No longer is the online space regarded as a domain meant just for large and mid-sized companies, or as a launchpad for digitally savvy millennial start-ups. An increasing number of traditional, brick and mortar, small businesses and MSMEs are now establishing their digital presence – to varying extents, and in a variety of ways – and with good reason.
Go Digital (Online)
Taking your business digital is not just about building your image or being seen to rub shoulders with the big boys. There are tangible advantages to be leveraged.
Today, no matter what category your business operates in, no matter what model it follows, no matter what sort of customers you cater to, you will find a way to use the online space to your benefit.
A simple search on Google will demonstrate that any business you can conceive of, has some sort of online footprint, including some that you may regard as direct competitors to your own business. Clearly, they’ve consciously chosen to establish a digital presence because they see value in it.
In fact, even if you do regard yourself as a purely brick and mortar operation, you’ve probably already, albeit unwittingly, gone digital to some degree. Because if you think about it, even the simple act of accepting card or mobile app-based payments, means you’ve taken a step towards digitisation.
But even if you have gone digital to a far greater degree. Even if you consider yourself primarily or even exclusively an online-driven business, there will always be room to further expand your digital footprint – and further leverage the multi-dimensional benefits that the space offers.
Six digital trends impacting small businesses and MSMEs
1. More small businesses will move online
A recent study shows that while 63% of MSME surveyed would like to go digital, only 5% of them have actually done so. 80% of all digitized MSMEs indicated overall positive digital experiences. Another survey showed that small businesses that have gone digital have grown twice as fast, compared to their offline counterparts. Both surveys indicate large-scale digital adoption amongst small businesses is imminent.
2. Small businesses adopting cloud-based solutions
60% of MSME adopting cloud-based technologies, do so to gain a competitive advantage and enhance productivity. Solutions on offer are advanced yet affordable, adaptable to all sorts of businesses scenarios and provide economies of scale. Key solutions they opt for include password management, CRM and managing mailing lists.
3. Government encouraging small businesses to scale-up using cloud-based technologies
One of the stated priorities of the government is to help MSME leverage the latest digital technologies to grow and scale, in order to increase the sector’s share of the GDP from 35% to 50% over the next 5 years. It has started 18 technology training centres or ‘Tool Rooms’ to help MSMEs learn and adopt technology and aims to increase the number of such centres to over 150. It is also extending subsidies to MSME adopting cloud-based communication and information technologies via the direct benefit transfer route.
4. Small businesses are adjusting to millennials and their habits
Small businesses are gradually moving towards social media, video content, influencer marketing and mobile marketing to engage millennial consumers who are dominating the market – in sheer numbers and in terms of purchasing power.
5. Social media dominates the marketing mix for small businesses
According to a recent marketing report, 96% of small businesses are using social media in their marketing strategy. Facebook is particular is doing wonders for them in terms of reach, impact and conversion.
6. Chatbots will play a crucial role for small businesses
Around 45% of small businesses believe better customer service is key to revenue growth. As they continue to embrace the online space, given their limited resources, automation will be key to improving customer experiences, while also streamlining their operations.
Your springboard to success
Going digital can help your businesses scale-up exponentially and serves as a springboard for your business to leap to the next level of performance and prosperity. Here’s how:
1. An agent of business transformation
The aspect of digitisation that can have the most direct, powerful and transformational effect on your business, is via the adoption of a range cloud-based business tools and technologies, to help you address streamline operations and enhance productivity and profitability.
2. A powerful and versatile medium
The digital medium provides you with unprecedented reach yet allows you to target your messaging to your customers. It enables you to create high-impact branding and communication using text, visuals, audio and video. It helps you create dedicated brand platforms to drive interactive engagement and immersive experiences and uniquely, allows for real-time two-way interaction with your customers.
3. The ultimate sales enabler
ECommerce platforms allow your customers to purchase your products and access your services without having to leave the comfort of their homes, and provide seamless and secure online transactions.
Now, let’s delve a little deeper into each of the advantages listed above:
Cloud-based tools and technologies trigger business transformation
1. Plug-and-play solutions that adapt to your needs
These on demand tools and technologies are highly flexible and adaptable to your specific business needs. And they are scalable enough to keep pace with the growth you will inevitably enjoy, once you embrace them and leverage them to the fullest.
2. Big data analytics enabled
These analytics-enabled tools help you to discern patterns and unearth vital insights into your business, enabling you to make better decisions that tangibly improve business outcomes and gain that critical edge over your competitors.
Best of all, they work on a pay-as-you-go model, which makes them far more cost-effective and far less human resource intensive than comparable, on-premise technologies.
