A vast array of digital tools are available for SMEs to connect with their customers and grow their business, however, it can be challenging to keep up with the constant emergence of new technology.
My work as Gumtree’s Head of Motors, which sees me in charge of driving growth for the platform, is driven by my passion for digital innovation and the important role it plays for the future of commerce.
However, what I’ve learnt is that while a growing number of SMEs recognise the importance of digitalisation, the successful inclusion of digital tools into everyday processes has remained an obstacle many struggle with.
In fact, small businesses’ use of digital tools in Australia is still limiting their ability to reach their full potential.
According to PWC research, Australian SMEs could unlock an additional $49.2 billion of private sector output over the next ten years by making better use of mobile and internet technologies.
The report also suggests that this growth potential is not limited to large businesses – SMEs across a wide range of industries and locations can benefit as well.
It’s understood that SMEs in Australia are facing a number of challenges these days including complicated legislation, rising staff costs, and technological change. At the same time, the rise of the internet has provided opportunities to counterbalance these difficulties. There is immense potential for digitalisation to produce significant economic gains, which is why SMEs who invest in digital transformation are likely to see significant ROI.
As a matter of fact, findings from a 2017 Google-KPMG report on Indian small businesses indicated that digitally-engaged SMBs were growing twice as fast compared to their offline counterparts.
While we, unfortunately, don’t have these numbers for Australia, there is a very important message we can take away from these results: Digitalisation is key for driving growth! And luckily – while it remains challenging – implementing a digital strategy is a task that is manageable, with some guidance.
Below are three easy steps that SMEs can take if they want to expand their business.
- Streamline the digital sales process: Customer journeys have changed dramatically in the past five years as 80 percent of Australians now shop online. Today’s companies must learn to quickly adapt to these rapid-fire changes in the buyer’s journey. Thanks to peer reviews, content marketing and side-by-side product comparisons, consumers now have the ability to make informed purchasing decisions long before they buy.
As a result of these changes, businesses benefit from adopting a more proactive approach when it comes to digital sales, which is all about the seller’s ability to anticipate buyers’ needs. In other words: It’s time for SMEs to not only focus on selling products/services, but also to focus more time on offering value to their customers – provide insights, guidance, and collaborate with customers along their purchasing journey.
So where to begin?
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all solution’; however, choosing (or updating) your customer relationship management (CRM) system carefully to find one that suits your individual needs is an important first step that will set your digital sales initiative up for success. Having the right CRM in place can not only reduce the chance of error, it can also streamline the digital sales process and handle it professionally, while building customer relationships.
Another critical element of digital sales transformation is the interconnection of data from all customer touchpoints, to improve the effectiveness of digital sales efforts. SMEs can benefit greatly from implementing a sales engagement platform, such as Outreach, to track all customer touchpoints, allowing brands to continuously refine their messaging and communicate with customers via their preferred channels.
- Focus on analytics: Never before have we held so much information about our customers. Shopping times, preferences, biological data, locations, all of this data is free for the taking and at a company’s fingertips.
Yet very few SMEs make use of this resource. According to new Gumtree research, data-driven tools such ascustomer relationship management (CRM) systems are still areas of low investment for the majority of Australia’s car dealers, for example. Knowing your customers inside-out offers plenty of opportunities to connect. Data analytics can help small businesses become smarter, more productive and more efficient. And when used correctly, it can create a noticeable competitive advantage, while boosting both conversions and revenue.
The best way to get started is for SMEs to find a software system that automates the process. There are countless apps and tools that can pull data from your website to give you insights into your business strengths and weaknesses. CRM systems, in particular, are not only great for supporting digital sales transformation, but also for individuals looking to grow their business: They serve as a shared repository of customer information and analytics that can be useful for lead generation and marketing, providing touchpoints for follow up contact with customers.
- Use third-party online marketplaces: Small businesses can leverage online marketplaces to increase sales and revenue, reach out to a broader market and drive growth. Third-party marketplaces have the sales and marketing engines, as well as the audience, to push an SME’s product further.
Each online marketplace has its own unique requirements, product categories, listing fees, and audiences, so it’s important for SMEs to do the research and determine which online marketplace is right for them. SMEs looking to drive growth locally, for example, are well advised to utilise a platform like Gumtree, which serves as a community marketplace connecting buyers and sellers in the local community.
The online world presents massive business opportunities for Australian small and medium-sized enterprises. By developing and implementing an active digital strategy, SMEs can grasp market opportunities, keep up with ‘bigger players’ and succeed in the quest to grow their business. No one can accurately predict what’s next in digital transformation and what the future will look like for SMEs, but one thing is for sure: Businesses must keep on top of technological advances and adapt along the way to maintaining their competitive edge.
Richard Dicello is Gumtree’s Head of Motors.