Within the last couple of decades, the digital world has changed beyond belief due to digital disruptors like Amazon, Netflix and Uber, raising the expectations for today’s connected and smartphone-wielding consumers. Once upon a time, these consumers waited for ‘dial-in’ internet to load and now the rules of engagement have changed, with ease and convenience becoming a ‘must have’ whenever they enter a store, head online, or both.
It’s no surprise then that organisations of all sizes in various sectors have put digital transformation at the top of the agenda – in order to support their operations and stop them falling behind trend. For small businesses and franchise owners, this is a crucial aspect that could make or break their business.
From a commercial aspect for them, adapting to digital trends is vital. Failure to keep up with digital trends risks could mean missing out on important opportunities or getting left by the kerbside in an era that’s characterised by fast-paced disruption.
Here are some of the top digital transformation challenges they face.
1.Transferring data to the cloud
The widespread presence of digital real-time interactions means modern businesses are moving to digital-first strategies to support them with innovation, drive growth, and improve efficiency.
In bid to connect people, things and locations, they’re turning to the cloud to access a rich choice of applications that reduce operational expenditure, while enabling new and agile ways of working.
Cloud computing delivers numerous benefits – especially for small business and franchise owners. It provides a low-cost way to access the infrastructure and IT resources needed to drive digital business advantage. British SMBs have been quick to seize the opportunity. According to the British Chamber of Commerce, 69 percent of SMBs now harness some form of cloud computing service.
As the cloud becomes the gateway to utilising cutting edge technologies such as analytics, AI and automation, small businesses are set to benefit as these capabilities become democratised and productised. Able to compete on a level playing field with much larger enterprises, they’ll leverage these advanced technologies to develop new improved products and elevate how they engage with customers.
But all this adds up to a growing volume of business-critical network workloads that will need to be protected from any potential failure in network availability, performance or reliability.
2.Bringing digitalisation to every channel
Nowadays with consumers expecting convenience at their fingertips – businesses are expected to comply by providing an integrated omnichannel experience, whether it’s through an online website or through an app on their phone. Moving seamlessly between the physical and digital worlds, they expect services like click and collect, reserve in-store, and more.
It’s not just the retail sector that’s been impacted by this trend. Just about every consumer-facing business or brand needs to connect, serve, support and deliver services in the channels their customers are using.
Enabling consistent and personalised interactions across every channel and touchpoint will prove critical for small businesses and franchise owners looking to gain a competitive edge.
That can prove particularly challenging for those based in remote or geographically dispersed locations looking to deliver the same level of digital sophistication as larger, metropolitan based commercial entities. To enable exceptional web and mobile experiences, they’ll need a high-performance network that ensures the internet doesn’t slow down their business.
3.Staying secure and compliant
With ‘data leaks’ constantly hitting the headlines, it’s more imperative than ever to gain and maintain customer trust. Small businesses and franchises must balance these seamless digital experiences with the provision of fail-safe security that keeps customer personal and payment data safe and protected.
Today’s small business owners have to comply with a slew of regulations that extend from GDPR to PCI security standards. The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) means the amount of contextual customer data is set to explode, compounding the cybersecurity and compliance challenge.
Add a rapidly changing cyber-threat landscape into the mix and digital transformation can seem like an uphill task for the smaller enterprise.
Fortunately, cybersecurity technology for the digital age is rapidly becoming available for small businesses. Featuring security measures such as multi-factor authentication, multi-layer security and advanced encryption, enabling differentiated and secure digital experiences is at last within the grasp of any scale of business.
These new adaptive approaches and cyber technologies make it possible to easily separate traffic into separate networks, so that each application and its associated data has its own space and doesn’t infringe on other applications in the system.
All of which makes it easier to keep attackers away from valuable customer data, stay compliant, and protect vital business infrastructure and assets.
4.Managing the customer experience
Managing a small business in the age of technology isn’t a walk in the park. It is increasingly harder to please consumers as they expect a superior experience that’s connected, intelligent and personalised.
To stay relevant in a modern marketplace, small businesses need to listen and respond to customer needs. That means using digital tools to gain a clear picture of who their customers are, what turns them on and off, and engage in personalised relationship marketing that resonates with existing and new customers.
For example, loyalty programmes can be integrated with a customer’s mobile device and point-of-sale systems, including mobile point-of-sale. It’s an approach that makes it possible to track customer preferences, monitor which discounts and offers incentivise purchases, and can even be integrated with a customer’s preferred digital wallet app.
For local businesses that want to create an affinity with their brand and extend their awareness and reach, taking advantage of such tools produces a sense of trust and connection that goes beyond the physical location alone.
For small businesses and franchise owners, digitising their businesses is a turning point. By uniting their existing strengths and local market knowledge with digital tools such as taking it online across channels, they will be well placed to challenge their competitors, win and retain consumers.