The pandemic has made us re-think a lot of the things we do.

New Zealand small businesses are not an exception. Many were wary of “going digital” but when they had to temporarily close their brick-and-mortar operations in the lockdowns they were forced to become reluctant entrants into the new Digital World.

And now they are embracing it with enthusiasm - and don’t look like retreating.

A MYOB survey, conducted in June 2020, found small businesses' use of social media to communicate with customers rose 39 percent over the initial lockdown period. It also reported 15 percent of businesses set up an ecommerce website for the first time (on top of the 31 percent that already had one).

And a Forrester Consulting study showed that 27% of New Zealand small businesses increased their online marketing engagement through their websites and social media, in the same period. 

But why shouldn’t you go back to the old ways when the pandemic is finally eradicated? Why not flee this scary Digital World? Simple answer: your business prospers by going- and staying- digital.

“A MYOB survey, conducted in June 2020, found small businesses' use of social media to communicate with customers rose 39 percent over the initial lockdown period.”

For a start, it saves money. Digital processes contribute to improved productivity and efficiency. Ironically, research conducted by Deloitte shows that 31% of small businesses haven’t turned to digital transformation as they believe it will be too expensive.

Time is money to small businesses and they often spend too much time doing manual tasks. Digital to the rescue. For example, the management of your inventory. You may have been laboriously manually counting every item currently in stock, writing it down, and inputting that data into a spreadsheet before loading the information on your website. With a digital inventory management system, you could directly input the stock into a device where it would automatically update the stock available on the website.

More importantly, by automating manual tasks, you can focus on ways to help you grow your business. You and your employees can spend more time being strategic and working on tasks you love doing, instead of mindless admin. It’s estimated that digital transformation can contribute to a 60% increase in annual revenue per employee.

That the internal positives for going digital.

The key external pro boils down to one word: customers. Your all-important customers, also forced to rethink their new world, focussed their time in lockdown to research and buy products online – away from the threat of contagion. And they’re getting use to shopping that way.

A study by Forrester Consulting found 42% of Kiwi consumers spent time online in the recent months of COVID-19, compared to 31% in 2019.

Customers now expect to easily transact, interact and communicate with you in today’s digital world. And you have to deliver consistent customer experiences across the web, social media, email, texts, etc. But at this point, it’s a good time to remind you of one very important communication tool: talking to your customers. In person attention remains the channel customers still cherish. But now your personal communication has to be reflected in your digital communication.

A growing area for your digital customers is trawling through online ratings and reviews. They are now becoming key factor in how prospects form an opinion of your business.

It’s estimated that nearly 90 of potential customers read reviews for businesses and trust those reviews -as much as they do personal recommendations. It’s vital you monitor your reviews section regularly and respond to negative reviews quickly - and politely. Continually review and update your review site.

Some small businesses still think the New World of Technology is too complex to grasp, let alone spend the money on.

But, ironically, small is beautiful when it comes to the New Digital world. You may feel you have fewer resources, but you have the ability to be more agile and move faster than bigger businesses when it comes to adopting digital technology.

There are a growing number of digital tools available to small businesses. Too many to talk about here, but there are consultants and government areas that can help you get the right tools for your digital needs.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) supports small businesses to use the latest technologies as an integral part of their business to “improve productivity, add value to their products and services and become more internationally connected and competitive,” to quote the MBIE.

The Government recently announced small businesses will be able to benefit from a Government-funded Digital Boost skills training and support initiative.

The Digital Boost skills training is the first initiative to be launched from the Digital Boost programme, a partnership between the MBIE and the private sector to support small businesses in realising the benefits of using digital tools and technologies in their business.

Like it or not, the New Digital World is here to stay. Not only stay but grow. Vodafone estimates the Covid-19 lockdown has pushed digital adoption forward by at least two years.

New Zealand small business owners may have been reluctant to embrace digital at first but many now realise what it can contribute to their businesses The Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit is strong despite the headwinds of the pandemic and with the digital future their businesses will undoubtedly flourish.

Are you on the Digital Highway? Don’t get overtaken.

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