The consequence of the pandemic has been a great shift to the online model for many businesses. Even businesses that already had an online presence are refocusing their tactics to identify and leverage opportunities online.
This piece focuses on three main areas where businesses can gain an edge against competitors by doing things differently. The three are technology, branding, and customer service.
Technology, because moving your business online essentially entails leveraging technology to improve business operations. Branding, because it gives your business direction and purpose. And customer service, because regardless of external situations, customers’ needs remain utmost.
The Technology Edge
Going online is already leveraging technology to boost business growth. And this technology opportunity is one that should be exploited to the fullest. Even before the pandemic, everywhere, technology has been disrupting business operations and empowering businesses to scale.
New technologies are opening up advancements in various spheres of business; IoT in supply chains; AI in marketing, 5G in operations, virtual reality in sales, cloud computing in IT, and so on.
And when these technologies are combined, the results can be immense. For instance, IoT can be leveraged to track business assets, monitor operations, ensure supply chain visibility, and prevent fraud.
Further, through AI and data analytics, an organization can use real-time data from enterprise IoT devices to understand business operations and also develop adaptive, forward-thinking business strategies and tactics to engender growth.
Combining analytics with other innovative technologies helps to ensure the proper utilization of business resources. Although many use cases of IoT focus on large enterprises, manufacturing in particular, small businesses can also leverage connected devices to streamline operations and glean insights to future-proof their business models.
The Business Branding Edge
It was Coca-Cola’s legendary Walter Landor who famously said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” With online media, there are multiple channels to express your brand’s personality.
A significant percentage of consumers go online to find local businesses and research products before purchase, even if they would eventually purchase offline. Therefore, not crafting a solid online persona for your business can lead to missed opportunities to attract leads and make sales.
In branding, you want to resonate with your audience; you want each person to encounter your brand and feel ‘this is for me.’ Therefore, your branding efforts should focus on the needs of your audience; that begins by researching them, monitoring and analyzing their behavior and habits, and learning their desires.
The established groundwork informs almost every other factor such as which channels to target to connect with your audience best, which online tools to use, and how to craft content that is engaging and relatable to your target audience.
Most importantly, remain authentic. If you always have to pander to gain the attention of your customers, you may be targeting the wrong audience, or engaging the right audience in the wrong way.
The Customer Service Edge
The past year, particularly the impacts of COVID-19 have been tough for businesses. As of May 2020, the Washington Post reported that 100,000 small businesses have closed forever due to the impacts of the pandemic. Most of the surviving ones lie at the precipice and don’t fare much better.
Because of these, it is easy for small businesses to lose sight of the fact that human beings, individuals, and not organizations (large or small), are the primary victims of the pandemic. Therefore, surviving businesses, to thrive, need to adapt their operations and customer service in recognition of all the ways it has altered the lives of their customers.
Never before has the phrase ‘exceptional customer service’ been more important. Customers would be more attuned to businesses that embrace change and the need to do things differently.
Basically, as a business owner, this moment of crisis is when your service delivery needs the most innovation. Customers would appreciate your going out of your way to see that their needs are met, orders arrive on time, complaints are resolved quickly, and so on.
Customer service should be geared towards building trust and loyalty. Pandemic or not, “people like to feel that they will always have what they want no matter what happens.” Therefore, by moving or refocusing your business online, ensure that you are not short-changing yourself.
For many businesses, the shift to online might have come suddenly, as an inevitable response to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Thus, many business leaders have not had the chance to develop a proper strategy to transition to online operations.
However, in recognizing the opportunities that this great online shift brings, businesses can revamp their approach to ensure that their online model is not just a survival tactic but one that makes them thrive.
By focusing on the areas of technology, branding, and customer service, businesses can enhance operations, maintain direction, and win the loyalty of customers.