The Promise Of Technology: How Small And Midsize Businesses Adopt It And Transform With It

Rinse Tamsma

Part 7 of the “Thriving in the Digital Economy” series

The lure of technology is its promise to make everything in our lives better. But for small and midsize businesses, digital adoption can be a double-edged sword. Customers expect ease and convenience, and employees wish they had the most useful tools to do their jobs. Yet, adopting new technology can be daunting with concerns about learning curves, wasted time, additional costs, and optimized use.

However, a recent IDC survey, Thriving in the Digital Economy: How small and midsize enterprises are adapting to digital transformation,” commissioned by SAP, revealed that a considerable number of small and midsize businesses are realizing benefits from digital transformation:

  • 49% believe that new processes and advanced digital technologies have helped free up resources and enable business growth
  • 56.8% agree that new technology solutions have allowed them to begin or continue revising their workflow and processes to streamline operations and improve productivity

While these findings are encouraging, one question comes to mind: What happens to the businesses that are not undergoing their own digital transformation?

What about the business that are not transforming?

In the Netherlands, where I live, most retails chains are categorized as small or midsize firms. In the past 27 months, this industry has experienced 28 major bankruptcies in my region, closing 2,500 storefronts and evaporating 25,000 jobs. And recent statistics show that this is not an isolated event – it’s happening in the UK and Germany too.

This trend is a powerful warning for businesses that are apprehensive about digital transformation. Steadily, we are seeing a wave a change in our consumers’ behaviors. They’re more reliant on digital technology. They expect real-time service and around-the-clock access to your brand. More important, they want their shopping experience personalized to meet their needs in the moment. If they don’t get what they want, when they want it, they will go elsewhere. And when they go to a competitor who can offer that kind of service, your business disappears quickly.

Three digital technologies that no small or midsize business should live without

The key to growing – and winning – in our digital economy is to start transforming your business before your revenues and sales volume decline. With technology that enables your employees to be more productive, streamlines operations, and provides insights into your customer’s needs, you can provide your customers with a shopping experience that will turn them into loyal advocates for your brand.

Here are some must-have digital technologies that can keep your business growing now and start your digital transformation journey toward the future.

  1. Predictive analytics for customer profiling
    With a clear picture of your cost per sale and which consumers benefit most from your products or services, both sales associates in the store and your e-commerce site can provide the right customers with compelling offers to close the sale. Plus, you gain access to consumers you didn’t know existed – reimaging your sales strategy from that of a regional shop to an international player.
  1. Machine learning for customer service
    Consumers are very much accustomed to being served with great care. Return policies are more relaxed than ever before. Customer service and support are all part of the shopping experience. By using machine learning in the form of chat bots to manage customer messages, businesses can filter questions to the right channel. This approach allows service agents to work only on unique, one-off inquiries while the chat bot generates automated responses to those questions frequently asked.
  1. Omnichannel marketing solutions
    Businesses can provide differentiating shopping experiences across every touch point – digital, call center, in-store, and beyond. By blending digital and physical channels, customers can get a personalized view of your brand. For example, incorporating location-based services helps potential consumers find your business, discover a reason to visit, and, ultimately, purchase items based on an offer they received on their mobile device.

Exciting, productive, simpler, safer, happier, healthier, and just plain less stressful – you name it, technology is there to deliver what you need to grow your business. Sure, you may still be hesitant about adopting digital technology now. But when you find the right one, it will slide into your business so snugly that you’ll forget what life was like before it. That is the promise of technology.

Get ready to embrace everything the digital economy has to offer. Check out our blog series “Thriving in the Digital Economy” and the IDC study, co-sponsored by SAP, “Thriving in the Digital Economy: How small and midsize enterprises are adapting to digital transformation.”

Rinse Tamsma

About Rinse Tamsma

Rinse Tamsma is the Managing Director for SAP The Netherlands. Rinse has served in many leadership roles across SAP, including Global COO for the Large Corporate and Small and Midsize Business Segments, Senior Vice President of General Business in the Middle and Eastern Europe (MEE) Region and Vice President of Global Sales for SAP Business One.