How to switch to digital to survive

By Miguel Da Silva, MD of Funding at Retail Capital

The SME sector – the lifeblood of our economy – has been taking significant strain in the last couple of years. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are an essential driver of our economy, providing 42-50% of GDP and employing 60% of our labour force. Yet over 80% of them have yet to embark on their digital transformation journeys, citing costs and lack of skills among many other reasons. But stagnation is dangerous – digital solutions are now needed in areas such as accounting, human resources, digital transactions, digital marketing platforms and cybersecurity. It’s easy to get entrenched in manual systems and traditional processes but here’s an advisory piece on how to switch to digital for the modern SME.

As an SME, you understand all too well that digital has become the cornerstone of doing business today. With technology permeating every facet of an organisation, irrespective of size or industry sector, you must embrace it or risk losing momentum against competitors.

But let’s face it, staying on top of technological change can be a costly and cumbersome exercise, especially with it evolving at such a rapid rate. However, there are some digital fundamentals you should keep sight of to get that competitive advantage.

Stability for too long is doomed: here are five essential digital needs for the modern SME.

Going mobile

Even though you have a website that is frequently updated, have you checked whether it is optimised for mobile devices? In a mobile-driven country like South Africa, most people browse using their smartphones or tablets. If your site is unusable on a smaller screen, you are losing business.

Marketing digitally

Digital marketing drives traffic to your website or social network profiles. Relying on keywords (used on search engines and other platforms) is great, but you need to continually review them to gauge their success rate, especially if you are using pay-per-clicks.

Personalise it

Never undervalue the power of personalised service. Customers don’t want mass emails or generic announcements. Instead, you must communicate in a way that talks to your individual customers. This helps build a stronger relationship than what any ‘off-the-shelf’ campaign can do.

User reviews

People use social networking to stay in touch with one another, share content and complain about bad brand experiences. Use that to your advantage when driving user reviews of your products and services. And if somebody complains,respond quickly to address the matter. This gives your business a human face that people can identify with.

Content is key

Content drives many aspects of the digital business world. Instead of being talked to, customers want to become part of the conversation. So you must create content that informs in an interesting manner. For example, if you sell generators, publish articles on how to choose the best one and include a video explaining how to install one. Addressing these five digital needs can enable you to become more successful in this new technological-led environment. And the best thing is that these are really cost-effective ways to radically change how customers perceive your business and develop brand loyalty.