Hey Small Business - where are you in the digital landscape?


The Ernst and Young Digital Australia - State of the Nation report is out. I urge you to read it - you can signup to access the full report here

You might also have read my sister blog post on this topic Big Problems for Small Business , you can catch up on that here

I had a bit of a rant about some of the blinkered approaches to doing business in 2017 that I see in small businesses, everywhere. Things have changed, the world has moved and established small business owners like you (and me) need to shift now to maintain our position in the marketplace, let alone grow.

So what are the key takeaways from this report for 2017?

Whilst Australian based, this data is great for any small business, anywhere. The Australian marketplace is a good sample for any western style economy with similar challenges, issues and strengths to compare your business too.

I am just going to focus on the key areas for Digital business but with a global perspective.

It is challenging terrain for local businesses as they are aware that if they do not meet the growing demand for digital products and services and deliver them in the right way, overseas competitors will fill the void. Every business needs to ‘be digital’ and the infrastructure, governance and regulation set in place must keep up with the new demands of the digital economy.
— Digital Australia, State of the Nation 2017

In Australia. Many of us, especially in the retail sector have felt this and are readying for the arrival of Amazon into the retail sector in Australia. Small and Big business alike.

So how have we been preparing for these changes and the digital reality that is 2017?

Well in many ways Australia as a nation has gone backwards. A big chunk of this is because of the state of our broadband infrastructure and costs. We have slipped back on the digital world stage with many countries now surpassing our position (Korea, Canada, Germany, Iceland & New Zealand!) but many of us don’t realise this.

We think that we are actually digital advanced.

The reality is simply not true.

The way we are doing things right now in business is NOT enough. The world has moved on and is doing things differently and better than us. Broadband speed or costs are not a reason or excuse to remain stagnant with our digital footprint.

So what are the key things we as small business owners need to start to be aware of and take action with.

Last week I spoke about the digital disruption that has occurred in the last 10 or so years. Big players have exited the market, small business has felt it - but the things that make small business so resilient are the strengths we need to use now to survive and thrive in this new digital landscape.

So what are some of the changed realities for us as small business owners.

Understanding our customers as individuals

Fragmentation as well as convergence of tribes has exploded. Terms like customer personas need to become part of your language, how we speak and interact with our clients has become so much more nuanced, so we can't just rely on one traditional mode of marketing communication any more. Just thinking about broad segments is not enough - we need to go deeper and think about individuals. We need to be communicating with our customers in a way that acknowledges that their needs are understood and we are responding to them personally.

My big takeaway here - Video. Nothing allows you to cut through noise like video. When you speak to camera like you are actually talking to one person - that is how you start to build those one on one connections.

Is your online brand presence and experience cutting it?

Your digital face needs to be as best you can make it. Being a small business is no excuse for having a crap website. Can people see and use your site properly on a mobile. So many of us are using smartphones for everything, yet many online shopping experiences or searching experiences are unnecessarily difficult from a phone.

To fix this will involve an investment. It won't necessarily be cheap. But, what are the costs of continuing to ignore this? Remember 50% of Fortune 500 companies have gone out of business since 2000. Doing nothing is not a solution.

Get your sites mobile accessibility sorted - not just the pretty to look at features, but the easy to drive features.

Do you have an integrated Digital Strategy?

I know the answer to this one. It is most likely to be no. Small Business just doesn’t think like this in the digital space as yet. Some businesses do - and they are killing it.

Having a website and a facebook page is not a digital strategy. They are just 2 tools inside 2 different areas of your digital ecosystem. Often a digital strategy is missing because business owners are not looking closely enough at the metrics for their online business ( or their offline business for that matter). Where are your customers coming from, what pages of your website are they actually look at, how many people are in your sphere of online influence, but don’t take the next step?

Understanding traffic drivers is critical for online business success. You need to know your numbers - across all possible channels. Understanding the realities of traffic and conversion metrics is data that we have never had before (but has always existed). This data availability means that we can be active participants in this part of our sale process.

Take my short quiz to find out the status of your digital strategy now

How socially sophisticated is your business?

We need to be aware of all the levers that need pulling to connect with customers on an individual level ( or appear to be connecting with them on an individual level).  We also need to think beyond the marketing aspect of this approach. Whilst it might start there (particularly the social media side of things) it allows a business to drive improved customer service, product development, corporate governance and reputation.

All this happens faster and more directly than traditional modes of communication/public relations. We are not longer the only people controlling our brand message - the consumer is now part of this message control. It is not enough to post pretty graphics or quotes without thought behind them. Business that haven’t made a meaningful start around developing a social media strategy as part their overarching digital strategy will be left behind more sophisticated competitors.

There are 3 areas that we need to be looking at when we develop our social approaches according to the report.

Proactive: To push, seed and create high-value content and customer interactions both paid and organic.
Reactive: To listen, answer questions, take on board feedback, respond to customer complaints and manage issues before they turn into crises.
Analytic: To capture and act on real-time insights into trends, campaign effectiveness, conversations, issues, trolls and social media events.
— Digital Australia, State of the Nation 2017

So what are the headline takeaways from the report?

Empowered Consumers

We are constantly connected and addicted to our smartphones. 88% of us have a smart phone and we are online at 6.8 hours per day ( mobile, tablets and computers). Just because you aren’t online in this way or this much, does not mean your consumers aren’t. They expect a difference level of online responsiveness, particularly via social media. You need to engage with your audience better.

It’s all about ‘the small screen’ and this holds implications for all organisations looking to engage with Australians – be it connecting, transacting, distributing content or building a relationship.

Frictionless experience

40% of your customers will walk away from you because of your digital presence. Consumer loyalty is hard won and for your younger consumers, may be forever elusive. Things like hassle free purchasing ( think ease on your smartphone to buy), useful content that you share that resonates and connects with your customers as well as real time assistance. Being conscious of all of your various customer personas is critical, but you need to treat each customer transaction as an individual experience.

Digital Promiscuity

Customers are going to shop around. 94% of people surveyed did exactly that last year. 35% of people did that in a store. This is a challenge for us that is not going away. We can’t close our eyes to this - but realise that it is happening in all businesses, not just yours. We again need to be focussed on endeavouring to create relationships with people to build future sustainable success. Old school business but done online. You have done this before - you now just need to use digital tools to do it.

Conversational Commerce

Expect people to talk to you online about a purchase. Understand that people are going to review your business online and in a myriad of places. Being blind to this is not going to help - take this as great marketing intel. Reach out to them when they do. In the report 31% of people said that they had given feedback to an organisation online. But don’t worry - feedback has been more positive than negative (yet so many business owners tend to think it will only be negative)

Embrace Messenger - cos the chatbots are coming

A chatbot will be coming to your business soon. Very early adopters are learning and testing chatbots. These are tools that will automatically answer and trigger small customer journeys inside your business Facebook page soon. This is the level of online sophistication that is coming. In 5 years time it will be completely normal and expected.

Will your business be reaping all the digital benefits you can in 5 years time?

The time to change is now.

The time to realise that tinkering is over, that business has moved on and your business needs to move on too. Having an appropriate digital strategy in place is what all small business needs to have in place right now.

Perhaps it is time you found out where your business sits in the digital landscape.

Take the quiz.

Find out where your business is placed. Digital Disruption is coming for small business too - make sure that you are ready.

Over the coming 4 weeks I am going to be outlining the various aspects of the digital ecosystem that your business needs to consider. We will look at WEB, SOCIAL, CONTENT MARKETING and SEACH MARKETING and then how they need to come together to form a strategy that works for your business.