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How can SMBs get their next 10,000 customers? By going online

31st Dec 2018
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To truly compete in today’s marketplace, and stand differentiated, SMBs need to have a digital footprint, create a custom domain name and develop a strong presence online.

As the city awakens to a quiet morning, when the air is still mild and dusty streets are dappled with sunlight, a delivery boy races along his route on a motorbike with a delivery backpack on his back. He enters a block of apartments and delivers a shirt to a 21-year-old cab driver. In a neighboring tower, he hands a smartphone case to an 18-year-old who uses several apps to do shopping for his family. A short ride away, a 70-year-old grandmother is a pleased customer; with help from her grandson, she has bought clay pickling jars and some sarees at a discounted price.

This is the India of today; set to become a trillion-dollar digital economy in the next few years. With a billion people expected to join the digital ecosystem, the scale and opportunity for businesses to go online is unprecedented. In 2015, ecommerce sales were $16 billion; by 2020, according to Morgan Stanley, the online retail market will be seven times larger. Startups, entrepreneurs, and SMBs are riding the wave of digital innovation and powering economic development to make India the world’s fastest growing economy.

India has 50 million small businesses and is the second largest SMB base in the world. Digital adoption among these businesses has been driving economic growth, with an increased push from government initiatives like Digital India. The 2017 ‘IAMAI and IMRB’ report states that India has 481 million internet users,with 35 percent overall internet penetration.From urban millennials to farmers, small traders and homemakers in Tier II and III cities and rura areas, everyone prefers to use mobile phones as gateways to convenience and knowledge - finding products, services or information.

A Times Internet study depicts regional language users as increasingly taking over the internet. By the year 2021,these users will account for 75 percent of India’s internet user base, to reach 536 million. Thus, India presents a sizable online market for SMBs to gain access to. With retail experiences changing disruptively and customers moving online for their shopping, more businesses realise the internet opportunity. For Indian SMBs to succeed in reaching new customers and markets, it is pertinent that they go online to find their next 10,000 customers. 

Today, SMBs are empowered to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their ventures. Companies like Google and Amazon are offering integrated suites of products and solutions to help SMBs establish and grow businesses online.Full-service platforms offer hosting and website creation tools, enabling entrepreneurs to launch their online business presence within hours, at minimal costs and with no administrative or technical hassles. SMBs are increasingly investing in .com domain websites to establish their online brand voice and reach out to varied audiences. The Digital India programme is also expanding high-speed Internet connectivity, introducing digital classrooms, developing smart cities, and providing online services for SMBs.

SMBs that have embraced digital, are able to grow their customer base significantly catering to customers beyond city limits. A water pump retailer in Chandigarh, Pumpkart,whose primary business was limited to the city, went online to create a water pumps marketplace and now sells a wide range of water pumps for agricultural,residential and commercial uses. Today, it features around 250 vendors and more than 100 registered brands and is India’s leading online marketplace for these pumps, with a nationwide business presence.

Businesses globally are also recognising the need to go omnichannel. For customers, the lines between online, mobile and physical commerce are blurring. As a result, behaviours,preferences, expectations, and values are evolving. Customers are increasingly becoming hybrid - digital and in-store shoppers - wanting a personalised,consistent and seamless interaction across touch points. Hence, online, mobile and physical marketplaces should work together, allowing customers to chart their own course of purchase. Businesses are learning to be flexible and omnipresent to meet these expectations. For Indian SMBs, adopting an online and mobile presence as part of their omnichannel strategy for growth is imperative. SMBs need to put their business in the game through a web presence - getting a .com custom domain name to represent the business and launching a website to tell the business story.In this way, SMBs will ultimately find their next wave of customers.

To change India a billion deliveries at a time in future, the world’s biggest ecommerce marketplace – China, provides the best illustration. Chinese ecommerce grew by 600 percent till 2014, largely on the back of successful homegrown giants like Alibaba, valued at $184 billion today. Alibaba benefits from growing online consumption and offers a host of services –listings, marketing,shipping and customs. Its service centres in remote areas let shoppers order,pick up, sell goods, and pay their bills.

Indian ecommerce has great potential, with Indian firms like Flipkart already running online marketplaces for buyers and sellers. Online payments service Paytm provides digital wallets for consumers to buy products, pay bills and transfer money. The delivery firm, Delhivery,moves goods to small distribution centres overnight. Thousands of delivery boys dash to and from the centres bearing goods on their bikes. Warehouses and local outposts are becoming distribution networks as most customers are outside India’s biggest cities. Ecommerce is a social, economic and geographic equaliser for small and medium businesses in India as they scale up and create a truly national marketplace.

It’s high time Indian SMBs look to fully embrace the power of digital technologies. The internet offers as many opportunities for the established local merchant for growth as it does for the high-flying startup. To truly compete in today’s marketplace, and stand differentiated, SMBs need to have a digital footprint,create a custom domain name and develop a strong presence online. The internet is the single largest growth and business multiplier that small businesses can adopt to become large businesses in a short span of time.

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