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article imageDigital transformation a top priority for SMBs but many struggle

By Jack Derricourt     May 3, 2017 in Business
The heat is on for businesses to go digital. Customers are flocking to businesses that have an established digital footprint, a social media presence and mobile tools they find appealing.
In 2017, too many companies are still struggling to become digitally savvy and that’s a big problem.
“It’s no longer ‘if’ we should do it,” says Digital Main Street (DMS) Program Manager Darryl Julott, “You can’t think that way anymore.”
DMS is a program designed to help Toronto-based businesses make a variety of digital transitions — whether it be something as small as getting a Facebook page started, or something as digitally savvy as constructing a mobile-optimized site or app. An assessment tool on the DMS website helps businesses construct a road map of digital goals, and suggests which vendors businesses may find helpful while completing these tasks.
By working with digital vendors, Toronto’s Business Improvement Areas and business owners, the platform is helping to push companies and small businesses in the right direction. And the data shows that this kind of effort is just what businesses need right now.
According to a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), businesses are still struggling with the cost, time and learning curve associated with using more digital tools. Of business owners surveyed, 63.5 percent said the process of going digital was too time consuming.
“Small businesses have come to understand how essential digital technologies are to their business,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President, National Affairs and Partnerships, at CFIB. “As a result, more and more of them are adopting these technologies and integrating them into their activities every day. The vast majority now see having a website as essential to doing business and more than half of them have begun using social media, up from 27 percent in 2012.”
A report by The Conference Board of Canada shows that, despite the barriers that prevent many small and medium businesses (SMBs) from taking the digital leap, there are marked advantages to making the transition.
All of the businesses that took part in the Board’s interviews noted a jump in productivity after adopting newer technologies. Many of the business owners interviewed also spoke of greater customer satisfaction thanks to speedier invoicing and more reliable customer history records. Employee satisfaction and a reduced rate of turnover were also reported by the businesses in during their interviews.
So what kind of technologies are SMBs using in their quest to go digital?
As reported by the CFIB, Wifi, websites and social media are far and away the most important pieces of digital infrastructure for independent businesses looking to keep up with the changing tides of customer expectations and business requirements.
While almost 80 percent of independent businesses have committed to those first two technologies, only 52.5 percent of businesses surveyed are using social media. Out of those businesses surveyed, the larger number are using only Facebook or no social media at all.
Those numbers are shocking given the fact that 79 percent of businesses interviewed by CFIB said they believe that digital technology is important to the success of their business.
And while the CFIB’s survey shows that younger businesses were the most likely to adapt to the new demands of the digital audience and workplace (72 percent of SMBs in business for less than five years were using social media), established companies are falling behind when it comes to innovative business tools like social media, data-driven decision making or online product listings.
The good news is that digital transformation comes in many forms, and taking things one step at a time can sometimes be the easiest way for businesses to make the big leap to becoming digitally savvy.
Social media s influence on people is continually on the rise.
Social media's influence on people is continually on the rise.
Jason Howie, via Flickr
“Regardless of the level of digital literacy… within an organization, there are missing pieces,” says Say Yeah founder and CEO Lee Dale.
Say Yeah is one of the many vendors that can be found on the DMS website, working to help businesses up their digital game. Consulting for a wide variety of companies, Dale sees digital transformation as an opportunity to accelerate business processes and make smarter decisions. More often than not, committing to more data-driven, customer-aware technologies is just the kind of step that an established or even a growing business needs to take.
It’s up to business owners and innovators to take the first steps towards digital transformation; but the change is going on at every level of the economic food chain, and innovation is the best way to stay competitive as the digital life of businesses continues to develop.
More about digital transformation, Businesses, Small businesses, Technology, smbs
 
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