Riding the next wave of digital disruption is an opportunity for small businesses to better engage customers, according to Jenny Wilson, Partner – Customer Strategy and Insights Practice at Deloitte Australia.
She spoke to Dynamic Business ahead of her appearance at Networx Sydney’s #nxsydDISRUPTED event in Sydney on Monday, 8 August.
Solving problems in an innovative way
Wilson said that where many larger organisations are facing the threat of disruption – and where small, nimble businesses have opportunities to disrupt – is when the customer experience is poor and large profits are being made.
“In Australia in particular we are facing a situation of declining levels of trust that a customer has in the businesses that have been serving them,” she said.
“This is true in financial services in particular, hence why you see such an explosion of activity in fintech. Accountancy practices, law firms, tax practices, conveyancers – parts of their traditional services are being disrupted, mainly around accessibility, transparency, guidance and relevant choices for customers.
“Fashion is also being disrupted. Exchange rates aside, access to a wider array of fashion choices through the Net-A-Porters of the world will put increasing pressure on our local fashion industry.
“How small businesses can have an impact in there industry is by identifying a customer problem that has not been solved and then looking at how new technologies can be applied to solve for it in an innovative way.”
An intimate customer relationship
In terms of the digital disruptions small businesses can expect in the next 12 months, Wilson identified three:
- The increased digitisation of services on mobile: “Accessing these services at low cost through cloud based solutions is important. In other words, being smart and leveraging the technology, not building it.”
- The Increased use of social channels for reaching and engaging customers: “Social channels on mobile devices are currently the most accessed channels by consumers. Presence in this space is a ‘now’ proposition and focusing on this dimension in terms of how you go to market is a ‘sure bet’ today.”
- Connected devices: “How my mobile connects to my home, connects to my shopping patterns, connects to my where I am at any point in time – coupled with smart marketing automation, to bring me more relevant insights, and greater convenience”.
Wilson said these three disruptions represent opportunities for small businesses to know their customers more intimately; engage customers at the most relevant times, based on their needs and behaviours; deliver customers meaningful messages in an authentic way. She added that small businesses – for instance, those in trades such as plumbing, gardening and electrical work – need to be prepared for the increasing prevalence of peer-to-peer solutions that threaten to cut them out of the equation.
“Customers are already tired of the noise,” she said. “There are so many opportunities to get smarter with how you connect with them, market to them, service them. They already expect this. You have to be in their digital footprint, helping them take the right next step forward.”
Virtual technologies and artificial intelligence
Wilson said the willingness of Australians to quickly embrace new technologies, experiences and social behaviours represents an opportunity for small businesses. In terms of specific digital disruptions, Wilson predicted the increasing relevance of virtual technologies and artificial intelligence.
“Today, businesses are in a market of social experiences with customers but looking further ahead, the focus will be on virtual experiences,” she said. “Virtual technologies are rapidly declining in cost, making them far more accessible as a way to engage customers in a whole new dimension. Think about virtual fashion experiences, virtual entertainment experiences, virtual travel experiences – all of these will become powerful tools for engaging customers in the future
“The ability to use artificial intelligence to automate, improve and predict decisions represents a real opportunity for customers and businesses. Small businesses are already using this technology in areas like farming for soil and crop management. Tying the use of AI into how your customers engage with digital tools and digital processes will be key to enabling them and making your business more efficient.”
Informed technology decisions
Asked how small businesses can gauge whether a new technology should be adopted, Wilson said operators need to stay abreast of disruptive trends, and conduct investigations to identify relevant technologies. These investigations will involve identifying the value for customers and having conversations with other businesses working the technology.
Wilson said small businesses also need to look at how they can prototype or test a new technology before taking a full leap, and how they can implement it in a way that keeps provides flexibility – that’s because better alternatives may emerge as a disruptive trend plays out.
“Businesses also need to consider ‘who’ they are adopting, not just the ‘what,” Wilson added. “Don’t just think about the technology when making a decision, think about the people behind the technology.”