Within weeks of a COVID-19-induced lockdown, thousands of small businesses nearly vanished off the economic radar culminating in an all-round dislocation, lay-offs and disruption of supplies and services.
Already financially fragile and operationally stretched, these small businesses were also more likely to be ‘digital dawdlers’ when it came to technology adoption and uptake. Although there are anecdotal evidences of a few success stories of small businesses embracing digital technologies, taking to technology has been challenging for a vast majority.
In a survey conducted by India SME Forum, an astonishing 70 percent of the MSMEs cited lack of knowledge and guidance in using technological tools as core challenges with regard to adoption of digital technologies.
However, the pandemic has irreversibly transformed the way businesses plan their strategies, conduct their operations and reach their customers. Although it came as a shock event impelled by COVID-19, this change is here to stay with even the end-customers increasingly opting for digital routes not only for purchases and payments but for an entire gamut of activities.
As a consequence, with a more technology-driven business-customer interaction landscape shaping up, the digital component is set to become the permanent pivot around which companies and businesses will allocate finances, devise sale strategies and build lasting connect with their customers.
The message from COVID-19 is clear for the small businesses: adapt or perish. If you can’t afford it all immediately, start in slow, incremental steps.
A survey conducted by Google-Kantar in April revealed that 79 percent of small businesses had expressed interest in learning about digital technologies in regional languages. This is an encouraging start.
Customer Relationship Management
As the name itself suggests, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a complete end-to-end repository of your interactions with past, present and future customers with a granularity keeping a tab on your customers’ behaviour.
Besides helping you track sales performance, it allows you to make personalised offerings through customer segmentation even as you build a pipeline for the future.
Cost is no more an issue because many of these software packages come free of cost and are fairly reliable. They are easy to navigate with a friendly user-interface removing the need for an expert.
Second, with more people doing online search on phone or laptop before making a purchase decision and search engines driving the bulk of web traffic, a digital storefront backed by digital marketing and sales is the way to go.
While lending credibility to your brand and business in a global marketplace, it multiplies the scale of customer-connect several-fold as compared to traditional media. At the same time, it enables local connect while helping you catch up with competitors already present online, or even outpace them.
The power of keyword-driven traffic through tools such as Google Analytics, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC), holds infinite potential for your business expansion and revenue increases. At hugely competitive rates, these tools can turn traffic into subscribers, leads, deals and finally revenue in a big way.
Then given the usage and reach of e-mails, sending a newsletter to the inboxes of right customers based on smart segmentation, targeting and communication can earn you instant rewards.
Social media is media for commerce
Third, remember social media is no more only social media. It has become a media for commerce. As people spend more time indoors, their time spent on social media has also increased significantly. This social network could be leveraged in potentially converting consumers into a huge customer base.
A real-time interactive platform, it allows you to discuss, comment, share and engage in direct conversations with your current and future customers.
The power of social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram has turned ordinary folks into brand influencers overnight who could play a crucial role for the visibility and appeal of your product and service, sans the celebrity tantrums and stratospheric costs.
Intelligent content creation and using data analytics to reach out to the right target audience is the key.
With value additions such as quizzes, contests, games, infographics and live video blogs, advertisements and interactions, the sky is the limit for showing your creativity here. Employ your power of communication to the hilt through participation in online forums through Facebook groups, Quora and LinkedIn.
Digitisation of supply chain
In an age of sharing economy and ‘uberisation’, digitisation of supply chain has become inevitable. The digitised collaboration along the value chain through an exchange of reliable planning data and efficient information flow between vendors leads to decentralised inventories and essentially smart logistics with reduced number of vendor partners and costs.
By providing real time visibility over the overarching supply chain, it enables small businesses in gauging peaks and troughs in demand real-time while saving on unnecessary expenditure.
Remote working is here to stay
COVID-19 has finally made remote working widely acceptable and consequently created a greater need for remote working tools. From video conferencing and team chat apps to remote file and screen sharing softwares along with screen recording tools to mobile hotspots and cloud storage, there has been a surge in demand for them.
A small business person doesn’t have to invest in all of these together and can do it in a staggered manner. Notably, several of these popular apps are free.
Chatbots make it easy
Chatbots had already become widely common even before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has now become useful for even small businesses to employ this automation tool.
Although there are a variety of them with specific functions available, you can opt for something simpler such as one that can handle customer’s basic questions in real-time removing the human front for customer interaction.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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