Going digital isn’t just an item for the Covid-checklist. Here’s how and why businesses need to step up their online efforts to sustain themselves in the long-term. Australia’s SMBs are about to face a new online challenge, perseverance.
With Melbourne finally emerging from lockdown, Victorians reuniting and less than a hundred active COVID-19 cases nationally (at time of writing) it would be easy to fall into a sense of normality. Entrepreneurs and SMBs should not be tempted to abandon digital transformation efforts for the springtime outdoors.
Indeed, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Here, I explore why getting a head start on planning for 2021 is the way to set your brand and business up for continued success online now and through to the post-2020 environment.
COVID-19 catalysed unprecedented change for how small businesses operate and engage with customers and it’s only going to accelerate further from here.
One recent study found that COVID-19 was the digital accelerant of the decade, prompting an average transformation leap of six years.
This immediacy and the continued need to reach our customers despite geographic constraints, will not dissipate. The recent cluster cases in Adelaide are a reminder of this. States’ differing responses to their border control with South Australia is just a taste of the ever-changing road to how our nation may open up again.
This should be taken as a cautionary tale of exactly why there is no longer a non-digital “normal”. Any company that does so will find themselves left behind, unable to compete with industry peers who continued their digital efforts.
On the upside, the move online has also levelled the corporate playing field - small businesses now have opportunities to get in front of bigger corporate, seize new business and unlock untapped markets.
2020 revealed that first of all, customers and competitors are now global. Second, that local customers can suddenly feel far away if public health restrictions are reinstated. Businesses could risk losing these customers to competitors further afield if your services are inaccessible digitally.
The continued commitment to business continuity plans, including digital transformation with a focus on being COVID-19 and future-proof, is vital to entrepreneurial and SME longevity. After all, there are second and third waves around the world. And as Adelaide shows us, we have to prepare our businesses for anything.
Despite these unforeseen circumstances, companies shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by what lies ahead. Getting online is just the beginning of digital transformation - it’s also about taking consistent steps to thrive in the digital era.
Digital customer engagement is at an all-time high and with those experiences completely online your reach widens. Social media engagement can assist with driving credibility, but this is just the first step. Having a website is an inexpensive but important way to build trust. Link them together and business owners can open the doors to a reputable and credible online offering.
The majority of potential consumers prefer to visit company websites before going through with a transaction. Ultimately, a website will form the cornerstone of a business’ online presence, it will be the key touchpoint for a brand.
Greater digital maturity is also associated with better financial performance, a pattern that holds true across industries. 45 percent of companies reporting the positive business impact of digital transformation also reported higher net revenue growth.
And if statistics do not convince, then approach the positives from another perspective. Physical businesses have operating hours, a website sells for you 24/7 and far beyond your physical shopfront.
The pandemic helped businesses reach wider audiences online, what will help these same businesses in a post-2020 environment?
Getting online is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a cornerstone to success in a post-2020 environment. But how can SMBs keep on track? Here are three insights entrepreneurs should keep in view.
1. Pivot, don’t pirouette
It's not about failure, it's about mindset, adaptability and resilience. Ultimately, there is a difference between pivoting in your strategy and pivoting your goals. Adaptability in times like this is key to success but it does not mean you have to compromise on your values or change your big business goal.
Understand what success means to you and how to quantify it during times of change. Have clear metrics to measure success but keep testing until something clicks - test, fail, learn and adapt.
2. Don’t concede to micro-failures, learn from them.
With the world opening up through our computer screens, it is possible to quickly set up meetings with key decision-makers. During the global lockdowns, startups made deals over Zoom meetings compared with multiple in-person coffee catch-ups. Recognise these removed physical and metaphorical barriers as opportunities waiting to be capitalised on.
Continuing the strategic mindset of ensuring success is measurable, understanding impacts will future-proof your business for 2021 and any unexpected challenges it might throw your way. No matter whether you're succeeding or failing, figure out why it has or hasn't worked. This helps you make the next decision in your business.
3. Get stakeholders involved throughout your journey.
Going digital ahead of original plans can feel like a premature giant leap forward. Getting the right people around you is a recipe for success as we dive into 2021.
And finally, bring your stakeholders and customers on this digital adventure with you. Your customers, employees and partners want to be a part of your journey. Don't underestimate the value of their buy in and insights - this is a fantastic time to gather feedback and build a library of ideas to take your business to the next level.
Amid all the turbulence 2020 has brought there’s still so much to be positive about and more ways than ever to help your company thrive digitally too. Experiencing digital success is possible in this new business environment.
Ultimately, it’s all about meeting customers where they are. Businesses which prioritise this as their North Star will find that even when faced with the unexpected, they will continue to steer towards growth and better horizons.
Getting a head start rather than applying the brakes to your continued digital transformation will set you up for continued success into 2021 and beyond.