4. Tailored to the needs of small businesses
Many new-age digital start-ups have dedicated themselves to develop cloud-based technology solutions specifically designed to cater to the requirements of small businesses and MSMEs.
5. Cross-horizontal functionality
These cloud-based tools may provide a range of solutions that may cover one or more – or even all – the functional horizontals of your business – from manufacturing to supply chain, marketing and advertising to CRM and sales, finance and accounts to human resources. Some cloud-based tools popular among small businesses and MSMEs include:
- Mailing and Data Storage Management – MS Outlook and Onedrive, Gmail and Google Drive, Dropbox
- HR and Payroll Management – Kredily, Open HRMS, FactoHR, Synergita
- Antivirus – McAfee, Sophos, Webroot, Panda
- Accounting software – Intuit QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks, Pabbly, Zoho Books
- POS software – Epos, ShopKeep, iVend Retail, GoFrugal POS
- CRM software – Apptivo, Hub Spot CRM, Pipedrive, Zoho CRM
6. Vertical-specific customisation
Many of these start-ups have a unique combination of technology expertise and specific domain knowledge that enable them customised to the needs of specific sectors. Some examples include:
- Retail – Epos Now, GOFRUGAL,
- Apparel – Cin7, ApparelMagic, PolyPM, BlueCherry
- Restaurants – Toast, Tray, ITWERCS, Appetize
- Food delivery – Swiggy, Zomato, Food Panda
- Hotels – Cloudbeds, Hotelogix, trivago
- Pharma – Meditab, CoverMyMeds
7. Exponential return on investment
It requires a significant investment in time and effort to research and evaluate all the various solutions available before selecting the right solution for your business. It also requires monetary investment to acquire the solution/s selected and hiring the resources to leverage them optimally. However, you will feel the positive impact they are likely to have on your business almost immediately and the mid-to-long-term returns on your investment are likely to be exponential.
Digital is a powerful and versatile, yet cost effective medium for marketing and CRM
1. Unparalleled reach, targeting and cost efficiency
Digital, as a marketing and communication medium, allows you to cast your net wider than ever before, to reach out to a massive base of prospects nationwide and even worldwide.
Assuming you can go national, think about the sheer number of people you can reach. The number of internet users in the country stands at a staggering 560 million in 2020. Just to put things in perspective, this exceeds the total population of the US, the UK and Germany combined, by around 40 million.
It also allows you to effectively narrow down and target your most likely prospects, geographically, demographically, contextually, based on interest and purchase intent.
Used intelligently, digital marketing can be highly cost-efficient, compared to offline mass media like TV, Print and OOH. It includes a mix of:
1. Pull mechanisms
- Search marketing through search engines – Google, Bing
- Business listings – Google my business, Just Dial, Trade India, India Mart, Yellow Bot, Sulekha
- Vertical specific listings – Magic Bricks, Auto Raptor, Trivago
2. Push mechanisms
- Targeted Affiliate marketing networks – Google, Facebook, FlipKart Affiliate, Amazon Affiliate, GoDaddy Affiliate, vCommission, AdmitAd
3. Hybrid Push-pull mechanism
- Content marketing, various aspects of which have been covered in detail under the ‘Engagement’ section below.
It gives you the opportunity to build high-impact, multi-sensorial branding and communication using not just text, visuals, audio and video, but also interactive engagement and immersive experientials.
Statistics from reliable sources like Hubspot, Google and Facebook show that videos are by far the most consumed type of online content.
According to Hubspot, 81% of all businesses are using videos as a key marketing tool, while 55% of regular net surfers watch online videos on a daily basis.
In another 2020 finding, this time from Google, 6 out of 10 people prefer viewing online videos over watching TV. And Alexa claims that YouTube is second only to Google in terms of popularity.
A top Facebook executive recently predicted that Facebook
content would be 100% video and 0% text
by as early as next year.
For small businesses and MSMEs, online videos are a great way of reaching out your audiences. They don’t require the fancy production values that TV does, and are therefore far cheaper to make.
One of the more effective ways by which you can capture eyeballs and register your brand / business with relevant audiences is to tie-up with YouTube, and get them to air pre-rolls or mid-video films along with popular videos, that have some sort of contextual link to your business / category.
Another way to expose your business amongst relevant audiences, without having to spend anything at all on production, is to sponsors segments of, and secure mentions on, popular but category-linked videos and podcasts.
3. Engagement and CRM
While paid advertising can lead to a degree of engagement, you get maximum engagement from branded content marketing pieces, usually seeded on one or more of a business or brands owned platforms – its website, its mobile app and/or its social media pages, handles and channels.
These may take the form of posts, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, videos or even interactive deeper engagement pieces which may be embedded widgets or apps.
