Small Business, Digital Transformation: How SMEs can leverage data to digitally transform

To be able to survive in today's ever-changing business landscape, organisations of all sizes and in all sectors have one thing in common

Small Business

To be able to survive in today’s ever-changing business landscape, organisations of all sizes and in all sectors have one thing in common: their need for digitisation has never been greater. Yet some organisations, particularly smaller ones, shy away from data and digital transformation, concerned about the cost and a lack of in-house knowledge. But the pandemic has highlighted that those businesses further along their digital journeys fared better. 

Going digital provides many benefits to businesses, such as better insight into customer needs, the ability to stay on top of trends in real-time, and most importantly addressing the key channels to market. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that adopt a wait and see approach to digital transformation risk falling behind the competition and will end up playing catch up.  

Many SMEs struggle to start their digital transformation

SMEs are the beating heart of Europe’s economy. With over 25 million SME’s operating within Europe, they are the largest employer of the continents private sector and the largest contributor to the GDP of the EU, digitalisation is integral to their growth and resilience. 

The pandemic has highlighted the lack of digitalisation in this segment, which has seen small and medium-sized companies hardest hit by the crisis. As the markets continue to expand and develop, organisations face more competition and rapid shifts in what their customers need and want. Customers’ channel preferences have already shifted to digital and omni-channel. Technology is now a vital part of the solution, allowing companies to respond quickly to a changing market, grow revenues and reduce their costs by streamlining current processes. 

However, many are struggling to start their journey to digital maturity. Barriers include finding the budget to retrain employees and invest in new systems, through to a lack of in-house tech skills and security expertise.

Yet SMEs need to overcome these challenges to survive.

As we enter a new normal businesses need to learn how to identify opportunities and act on them. Key to this is leveraging the data that’s already available and making sure it’s used across the entire business.

The power of data 

One key part of digital transformation is the ability to record, transform and analyse data, which is key to helping businesses understand the customer better, evolve products, drive commercial effectiveness, gain operational efficiency, and potentially even open up new revenue streams. 

For example, we’re working with a real estate consultancy in Spain who uses our vast amounts of anonymised and aggregated mobile data to monitor how people are moving about urban spaces, allowing them to predict trends in its big cities. 

Companies like Zoopla have disrupted the residential real estate markets by regularly refining their websites to provide clear information on current prices, buying and selling trends, and neighbourhood characteristics such as traffic level and demographics. To compete, traditional real estate agents need to be able to do the same and give their customers the best advice in terms of when to invest, when to sell and when to lease. 

Retailers, for instance, want to know where their customers and competitors are located, what’s the economic and social profile of people visiting a certain area and how people’s movements on the streets are linked with their economic transactions in those spaces. That way they can decide where best to open a new store or host a localised event. 

Recent Vodafone Business research found that ‘Future Ready’ businesses ‘ namely those that can unlock the potential of data ‘ were found to be consistently more likely to fully realise the commercial potential of their analytics. With 42% of ‘Future Ready’ Businesses saying they are already ‘seeking data-driven insights’ as a way of meeting rising customer expectations.

Understanding the power of data is the easy part but learning how to harness it is a little more difficult. Our research found that while many businesses recognise the advantages of data, most of the data they have is underutilised. 

The good news is that small businesses don’t have to carry out a comprehensive data-led transformation in one go. The best way to kick off a data strategy is to identify and select specific opportunities or pain points in your business and focus on those. 

Once these are identified, you can put a framework in place that covers technology, people and processes for tackling the opportunity or pain point. Persistence and an iterative approach of trial and error is required as data does not always come clean, and some use cases are hard to materialise, but in the end, it will pay-off. As more use cases become real, it is important to step back and have a more holistic approach to data, but first you need to start. 

Taking the plunge

It can be incredibly daunting for small businesses when approaching digital transformation and the adoption of a data-driven approach to running the business. However, it’s time to push aside preconceived barriers and embrace change to get started on the digital journey. It is important to highlight that data is not just for large businesses, it is for every ‘Future Ready’ business.  

Organisations of all sizes can benefit from the customer insights, cost saving and growth opportunities that data can provide. It is key to start this process now and lay the foundations, as the future becomes increasingly digital and new data sources are available, making data analysis key to business success. 

Fanan Henriques
Fanan Henriques

Share via
Copy link