What’s Needed to Succeed in the Digital Age? [ Small Business Guide]

The digital age presents an abundance of opportunities for small businesses to make a profit and expand their brand’s reach.

In this age, consumers are captivated by immediately actionable insight and engagement — which many facets of the digital age, from social media to e-commerce, can accommodate in a mutually beneficial fashion.

Small businesses looking to succeed in the digital space can use this post as a baseline to cater their business plan and approach what the latest wave of consumers are seeking and responding to.

Establish an Online Presence

Establishing a captivating online presence goes beyond a mere presence on social media and a standard website. No matter how “traditional” a business’ practices may seem, they can benefit from an online presence.

Today, many consumers use the Internet to check a company’s level of credibility. More than half of consumers do not trust a business without a website. A lack of a website gives the impression of a business that doesn’t have its act together or has something to hide.

 

As a result, creating and frequently updating a website can go a long way toward enhancing consumer trust. Additionally, a newly formed business would be wise to establish a social media platform quickly, so consumers can leave reviews and comments to help establish the business as legitimate.

A presence alone via a website and social media is good, though equally important is an established voice that provides consumers a reason to follow the business’ social media postings.

For one, businesses should respond to all reviews, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. Meet positive reviews with a “thank you!”, while negative reviews can address the criticisms head-on, offering ways to improve while also offering to discuss in more detail with the reviewer to make things right.

In addition to potentially winning back an initially disappointed consumer, those browsing the social media page will look favorably upon a business that can take and respond to criticism.

Use an Online Voice to Showcase Expertise

Businesses can also use their online presence to showcase their expertise, further enhancing their credibility. A great example of this is hosting a Q&A on Facebook Live, taking questions from followers regarding the business’ niche or the business in general.

Businesses can even upload video tutorials to YouTube, so consumers seeking answers to a relevant question can discover a business that fits their desires and is already showcasing their expertise. Facebook and Twitter, specifically, also provide a great outlet for customer support.

Naturally, some consumers will head to social media if they wish to contact a business. Businesses receptive to this practice can be productive on two ends, helping out a consumer in need while also showcasing prompt and effective customer service to others browsing their social media profile.

Because many small businesses focus on local customers, it might be best to look into local chambers of business to see if they offer any digital marketing outlets, such as business magazines.

An example of this would be PA Chamber of Business and Industry’s magazine, Catalyst. With a readership of more than 15,000 business professionals, this publication allows for businesses to market and brand through online as well as print editions.

This option is especially useful for businesses that don’t have much internet expertise but still want to create a name for themselves with an online audience.

Join the E-Commerce Movement

Regardless of whether a business is selling a product or service, it’s prudent to embrace e-commerce as a viable avenue for profit generation. Especially with credit use surpassing cash, consumers are receptive to services offered online.

No longer are consumers leery of websites requesting credit card information, assuming the business establishes its reputation via an aforementioned online presence.

Businesses can use analytics, like Google Analytics, in conjunction with their e-commerce efforts to scrutinize certain behaviors, like which items are selling best.

The data can help make decisions like which items to put on sale or push in the latest marketing campaign. Additionally, e-commerce sites can implement social elements, encouraging visitors to share products with others via Facebook and Twitter by incorporating widgets on product pages.

It’s also easier to track customers’ buying behaviors in the digital age. Many e-commerce sites require users to create an account before purchasing anything, enabling the business to monitor their buying history.

Businesses can use this information to provide personalized offers, like a coupon designed around their favorite products as a thank-you and method to get them back online.

If a business offers products or a service, providing consumers with an e-commerce platform is a no-brainer in this digital age.

Small businesses unfamiliar with the world of e-commerce can implement enterprise resource planning solutions that help combine various facets of e-commerce, notably inventory management, ordering, purchasing, scheduling, labor, and shipping.

Embrace the Upward Mobile Trajectory

The number of smartphone users seems to be in perpetual growth, especially with 6.1 billion smartphone users projected by 2020. People using their smartphones as a method to access the web is here to stay. As a result, small businesses need to regard the mobile niche as equally important as the standard web.

Firstly, small businesses need to ensure their website is compatible with mobile devices. Many businesses opt to create their blogs on a content management system like WordPress, where there’s a simple plugin installation to make any website mobile-friendly.

A more elaborate e-commerce site will likely need help from IT, though it’s certainly worth the time and money. A website that’s responsive to both mobile and the standard web will ensure anyone who visits the website will get the optimal user experience, regardless of their operating system of choice.

Though more sophisticated, mobile apps are also an option for small businesses. The app can be as simple as a gateway to the business’ website or e-commerce platform, though having it as a standalone app provides an extra oomph that can help separate a business from their competition and provide them with even more credibility.

More Widespread Training and Collaboration

Before the digital age, there were caps regarding how many employees a business could train at once. Today, instructor-led training in a classroom setting is no longer necessary.

Employees can now undergo training online, using materials hosted on the web and taking a test graded by a computer. This digital approach has saved businesses millions in costs while allowing them to train more employees.

Small businesses should take advantage of easier and more widespread training, in addition to the collaboration digital tools bring. Businesses can now operate from the cloud, where employees can collaborate in real time and access files remotely if necessary.

Cater to the Growing Thirst for Immediacy

The digital age is fostering a culture that is becoming growingly accustomed to immediacy. Consumers in the digital age can listen to any song they want on an impulse with audio-streaming platforms like Spotify, look up any random fact they like with Wikipedia and chat with anyone they desire, from celebrities to close friends, on social media.

Businesses in the digital age can embrace this love for immediacy and use it to their advantage. Businesses can quench consumers’ thirst for actionable insight and engagement with several of the tips above, notably providing customer support via social media and providing services and products in the e-commerce realm.

Conclusion

Organizing online presence with this prevalent thirst for immediacy in mind can appeal to consumers in ways that draw them to a business’ product or service.

While the digital age may seem intimidating to small businesses accustomed to traditional methods of exposure, we now have a variety of exciting opportunities that can help a business expand their reach with a bolstered reputation, more accessible purchasing platform and ability to save money due to more widespread training and collaboration.

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About Nathan Sykestech

Nathan Sykes is an IT and business writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When he’s not thinking about IoT and big data, he can be found supporting the Pittsburgh Penguins with a beer in hand. To read more from Nathan go to his site findinganoutlet.com

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