Out of 37million micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria, only a few have registered websites says a report by Small and Medium Enterprises Development Association of Nigeria (SMEDAN). The problem is the wrong notion that digital platforms are meant for large organizations only, while others argue that they do not have the expertise and finance required to manage such platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic has poked a finger in the eye of such arguments, as small business owners are increasingly coming to terms with the need to have a digital foot print in the business of the 21st Century. Size has become irrelevant or at best, a mild constraint.
Several businesses have sped up efforts to own digital platforms, as customers shift to the use of online malls to shop and do business; while others embark on digital transformation initiatives to ensure that they thrive within what has become known as the new normal.
As a small business owner in the 21st century, you should have no doubts about a digital presence. Here’s why:
- Brand Visibility
As a small business owner seeking to compete in a world already dominated by medium and large-scale enterprises, attracting customers is much easier when you are able to showcase your brand through digital platforms. With over 100million internet subscribers in Nigeria alone, your presence online makes it smoother for customers to connect with you, learn more about your products & services and take action easily. In addition, your digital platforms enable you continuously portray elements of your brand that distinguish you from competitors.
Studies have shown that though shoppers may have their usual suppliers and vendors offline, they still like to conduct research online before placing an order. This is because customers often like to compare prices and seek options before making a decision. Thus, being amongst the businesses where they generally make findings and seek clarity about various product or service of interest, gives your business a higher probability of being patronized.
- Control your Brand’s Narrative
With your own digital platform, the power is in your hands. You have control over the content you share and can define how you want your audience to see you and your business; which further leads to more engagement and increased brand loyalty.
In a digital-first environment, it is important for brands to control their brand narrative, and share the experiences of others using their products and services. According to Kaley Halliburton, brands that create compelling and meaningful narratives elicit much more social conversation, engagement and, ultimately, sales.
- Access to a Global Audience
Before the digital age, brands and businesses that sought to attract large audiences needed a network that could capture millions of eyeballs or listeners at a particular time. This was mostly achieved through interruptive advertising or the use of print media. However, as the advent of disruptive technologies grew with the internet of things and the rise of social media platforms, brands became equipped to break through geographical barriers and become accessible to more customers beyond their present location.
Through a company website or social media platform, customers anywhere around the world can easily connect with you, especially when your platforms are optimized. In addition, your promotional campaigns yield better results that can be tracked and analysed, compared to the campaigns done offline which may be difficult to measure.
- 24/7 Lead Generation
Regardless of how big or small your business is or the industry that you operate, an obvious benefit of owning a digital platform is that your business becomes accessible to anyone, anywhere and at any time. Your platform is like a show room that is open 24 hours daily and 7 days a week, compared to when you have only about 8hours daily to operate a physical store.
Essentially, with your digital platforms, you can constantly attract customers and spend less time having to explain details about your product/service to every customer that connects with you. All you have to do is have in place processes that enable you respond speedily to requests such as having auto-responses for your emails and direct messages.
- Easy Data Collection for Decision Making
With customers visiting your platforms daily, you can collect data about the traffic to your platform in order to make more informed decisions. These analytics help to identify who visits your platform, when, from where and how they consume the information provided on your platform. With this, you can also develop strategies to communicate with your target audience and retain them longer or keep them coming back to your platform.
- Easy Integration
The use of digital platforms facilitates collaboration with other platforms essential to run a business. For instance, ecommerce businesses require payment gateways to receive funds and this is easily achieved on existing platforms. In addition, businesses can integrate with other tools and platforms such as customer relationship, project and financial management tools with ease when they have websites.
- Increased Efficiency
Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing and many more disruptive solutions are taking the center stage when we talk about the future of work. This is because studies have shown that the use of technology enhances efficiency and productivity. Thus, businesses yet to move their businesses online are missing out greatly on the cost benefits and boost that having a digital presence assures.
Beyond the benefits of having a digital presence as explained above it is important to note that credibility, consistency and customer experience are key to ensuring your business gets the best from its digital investment.
By being credible, you should ensure that the content placed on your platform are reliable and up to date. For instance, if you sell wares and they are out of stock it is important to update your platforms to reflect this, except you can guarantee supply through another source when a customer demands for same. In the same vein, having a digital platform gives some form of credibility to your business, because it instills in customers an assurance that they can connect with you anytime.
In addition, bearing in mind the need to be consistent enables you ensure your brand message is constant across all platforms. While sharing content regularly makes your brand more visible and increases the traction from your target audience, you need to constantly communicate your value proposition to potential and existing customers.
While keeping customers informed, you need to ensure they have an impressive experience on your site. Content on your platform should address their pain points and the platform should be easy to navigate. Plus, customer service representatives should be on standby to ensure they build relationship and seek an alignment between customers' need and your service instead of focusing on selling alone.