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Grow your business through digital

The 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report shows that there is a substantial gap between many customer’s digital expectations and what small businesses offer. This means small investments could be a great way to differentiate and grow your business.

As an engineer, I found it a shock when I first worked with other industries. While for engineers applying technology to solve business and customer problems is an expectation, this seemed to be a novelty in other areas. Suddenly, understanding the way a company created value for the end customer and using technology to enhance the process was cutting edge.

What does going digital mean?

The crux of going digital is understanding your customer and your business and how technology can enhance the experience. For a customer, it is around enhancing their experience with you at the moments that matter for them. For a business, it is through growth or cost reduction. Either improving the consistency of how you operate, reducing the effort to deliver a service or differentiating yourself from competitors by improving the customer’s experience.

Two engineering companies that would transform a market digitally are Yokogawa and Honeywell. You’ve probably never heard of either, but in their market, they are leaders. These companies saw an opportunity to transform building management systems through their skills in monitoring and automation. Each had decades of experience automating systems for oil & gas industries which they could transfer.  Using existing technology they could make buildings more efficient, substantially reducing costs.

There is nothing new in the process. People can always switch off lights and adjust air conditioning settings. However, their monitoring systems, made it more visible, improved consistency and simplified everything. Now, the process is being repeated in the home for lightselectrical outletsair conditioning and a range of other systems.

Ultimately, this is the crux of digital transformation: using technology to change, create or improve existing processes.

Benefits of going digital for a small business

Almost all businesses want to grow, what if I said a digital investment might improve your revenue by 37%? This improvement was the case for a cafe owner who increased sales by over $320,000 per year. The owner built an iPad app to recognise regular customers. While this is at the extreme end, the principles are the same. Let us look at the essential customer journey.

  1. Customer wants coffee
  2. A customer enters the regular store to order
  3. The business provides customer service interaction
  4. The customer receives coffee and leaves

This business owner recognised better relationships meant a better experience for the customer. Why? He could provide better service interactions to his regular customers. Through recognising customers, their loyalty and anticipating their orders, he made their experience more seamless and grew the business.

Finally, the astute amongst you may read this article and ask, if he can recognise the customer, why doesn’t he also allow them to order remotely to speed up the process? Actually, this is a good question, and Starbucks Coffee Company has implemented an app that targets this part of the customer’s experience.

Going digital is not the goal, the critical part is to understand your customers. Are they coming for a quick coffee, or are they coming to take some time out? Once you know this, it will help direct your digital experiences.

Grow your business with technology that matters

Telstra’s research found four areas to start to grow your business through technology:

  1. Be online – 62% of customers won’t consider a business that’s not online, and yet 50% of companies don’t have a website.
  2. Enable users to find you – 83% of customers say online search is vital for finding and researching a business. Only 25% of small business engage in search engine optimisation (SEO).
  3. Improve the customer’s experience – Pick simple areas of your customer’s experience and make it easier. Whether that is booking online or allowing purchases; 48% of customers say it is why they use a business, yet only 25% of small businesses see it as a priority.
  4. Keep customers coming back – There is a range of channels beyond face to face contact to build a relationship. Some will even save you time. Whether it is email marketing, push notifications on an app or social media. Keep your customers engaged and build a relationship in a way that suits your customers, not you.

While I agree with Telstra’s list I would add a fifth for businesses:

  • Simplify your life where you can– You might think manually doing the paperwork saves money, in reality, it costs you more. Whether it is automating customer recognition, ordering or accounting; there are many areas you can invest to focus on what matters, the customer.
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