Meeting the Challenges of Tomorrow with the Technology of Today
In many ways, digital transformation is all about leveling the playing field - it's about making sure that even the smallest business is now on equal ground with their larger competitors. For many small businesses, this means focusing on perhaps the one problem that cannot be solved by throwing endless amounts of money at it: "how do you create the type of satisfying, valuable journey for your audience members that they're not going to be able to find anywhere else?"
In many ways, the answer to that question is everything. Yes, digital transformation will encourage the use of new business models, empower innovation and create a better experience for employees through the use of technology. But all of this - the lengths that you'll go through to bring people, processes and data together - is ultimately in service of the one segment that matters most: your audience.
The Power of the Small Business Customer Experience
The new customer experience that a small business transformation will create must have these core qualities:
- It needs to be omnichannel, meaning that you (and your representatives) are where your customers are most of the time. Whether that's on Facebook, within the context of a branded smartphone app, or on the other end of a telephone no longer matters.
- The experience must be consistent across all of these channels. Regardless of how someone is choosing to interact with a brand, everything must feel like it's all born out of the same basic place.
- That customer experience must be optimized in a way to not just create a relationship, but also one that gets better, more efficient, more valuable and more personalized over time.
Consider this within the context of a small, mom-and-pop bookseller that also manages an online e-commerce component. Naturally, competing with larger, national chains like Barnes and Noble is difficult in terms of the amount of money the small business can spend - but with the right digital transformation, that doesn't matter nearly as much as you think.
With the right technology, that small business store manager can instantly see a customer's purchase history, their preferences, their loyalty discounts and more - all from the point-of-sale. All that same information is available to the next employee who picks up the phone to answer a call from that same customer. The customer can get personalized recommendations, can get access to unique discounts and can enjoy more benefits regardless of how they choose to interact with the brand.
But more than that, the customers can also have access to this information wherever they go. They can take complete control over their own experience, regardless of whether they're in-store or online. The experience is built to their preferences - they don't need to change their preferences to account for what you offer. Remember that one recent study revealed that 85% of people who shop online begin a purchase on one device and finish on another. With the right digital transformation at the heart of your small business, this is something that you can enable for your own customers.
The same is true for something like a restaurant owner. Based on business analytics and artificial intelligence, that owner can see what menu items customers are responding to in real-time and, more importantly, which ones they're not. They can do this from any device on planet Earth with an active Internet connection, be it a laptop or a smartphone or the desktop computer in their office. They can instantly make changes to what they're doing and how they're doing it based on what their audience is telling them, creating a much more personal (and profitable) experience for everyone involved.
This can even play a massive role in another critical area for small businesses: small business marketing. Marketing is about nothing if not getting the right message in front of the right person at exactly the right point in their journey. With digital transformation, this is practically a foregone conclusion.
Marketing automation can leverage existing customer data to generate pre-created, highly personal content to reach out and interact with someone at precisely the right point in the sales funnel. Not only has this already led to an average increase of 14.5% in sales productivity for many small organizations, but also a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead at the same time.
Marketing automation alone is something that 88% of marketers said that they're interested in due to the ways that it allows them to reduce the amount of time spent on administrative tasks like preparing reports and analysis - time that they can refocus towards strategy and meaningful customer interactions.
But again, these benefits require both:
A) a willingness to embrace digital transformation as a small business, and
B) the right strategy at the heart of it all to guide you from where you are today to where you need to be tomorrow.
In our next piece about digital transformation, we'll take a closer look into what this concept means in the context of larger, enterprise organizations.