87% of customers think it is important to support local businesses

 

Customers want to buy from local businesses, but we need to make it easy for them to do so. The report identified offers and loyalty programmes as a way of attracting customers.

Digital Transformation Deciding to shop

 In the report only 20% of businesses offered loyalty programmes. Those that did agreed that it improved both repeat business and order size.

There are serveral digital loyalty solutions available. I even offer a starter version free on my website https://www.digitwell.co.uk/index.php/prebuilt-apps/free-loyalty-card-app  The report offers some case studies of the benefits of loyalty programmes.

 

Where next?

The report provides some useful evidence of how Digital Transformation can improvide a Small Businesses outcomes. It also helps to address the Value objection by providing some useful case studies. I would have expected some more research into "mobile first" as well as "digital first" as there is anecdotal of evidence that customer will check pricing / availability on their mobile, even while they are in the shop. But it was good to see the report consider services as well as bricks and mortar retailing.

Digital Transformation for SMEs