Engagement occurs when your prospect, on being exposed to a piece of content, goes beyond just consuming it, and takes some sort of desired action, or interacts with it in a deeper way.
For instance, when a prospect lands on your website or eCommerce site, glances through the content and leaves, no engagement has taken place.
However, after reading the content, if you can somehow induce the prospect to click on a link to read more, share the page with a friend, fill out a form, take part in a poll or quiz, or engage with an embedded app., widget or game, then engagement has taken place.
Similarly, your content marketing pieces – posts, blogs, vlogs, brand videos, podcasts etc. must be compelling or interactive enough for your prospect to engage with them by liking, sharing, commenting or responding to them or interacting with them on a deeper level.
Influencer marketing – influencer-generated posts, tweets, stories and videos seeded on owned social media brand pages / handles / channels on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube among others – is also an important component of engaging content marketing, particularly in categories like food and beverages, fashion and lifestyle, technology and gadgets, among others.
Engagement is a key performance metric that you must track in the online space, as it is typically an expression of greater interest than simple consumption. It represents a prospects progress along the journey that culminates in a purchase, which is your ultimate goal.
From a customer relationship management perspective, the digital platform is incredibly powerful. It allows for two-way communication at a strategic lead nurture campaign level or a tactical promotional messaging level.
Uniquely, it also enables real-time, two-way communication with customers, enabling you to respond to customer feedback instantly, by way of email, DM or chat.
Such instant feedback and response mechanisms can also be fully-automated using AI-powered chatbots.
Sales enablement platforms
This typically occurs on either your eCommerce site or on your transaction-enabled mobile app.
You may also choose not to have your own transaction platform, but piggy-back on various multi-vertical ecommerce aggregator platforms – also called online marketplaces such as
- India Mart
- Facebook Marketplace
Various categories have their own set of aggregator platforms. For instance:
- Apparel – Meesho
- FMCG retail – ShopX
- Home décor – Pepperfry
- Automobiles – Droom
- Food & Beverages – Swiggy
- Hotel bookings – trivago
There are also various ecommerce enablers who help you to create a basic plug and play ecommerce platform of your own. Some of these include:
These platforms allow for seamless and secure online transactions, though it may entail physical delivery of the final product or service. A huge convenience for customers who can purchase, hire or rent your offerings, without having to leave their homes.
The transaction phase is really the culmination of the journey that you attempted to get your prospects to embark on, with all your digital marketing activities. It’s what can really enable you to scale up and give wings to your business.
Depending on what stage of the digital adoption curve your business is at, you can begin evaluate all the aspects of digital, that your business will benefit most from, depending on your business priorities.
One thing is clear – the more you digital you go, the more your business benefits. So, your ultimate goal should be to prudently select, embrace and leverage as many aspects of what the digital space can offer your business in order to take it to the next level.
Beware of pitfalls
The digital space can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Done right, it can propel your business to great heights. But the nature of the beast is that it lays bare any weaknesses you may have to public scrutiny. Any bad experiences that your customers may have, can get blown out of proportion and damage your business and its reputation.
So, ensure that you stack the cards in your favour by preparing thoroughly for the tasks ahead. Bring in the right experts to design and develop your digital platform. Test it, retest it and repeat, till it works perfectly. Hire the right resources with experience in eCommerce. Ensure you have all the back-end logistics in place. Double check every last detail before you take any new digital initiative live.
No risk no gain
Yes, there will be significant investments involved. And yes, any such initiative involves an element of risk. But if you’ve thought things through, have a watertight plan in place and are confident you have your bases covered; the potential rewards will automatically outweigh the risks.
We’ve got your back
If you’re worried over funding, it’s time to stop losing sleep over it. Just get in touch with Lendingkart.
We are a fin-tech startup operating in the working capital space. We’ve developed tools based on big data analytics to helps lenders evaluate a borrower’s credit worthiness and disburse loans accordingly.
Our objective is to make capital funds available at your fingertips so that enterprising entrepreneurs like you can focus on your business, instead of worrying about gaps in your cash-flows. We are currently based in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Mumbai but we serve our clients across India.
- 100% online application takes no more than 15 minutes
- We only look at your bank statements if you’re in the eCommerce space
- We require neither your net worth details nor any collaterals
- Secure your loan within 72 hours
So, when it comes to funding leave everything to us and plough ahead fearlessly with your growth plans.
The digital wave is sweeping across the planet and you can ill-afford to be left behind. If you haven’t already, now is the time to take the plunge and ride the wave. It promises to be both an exciting and richly rewarding ride, that could potentially launch your business into a whole new stratosphere of success. And when it comes to funding, remember, Lendingkart has got your back!