4 ways small business owners can undergo a digital transformation

Digital Marketing Webinar

Prospa’s latest webinar, run in partnership with BusinessDesk, offered up four major highlights for small businesses owners looking to undergo a digital transformation.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our experts:

  • Consumers have high digital fluency and high expectations.
  • You don’t need to spend big on custom digital tools – there are solutions made for small businesses.
  • Responding quickly to enquiries boosts sales
  • Experiment and try out new things – be prepared to fail before you succeed.

Prospa’s webinar series, run in partnership with BusinessDesk, has so far looked at digital marketing strategies and how small businesses can recruit and retain staff. The latest episode provides guidance for business owners looking to thrive in the digital environment – and lays out tips for digital transformation.

Hosted by Frances Cook, Investments Editor at BusinessDesk, the panel featured two experts in all things digital: Becky Erwood, Founder and Director of FED, and Duncan Shand, Founder and Director of YoungShand.

Below are four major insights from the discussion.

1. Get online

Small business owners, Duncan told the panel, don’t have the luxury of only focusing on one aspect of a business. Often, they’re not only the CEO, but also chief marketing officer, sales representative and more. This can make it easy to let investment in digital fall by the wayside – but Duncan recommends making a concerted effort.

“COVID has shown us that New Zealanders are very happy to shop online,” he said, and the pace at which they’ve moved online has all but accelerated in recent years.

“It’s about focusing and deciding what you’re going to do, and then putting a plan in place to become more digital. New Zealand businesses need to get online and have a slick service, otherwise they’re going to be left behind.”

Becky added: “Digital fluency is very high among consumers. That means their expectations are very high.”

2. Use technology

As Becky explained in a recent interview with Prospa, the big players in the digital space often have more resources to invest in digital tools, which can leave smaller businesses feeling like they’re unable to compete.

Despite those companies spending big on custom-made software, Becky believes that the technology is out there for small businesses to take advantage of.

“I think it’s a misnomer that you have to spend a huge amount of money to have access to really great tools and software,” she said. For example, FED uses Shopify as its ecommerce platform, which enables the business to utilise the technology developed and maintained by another company, without needing to do so in-house.

Duncan told the panel that tools such as Shopify and MailChimp have made it considerably easier for smaller businesses to market themselves and make online sales.

“One of the things that digital has done is close that gap between a small business and a big business,” he said. “All of these tools have enabled small businesses to have a strong professional image, connect to customers and promote to their audience in a very targeted way. It’s still going to cost money, but you’re not spending hundreds or thousands of dollars doing it.”

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3. Be responsive

On the topic of competitive advantage, Duncan says that the size of small businesses compared to larger companies can be beneficial when driving sales.

“People want a timely response,” he said. “Sales rates are 79 to 80 per cent higher when someone responds within five minutes of an initial inquiry than when someone responded within 10 minutes. That little difference can make a massive difference in terms of your cut-through to make a sale.”

A caveat to this point, Becky explained, was that businesses need to have a high standard of customer service for this to be successful.

“A customer wants to feel like they’re being cared for, and that their individual behaviours and preferences are being catered to,” she said.

4. Try – and fail

“Don’t wait for perfection,” said Duncan. “All of it is about trying and failing. Do a lot of A/B testing. Try something and see the results.”

That culture of experimentation, especially in the digital space, should be coupled with strategic thinking.

“I was talking to a small restaurant owner the other day,” said Duncan. “They’ve got three restaurants in Auckland and were wanting to do a big campaign. But they had an email database of 8,500 people that they hadn’t used. I said, ‘Don’t worry about a bigger ad campaign. Just start using your email you’ve already got.’

“There are tools that people have right at their fingertips that they’re probably not making the most of today. It’s about finding the time to prioritise and work on those things.”

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