The digital transformation trends changing how small businesses operate

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The digital transformation trends changing how small businesses operate

There’s a fourth industrial revolution on the rise. Just as steam engines and automation changed the landscape of work forever, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is shifting the balance again. Businesses are being disrupted by the force of this transformative tech.

With the ability to deliver powerful insights, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are increasing small business productivity and customer satisfaction like never before. Small businesses that embrace digital transformation and adopt AI are already reaping the benefits.

In fact, the ANZ Digital Economy: Transforming Australian Businesses report[1] suggests using digital tools saves SMBs 10 hours per week on average and boosts revenue by 27 per cent. Collectively, this amounts to 22 million hours saved per week and an additional $385 billion per year in revenue across all Australian small businesses.

Despite this statistic, 56 per cent of small business owners surveyed by ANZ admitted they did not value digital tools. While a further 43 per cent said they were overwhelmed when it came to choosing the right solution for their business.

Small business expert and host of Kochie’s Business Builders, David Koch, suggests small business owners cannot afford to take a ‘head in the sand’ approach to digital transformation.

“Ignoring digital transformation will be at your peril,” Koch says. “Small businesses are competing on an increasingly larger (often global) scale. In order to do so effectively, they need to be sure they have the right solutions in place to give them a bird’s eye view of their business.

“That means, adopting cloud accounting for real-time reporting of their financials, introducing a CRM, so they can understand their client base and keeping up with online trends to make sure they are delivering customer service at the expected level. That could mean introducing a chatbot for their e-commerce store or using machine learning to personalise sales offerings.”

Often the most common obstacles to adopting digital technology is knowing where to begin. Fear of technology and understanding the benefits can also play a factor. Yet it’s clear competency in digital solutions is vital for small business growth.

“The statistics are clearly showing small businesses need to embrace the digital world. It’s time to get online, build an eCommerce store, get active on social media. Business owners need to adopt e-invoicing and identify and use the apps and customer solutions that will make their business work to its best,” Koch says.

Adrian Towsey, AVP, Small & Medium Business, Salesforce APAC agrees. He proposes AI has the capacity to augment existing business planning, job roles, workflows and business strategies.

“Artificial intelligence will change the way small businesses work, specifically how they sell, service and market,” said Towsey.

As digital disruption increases, Towsey believes all businesses will need to react quickly to roll out strategies to fit. Employee productivity and customer experiences will be amongst the first to be impacted by AI. According to Towsey, the changes are already occurring.

“Customer behaviour and technology innovation are changing alongside each other,” said Towsey.

“For example, today’s customers now expect to have access to products, services, and experiences anytime, anywhere, and on-demand. Businesses must adapt how they design and deliver products and services.”

AI also has the potential to deliver enormous opportunities for businesses that harness its power. Zvika Krieger co-leader of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution suggests AI’s deep diving data capabilities provide enormous potential for business growth.

“The unprecedented amount of data that companies can now collect provides amazing opportunities to meet the most specialised customer needs and create entirely new business models, “Krieger said on the Salesforce blog.

Indeed, the Salesforce AI for CRM guide suggests businesses that make use of AI can discover powerful insights about their customers.

“Businesses that embrace the AI opportunity will be able to create the experiences their customers expect, connecting with them on all their devices, analysing their data to get to know them better, and being able to anticipate and predict in order to better serve them.”

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[1] https://media.anz.com/content/dam/mediacentre/pdfs/mediareleases/2018/August/ANZ%20The%20digital%20economy%20web.pdf

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