Accelerated Digital Transformation Levels Playing Field for Local Businesses
As the economy continues to shift amid the latest stages of the pandemic, there have certainly been casualties, but many businesses are rising to the challenge and staying afloat. Domain name registrations remain steady, and some vertical markets like financial and payment services, remote work technologies, and online grocery services have even experienced growth. Of course, not all industries are flourishing, and there is still a collective struggle to stay nimble and competitive.
Interestingly, as local businesses and SMBs adjust to their new realities, digital transformation initiatives have surged — namely in the form of pivoting to e-commerce selling and delivery models. Why? It’s no secret that online sales have taken the lead across the business landscape during Covid-19, and that is likely to continue.
SaaS technology providers have created new opportunities for SMBs to better sell and advertise their products and services online as well as accept digital payments. As a result, SMBs are better able to leverage innovation to scale their operations and level the playing field against bigger entities for the long haul.
Getting Up to Speed Digitally
Make no mistake, pivoting to an e-commerce model is no easy feat. One pervasive issue that has historically hindered local businesses’ digital capabilities is that only 64% of small businesses have a website, according to the Small Business Administration. SMBs and local businesses that previously operated in a primarily traditional brick-and-mortar model have needed to transform the underpinnings of their operations nearly overnight. With online sales now offering a much-needed lifeline, these businesses must now act quickly to ensure they have an online presence that is not only functional but can also be easily found.
As most SMBs don’t have liquidity for more than a few weeks’ time, their technology investments need to be lean and strategic. Fortunately, today’s leading SMB SaaS providers offer cost-effective solutions to quickly create a professional and functional online presence for local businesses. And low interest rates and availability of capital and PPE loans have helped many local businesses keep running and moving in the right direction with new and expanded ways of operating online.
Extending SMB Reach Through Social and Syndication
Another avenue that has increased SMBs’ reach is e-commerce-enabled social channels. Since many people follow local businesses on a variety of social platforms, SMBs are increasing their selling opportunities by taking advantage of “Buy/Shop” now options on Instagram, Facebook, and others. This increased reach also helps them tie into the latest trending topics with relevant promotions and opportunities to make in-the-moment customer sales.
Taking it another step further, SMBs can benefit from the world of large online marketplaces by syndicating their products across key digital channels. Major sites with captive, established audiences including Wal-Mart, eBay and Amazon provide widespread distribution for a local business’ product catalog that extends beyond the SMB’s immediate community. With the right technology in place to accurately manage ever-changing inventory and help facilitate shipping logistics, SMBs have the potential to significantly scale their online business to reach a previously untapped addressable market.
Refining Products, Strengthening Customer Relationships
Not only has accelerated digital transformation offered SMBs a gateway into new markets through advanced e-commerce capabilities, but it is also helping them foster stronger connections with existing and future customers. Providing more insight and trends into what customers want, technology is helping SMBs shed unnecessary baggage around product development and instead focus on delivering a minimal viable product (MVP) to the marketplace.
By using this model as a foundation and focusing on getting products out the door quickly, businesses can then build iteratively on their products and evolve with time to meet the marketplace’s ever-shifting needs. The result is a loyal and satisfied customer base that is engaged and provides feedback via preferred digital channels, happier with the tailored products they receive and ultimately more likely to return to make additional purchases.
Overall, we’re seeing local businesses and SMBs make great strides in thriving during this uncertain time by embracing digital transformation opportunities. And while the SMB community has been open to technology and innovation previously, the current state of the world has pushed them to adopt these advancements at a much faster pace. As a result, more local businesses are now able to take advantage of enterprise solutions previously only available to big brands to compete with a much broader marketplace and strengthen their relationships with today’s customers.
Bill Dinan is president of Localogy.