IT management, Content, Channel technologies

Digital Transformation for Small Businesses: 4 Key Steps to Start Your Journey

Author: Kevin Rubin, president and CIO, Stratosphere Networks
Kevin Rubin, president and CIO, Stratosphere Networks

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have a significant economic impact worldwide: 60 to 70 percent of employed citizens in most countries work for SMBs, according to the Global State of Small Business Report from Facebook, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns enacted to slow the spread of the virus threaten the existence of many smaller companies. Approximately one-quarter (26 percent) of SMBs included in Wave 1 of The Future of Business Survey conducted by Facebook, the OECD and the World Bank were closed during the period of January through May 2020 due to the public health crisis. Of those that were still open and operating at the time of the survey, 62 percent reported lower sales in the past 30 days than they recorded during the corresponding period the previous year.

SMBs seeking to survive the pandemic and its economic fallout must adapt to the new socially distanced reality, where consumers seek to shop, pay and interact with customer service representatives virtually and remotely. Organizations that prioritize catering to changing consumer expectations and enhancing the customer experience (CX) by embracing new technologies – a process called digital transformation – have the best odds of not only enduring the current global situation but also continuing to thrive in the post-pandemic world.

Why Digital Transformation Matters for SMBs in a Post-COVID-19 World

Even before the novel coronavirus spread worldwide and turned everyone’s lives upside down, digital transformation had already emerged as an increasingly important priority for businesses of all sizes. The pandemic merely accelerated the adoption of technologies that allow people to stay connected and productive while working from home and otherwise remaining socially distant.

For example, almost 60 percent of enterprises said they expected their cloud usage to be higher than previously anticipated because of COVID-19, according to the Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platforms became incredibly popular as companies sought to enable effective communication and deliver exceptional customer service from anywhere.

Additionally, concerns about money and credit cards changing hands and potentially transferring germs enhanced the appeal of contactless payment methods. In-person purchases that involved contactless payments increased by almost 60 percent between the week of March 2-8, 2020 and the week of June 8-14, 2020, according to a CardFlight Small Business Report.

The sharp increase in consumers’ preference for no- or low-contact interactions with businesses means that embracing advanced technologies is now vital for SMBs that want to remain competitive. As the opening line states in Cisco’s 2020 Small Business Digital Transformation report states, “Digitization is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.”

How to Start Your Transformation: 4 Essential Steps

Small businesses that have reached the highest level of the Worldwide Small Business Digital Maturity Index experience revenue growth rates eight times greater than those with the lowest maturity rating, according to Cisco. Still, although the pandemic has inspired 72 percent of small businesses to speed up their digitization efforts, only 4 percent of the organizations studied have reached the highest stage of maturity. Digital transformation is a broad term and can seem overwhelming and confusing, particularly to smaller companies with limited resources available to tackle the task. If you’re unsure where to start or what to do, consider the following recommended steps from Cisco and Salesforce.

1. Assess your organization’s biggest problems and weaknesses. What issues currently stand in the way of your company’s success? For instance, maybe your contact center only takes inquiries by phone, which deters customers who would prefer another method of communication like email or texting.

2. Identify technologies that can help you fix your main pain points. For instance, a cloud contact center platform can give your agents the ability to connect with clients via a range of channels.

3. Create a long-term (three-year) road map for the implementation of new technologies that will address your main issues and improve CX.

4. Seek outside assistance from industry experts who can help you find the right technologies for your business and ensure a smooth adoption process. For instance, our trusted technology advisors have experience working with a wide range of products from suppliers in our partner network and can quickly produce comparison matrices showing the pros and cons of each option, saving our clients considerable time and money via our free initial advisory services.

Digital transformation isn’t a fast or easy process, but it’s become imperative for any organization looking to stand out in a world that’s more virtual than ever.

Author Kevin Rubin is president and CIO at Stratosphere Networks. Read more from Stratosphere Networks here.