Chances are that if you are an Indian business, no matter the size (large /medium /small /micro), you have already crossed over or crossing over to the Digital economy.
If you are a restaurant then you are already on Swiggy/Zomato, if you are a hotel you are on MMT/OYO, if you are a medical facility you are on Practo, if you are a bus fleet you have to be on RedBus, if you are a brand (appliance, food, cosmetic, clothing, sports) you have to be present on a digital marketplace (Amazon/Flipkart), if you are car owner/driver then Ola/Uber/Zoom are after you, if you are beautician/electrician/plumber then digital aggregators (Urban clap) are after you, and the list just goes on and on...
While one part of you (as the business owner) is really happy to see this sudden business boom coming from no where, and from a customer segment that you didn't have any access to, but other part of you is a worried lot because your traditional business channels (retail counters/reference business) are steadily under-performing!
A restaurant's business today, unlike few years back, is partially at the mercy of Swiggy/Zomato to route customers, or a hotel's is at the mercy of MMT/OYO to get customers, same goes for fleet owners, brand owners, service providers, etc. Slowly everyone's business is getting routed through the digital channels.
As per a recent report "Amazon now dominates Google in product search", so if you are a brand owner then being listed on a digital marketplace is almost an existential necessity!
Offering products and services on a channel (Mobile) closest to the customer and with almost perfect WYSWYG accuracy, the overnight digital behemoths are leaving no stone unturned. Flush with funds, offering un-matched lowest prices, irresistible offers, and innovative and unrelenting marketing, the new-age digital platforms have certainly captured the customer's imagination and diverted significant transaction share towards them, leaving the traditional channels high and dry!
Owner of a popular retail outlet grimly shared with me that the footfalls to his store have lately fallen to dizzying levels! Even weekends are now sometimes as bad as an odd weekday; ruing that the e-commerce players have disrupted his business completely! Left with no choice now a days he too has registered his merchandise on digital marketplace and manages to sell at tearing margins!
In business, the terms of engagement and share of profits are dictated by the party that holds close to the customers! And atleast for the moment the digital players have got hold of that envious position. Leaving the capital-intensive traditional business owners worried about their business and the margins.
Well as they say, that's the way the cookie crumbles!
The digital disruption is a larger phenomenon we are heading towards and now needs some serious introspection to predict how it will shape the future markets and businesses. Meanwhile, my attempt here is to lay out things as I see them getting unfolded. I also wish to share my two cents on how traditional businesses can ride this disruptive period by starting to focus on a few bare basics to hold the ground:
These tips are especially focused towards micro, small, medium business segment, a segment that I care most and believe is very under-prepared to deal with the consequences of the on-going digital wave:
1. Present your business well online
Your customer have moved online so like it or not you need follow them. Some basics to achieve that:
- A 24x7 up and running, identity verified website for your business with updated, understandable, nice looking, grammatically correct content
- A proper and updated business presence on online platforms, directories, marketplaces suitable to your business (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Insta, Behance, IndiaMart, Udaan, Amazon, JustDial, etc)
- Something very very basic - use of official email ids for business communication vs email ids that do not infuse any customer confidence (such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)! Company domain name based email ids are a must-have for communication. Something like firstname.lastname@example.org is considered more professional, reliable, and secure for official communication in the digital world.
2. Make your business more accessible
Today your customers have a smartphone and for all their needs they are habituated to instant access and gratification!
Allow your customers access to sufficient and immediate information so that they can decide about your product / service quickly. Tools such as a LiveChat feature on your website can be pretty useful in attending to and helping online customers seek the information they are looking for. #LiveChat
3. Customer Connect is Gold!
If you are a brand (a product or a service) make an extra effort to stay connected with your customers/prospects. Do so by starting to maintain a customer/prospect list and then use that to share regular product and service updates with customers (over SMS, Email, Website notifications). Several on-demand CRM solutions allow you to manage this.
4. Digital marketing
Out of sight is out of mind! And today your customers are spending most of their time online, so digital marketing could be worth the investment. Promotional FB, LinkedIn, native Ad campaigns could have a positive impact for your business.
5. Monitor your digital presence
On digital planet it's easy for businesses to get compared, critiqued, exposed. Few customers not enjoying your service or product may give a bad rating, leaving 10 other prospective customers to assume that your brand is not worth their money! So maintaining a check on your brand's online presence will help. Responding appropriately to an annoyed online customer is better than leaving his rant out there in public to rot your brand perception!
6. Have a Budget for Digital!
Mind you, all of above recommended tips will cost you! And no more can you rely on free tools or freelancers to deliver all this, especially if you really want to win in the digital economy.
In digital world things are changing constantly and at a very fast pace, so having reliable Digital partners / tools to manage your website, digital presence, digital marketing will help! Also there are costs to hosting, security certificates, email, sms, live chat, CRM solutions. I strongly recommend to form a sincere budget for your digital spends. Having a budget helps in re-structuring your business for its current needs.
I recommend to allocate atleast 2 to 3% of business annual turnover to cover the above mentioned basic digital necessities for your business. And as you see the ROI then increase the allocation to higher level (which you will know for yourself once you are there)
To summarise, remember your customers are moving to the digital channel and the new-age digital platforms (Amazon / Swiggy / OYO / Google / FB / Lin / IndiaMart / Udaan / Google), flush with funds, will relentlessly keep increasing their influence on markets and customers only to move the business control away from you. So you need to start making some serious in-roads to hold ground (in the short term) and perhaps be able to regain some of the lost control and leverage over medium to long term.
May the force be with you!
Dhiraj Bhandari is the founder & CEO of Nexxio Technologies, a software solutions company that offers SAAS solutions focused to micro, small, and medium enterprises. Dhiraj is an enterprise IT practitioner with the vision to enable smarter, scalable, competitive MSMEs through easy-to-adopt, anywhere anytime accessible, low capex-opex, clear business ROI technology solutions.
#DIGITAL #SAAS #MSME #BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION