Successful digital adoption is now do-or-die for small businesses

Users and consumers are shifting more of their daily activities to digital thanks to the boom of mobile computing and connectivity. Nearly half of the world’s population are now online on social media, spending almost two hours a day, on average. North American users already use 7.2 gigabytes (GB) of mobile data a month to communicate, connect to social media, browse the internet, and view or listen to media. By 2023, this data usage is expected to increase to 49 gigabytes per smartphone.

These developments are sending shockwaves to businesses. Users now expect to be able to conduct fast and easy transactions using digital channels. As such, businesses, regardless of size and industry, must move towards shoring up their online presence and incorporate technologies to their business processes in order to stay relevant in such a landscape.

To thrive in this environment, businesses must be able to achieve successful digital adoption and reach a state where technology is an integral part of their organisations’ ways of working. Those at the forefront of using digital adoption have already shown that technology can provide key competitive advantages.

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Small businesses are missing out

Many smaller organisations have been putting of digital adoption, believing that their customary approach still works. A third of small companies do not even have functioning websites even if customers now actively use the internet to search for products and services. Many smaller operations also defer adopting digital payment solutions even if customers are going cashless, increasing their use of payment cards and digital wallets. These companies must now accept the fact that business has changed and that putting off digital adoption might even prove hugely detrimental as competition escalates.

Technology is now considered a key source of competitive advantage. Many technologies have been hyped these recent years including big data and analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet-of-Things and even blockchain, all of which provide enhanced capabilities to adopters.

Big data, for instance, has become instrumental in the continued dominance of industry leaders. Walmart’s investment in data and analytics, to illustrate, has allowed the brick-and-mortar retail giant to keep pace with consumers’ shift to digital. The company still remains competitive despite the emergence of Amazon and other retail e-commerce platforms. Many organisations are following suit, hoping to be able to leverage business intelligence and insights from analytics efforts.

Early adopters and digital leaders have been enjoying significant gains in efficiency and their bottom line. An SAP study found that 80% of companies that have undertaken digitisation efforts saw increased profitability while 85% of digital leaders enjoyed increased market share. Laggards are simply missing out on these

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Strategy is crucial

Digital adoption is a challenge in itself. While there is an urgency for businesses to start their digital adoption efforts, it is important to have a measured and strategic approach. Small businesses do have resource constraints which mean most have to be quite careful in investing in such efforts. Fortunately, the rise of cloud computing and the as-a-service distribution model have made similar business solutions and capabilities accessible to smaller operations.

But even with these tools available, businesses should carefully navigate digital adoption and not just aimlessly jump onto the bandwagon. Linking the effort to concrete business goals could help narrow down the solutions that they can adopt, allowing them to achieve more concrete and valuable returns for the effort.

For smaller operations, adopting digital tools could deliver immediate and observable efficiencies. There are also numerous applications and services that readily cover routine business processes such as bookkeeping, point-of-sale and inventory management, document management, and even communication and collaboration which could all be readily acquired and implemented.

Those looking to improve customer retention could invest in client support and loyalty solutions. Those looking to expand their reach could consider adopting marketing automation and leads generation technologies. The as-a-service model allows companies to simply subscribe to these services and be functional on the get-go.

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Adoption needs to be managed

The ease with which these solutions can be acquired shouldn’t belie the fact that digital adoption efforts have to be effectively managed. Besides carefully choosing which business processes are to be shifted to digital together with the specific solutions to adopt, it is also important to track the usage and performance of these tools.

For example, companies can measure customer service response times and tickets resolved and reference them to churn rates to see how well adopting support solutions perform. This way, it would be possible to adjust and intervene to make sure efforts do not get derailed.

Companies must also consider the human aspect of digital adoption. Integrating these solutions bring about changes that need to be managed. A conscious effort must be made to get staff to buy into the effort. Training and onboarding also equip end users with the competency and know-how to effectively use these tools.

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No escaping digital

Businesses have little choice but to follow where the customers are. Digital adoption is inevitable for any business. Providing customers with digital channels to perform transactions and technology-driven efficiencies are vital. Success in these efforts could very well determine their future and survival in such a landscape. As technology becomes even more ingrained in people’s lives, companies need to reach a point where becomes central to the organisation. There must be a strategy in place backed by a conscious and deliberate effort to make it happen.

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