First steps into the digital world for small business

We had a look at what small businesses need to do in order to transform their structures and processes successfully into the digital world.

Letting your customers pay for a service or product via iPhone? Do you have an overview of all company service activities within seconds? Do you know exactly where to improve your company in terms of time and money savings? Not there yet? The first steps to transforming your business are often the hardest, but most fundamental and important. Before investing money into platform-software there are some simple steps to pave the way for a digital future.

In the following we listed, what you need to focus on in order to transform your structures and processes successfully into the digital world, putting an eye on what steps to take first and where to put your attention to. Find out how to make the most of your digital capacities here:

Trigger terms like “digital disruption” or being “ubered” by other companies might have come across your way more often over the last few years. The implications for businesses might seem abstract and hard to grasp, but there are very specific things one can do to keep up with technological changes and customer demands. Especially for owners of small businesses, who must often wear many hats, this may sound intimidating. But: It doesn’t have to be.

The “cure” lies within digital transformation. A transformation towards modern technology standards will enable your business to set sail on the technology environment, easily adapt to changes and compete even with the big players. But where to start?

Before diving deeper into transferring big processes like your point of sale for example, let’s focus on some quick fixes, that help to increase your visibility.

To make sure that your entrance into the digital world is made, scan the following basic checklist.

If all of these can be checked-marked right away, you already built a solid base.

  1. Make sure your business is listed on Google Places and located on Google Maps. Since many people search companies via Google, being present there makes sense.
  2. Update your website frequently. Every single detail on your website should be up-to-date.
  3. Check your competition. How is their business presented online? Do you find their websites and online tools helpful or not? How are you different?
  4. Chose the right social media channels to promote your business, product or service. According to your target group LinkedIn may be more relevant than Facebook.

If you checked these steps you are on the right track. In the following we will give you a browse through further areas that are important to digitize and elaborate a little on why.

Bring your work online — as a whole
Choose the right platform for your business. For a start choose a low-cost, cloud-based platform that facilitates smart decision making and mirrors your offline-work effectively online.

Ultimately you want to transfer your business as a whole. But this is a huge mountain to climb. Thus, prioritize and transfer certain areas or bits and pieces first. At any given point it is crucial to keep in mind that you are aiming to create a holistic system. It does not matter whether it is your operations, your customer service, your social media or e-commerce, just take the first step and you will soon notice benefits and efficiencies.

How start? Evaluate all the digital touch points you already have and the ones that are not online yet. It is easiest to continue from there.

Why? In order to build that holistic system that we have been talking about, try to create a smooth and seamless experience, not only for your customers, but also for your own personnel.

Your point of sale system for example: Make sure, that your POS has the features that are core to operating in your vertical. Whether you are a restaurant, boutique or non-food-product supplier: Account integration, employee management and sales tax automation are key functions. Staffing solutions for managing hours of operation can also reduce workload immensely. A simple turnkey loyalty program could be helpful in keeping in touch with your employees’ commitment. As mentioned the importance of choosing something that allows you to implement third-party sites to easily widen your business operation field.

“It is really important to transfer your business as a whole, rather than just transferring certain areas or bits and pieces.”

Use your analytics and increase your effectiveness

Tracking customer visits, delivery times and customer satisfaction through a complex but simple-to-use operation system allows you to make smarter business decisions. Google Analytics is a start. More industry-focussed solutions bring additional value. Automotive suppliers for example use their systems to track the time of delivery, locate the point for service and get an insight on the customer’s satisfaction. Knowing what goes wrong and what goes right helps to take the right actions. Extend your operation system to use your data more efficiently and reduce costs.

Go Mobile

Choose an approach that exactly fits your needs and is able to deliver benefits for your business. A seamless and smooth customer experience for example can be fostered through cashless payment. In the United States Apple Pay transaction has increased 450% over 2016 alone. 33% of all smartphone users are expected to use mobile payment by 2020 — within the next two years. To stay ahead of time look for a system that accepts more than the standard payment methods.

“33% of all smartphone users are expected to use mobile payment in two years from now — by 2020”

Incorporating mobile devices, whether it’s a POS device, a tablet or smartphone makes sense. Take your time to closely research the digital journey of your customers to see how you can deliver a satisfying experience. In the dining industry for example 42% prefer email receipts. Printing options are nevertheless important. But also best managed via an incorporated mobile device such as a tablet or phone.

Join the delivery market or provide ordering online services

E-commerce and ordering online is highly relevant even for small businesses. People love to order. In 2015 the worldwide online footwear and apparel sales increased by 22%. The delivery market within the U.S. is supposed to grow from 11 billion US $ annually up to 210 billion US $ over the long term. Restaurants that offer online ordering for example note a revenue growth of 30% on average. Online ordering and delivery services have become a solid sales channel.

Keep in touch with your customers

You don’t have to be Apple, Amazon or Starbucks to acquire and reach customers. Even if your brand is still building up a customer base it is important to strive for great customer relationships. A few simple steps can help to make your business experience more personal and convenient.

  1. Let your business be rated

Give customers the option to feedback you on your service or your product. An ongoing conversation between you and your customers is of high value. Receiving direct feedback is an easy and low-cost base for improving your service and product. Additionally it signals trust to potential customers. Social proof helps their decision making.

2. Keep the conversation going — digital dialogue

Personal communication is key to creating customer loyalty. Incorporate messaging services into your business to react and chat directly with your peer group. To stay ahead among competitors and keep communication barriers low, try to implement messaging services like WhatsApp or Facebook messenger into your business’ communication. Implementing chatbots as your business grows is also always an option.

Transferring your business onto the digital playing field is more than necessary in order to keep up with big players. It paves the way for your business to cheerfully profit from your potential as a fast moving, flexible business, quickly adapting to changes. Because no matter how small your business is, if you’re safely and solidly settled in the digital world, doors are more than open to staying relevant and potential growth.

Note: This article was originally published on the Mesaic Blog.