Digital seems to be the buzzword these days for enterprises across the globe. There are some who were early adopters of ‘Digital’ and have since set benchmarks for others to follow, then there are the followers who waited for the early adopters to finish experimentation before setting their own course towards going digital and yet there are few others who are simply playing catch up by rushing to go digital. It may seem from this that Enterprises going digital is common practice already however truth be told, that’s hardly the case. Most of the early adopters, the followers and the late entrants are all medium to large sized companies with established brands and good recall value associated with them. These hardly constitute what is termed in business parlance as ‘Critical Mass’, on the contrary they are what we term as the ‘elite few’. The credit, then, for taking any technology advancement towards a mass adoption, lies essentially with Small/Medium Enterprises which constitute the bulk of any market – matured or developing.
Agreed that the advantage with large sized companies is that they have been successful in showing how Digital for businesses can be exciting, disruptive, innovative and even profitable! However the ballgame is a bit different when it comes to the masses, by nature SMEs have a lack of appetite for being early adopters or being radical outfits and more often than not this is simply due to budget constraints rather than any adversity towards innovation & disruption. SMEs are notoriously resistant to anything remotely associated with ‘change’ let alone ‘disruption’ and they are often the last bastion to fall when a technological revolution is sweeping the business world. The increasing adoption of Digital technologies is one such revolution which is now knocking on the doors of this last standing bastion and slowly but surely SMEs across the globe are waking up from their deep slumber to this digital disruption knocking on their doorstep. Given the situation it is important that SMEs understand what Digital really is and more importantly what it means to the way they do their business.
Let’s start with the basics first then, what does Going Digital exactly mean for businesses? The term Digital in itself has many definitions and interpretations (just try a Google search for a plethora of results) however what is commonly accepted amongst all of them is – It is the infusion of new age technologies in the field of Social, Media, Analytics, Cloud to redefine business processes, redesign business goals and realign customer engagement. McKinsey’s article on Being Digital is a great starting point for those who are looking for further insights on what digital really means for businesses. While we understand that the commonly accepted definition of Digital means that we should incorporate SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) stack in our business however SMEs looking to go Digital should look for the answer to What does going Digital mean to their business rather than the generic question What does going Digital means? It is while seeking an answer to the more important question of the two, most SMEs would be able to underline a definite strategy for going Digital.
So how do you determine what going Digital means for your business? There are a number of ways to do this, in fact most major IT companies and Consulting companies have built an army of consultants who can help businesses discover and define a digital roadmap. However being an SME this may not be an idealistic approach, often the best way to start is by starting with simple steps:
a) Google Search – A simple search of your company name will tell you how you are being discovered by the world. This is the most basic starting point to see how your brand is being showcased and what all associated results (apart from your website link) come up. Do this for your competitor companies and see how different (better) are their results from yours. Now this step in itself has no direct relation to your Digital strategy but like Aerosmith famously sung “You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk”!
b) Social – The Google search of your company name will reveal a lot about how your brand is being portrayed in the Social world, no matter whether you have a social presence or not. You maybe the neighborhood pet shop with a monopoly going back decades and your lack of awareness or plain laziness is stopping you from creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle but it certainly isn’t stopping your customers from badmouthing you or worse, highlighting how an online store is providing quicker and superior service compared to your business. Even before you go Digital, the most basic step that you can perhaps do at no cost & little research, is to create your brand’s own social presence. Not having a Social presence may not be hurting your business but it is most certainly stopping you from accelerating your business. This is one aspect within the Digital realm that has a profound impact on customer engagement and brand value.
c) Mobile – There are millions of apps today for almost everything under the sun, business or otherwise. Amongst the entire Digital chain, Mobile Apps is the definitive factor which has successfully breached even the SME chain with most of them having a mobile app for their business. So the critical question to ask now is what kind of mobile app you are looking for your business – whether it is to sell your product/service, whether it is for better customer engagement or whether it is for your own internal business processes. No matter what the answer, having your own Enterprise Mobile App is critical to going Digital. Business or Enterprise level apps are helping business functions go lean and efficient; Retail or Consumer apps are helping brands with new revenue options, better customer engagement, and more brand visibility. The best way to determine how critical mobile apps are to your business is to go ahead and study your competition to see how many of them have started on their own mobile app journey. If however your study shows that none of your competitors are in the mobile app business then isn’t it the right time to launch one for yourself and claim the title for being radical, innovative and disruptive! Irrespective this one critical element is the surest & safest way to start Digital transformation of your business.
d) Analytics & Cloud – Often SMEs tend to shy away from both Analytics and Cloud for the simple reason that in all things Digital these two factors are perhaps the most complex, exhaustive, vast and expensive to implement. However you will be surprised by the speed with which costs have spiraled down in both Analytics and Cloud. Today most companies in this space have off-the-shelf-products to fully customizable platforms that you can avail based on your needs. It is a myth that implementing Analytics and Cloud solutions is for Medium to Large scale Enterprises, far from it the truth is that SMEs might as well integrate these services early on even if it means doing so in a phased manner. Let’s go back to the neighborhood pet shop example, say you own the shop, you have a great social presence and even a mobile app that is complementing your business. Wouldn’t it be great to have some insights on how much positive and negative feedback your Social & Mobile efforts are generating on your business, wouldn’t it be helpful if you are able to identify which products are selling faster than the others, wouldn’t it be easier if you were able to classify your buyers in different categories, wouldn’t it be exciting to predict which products would see a larger traction of sales on a weekly/monthly basis. These amazing insights are a sample of what simple analytics tools, that make use of all the data being generated from your Social & Mobile activities, can do to propel your business growth. Now let’s not forget that at the end you are just running a neighborhood pet shop, you wouldn’t want complex IT infrastructure consuming space in your small shop round the corner and you sure as hell wouldn’t want to have a team of weird tech guys doing something that you don’t have a clue about. This is where simple cloud services help you make your entire IT up & running without the hassles of maintaining infrastructure or hiring resources that are otherwise a burden on you. Today most cloud providers have multiple pricing options to suit even the smallest of the budgets and you are sure to find the perfect pricing point to get your business on cloud.
At the most basic level inspecting your current business vis-a-vis the above practices should enable you to understand where to start in the Digital domain and how to ensure that your business is benefiting from any of the initiative you undertake. If you have analyzed all of the above points then the only critical aspect that needs to be analyzed is which part of your business you are planning to transform with your Digital initiative. As an SME you can classify your business into two different aspects –
a) External – Essentially speaking all aspects of your business that are related to your customers, your brand, your product and services. Any Digital initiatives taken here would transform the way you engage with your customers, the way you acquire new business and the way your brand is promoted. These initiatives can significantly increase business revenue, improve brand visibility and impact customer satisfaction.
b) Internal – Simply put it is related to all business processes or business functions within your enterprise. Any digital initiatives taken here would transform how you manage operations, how you manage your sales & marketing, how you manage your other business functions such as HR. These initiatives can significantly increase productivity, improve efficiency and impact bottom-line.
Going Digital is no longer a luxury that the elite few are engaged into; it is rapidly becoming an essential makeover for SMEs across the globe. Increasingly consumers are showing a greater appetite and likeness towards businesses & brands that are engaging consumers on multiple platforms and multiple channels while maintaining an omnichannel & seamless experience. SMEs need to start taking the plunge into Digital now or forever risk being sidelined, outwitted and eventually driven out of business.