Uncertainty is a recurring theme in today’s small and medium business (SMB) environment. However, many of tomorrow’s problems can be solved now using today’s technology. SMBs that embrace greater digitalisation will benefit from increased efficiency and automation, which provides them with the insight needed to future-proof ongoing strategy.
With much of the data processed over the summer, SMBs should now look to capitalise on the efficiencies and security of digitalisation during this busy period. Let’s take a closer look at how this could work.
Staying ahead of the competition
Generally, manual business processes are slow. But inefficiency costs time, money, and customers. This is truer than ever in today’s harsh economic climate.
Businesses are built on dozens upon dozens of processes and many business leaders are unaware that they can work differently with suppliers, customers and staff to create efficiencies that reduce time, risk and waste, and provide a competitive advantage. Many of the manual processes SMBs currently undertake can be digitised and automated, from HR processes, such as staff booking holidays, to creating customer quotes or managing supplier relationships.
A few examples. My daughter leads IT for a restaurant group with smart cooking appliances that are managed through WIFI. They are able to manage recipes and cook times over the cloud, ensuring the same quality at every location. Each plate of food is given the finesse that customers love, with consistency regardless of location. My son’s shifts at a coffee shop are digitised; each team member uses a simple app that enables them to plan their work days without time wasted on wordy communications or clearing up confusion. Similarly, I will almost certainly choose businesses that allow me to book appointments or services online. Picking up the phone to book a car service feels outdated – and the automated reminders mean the garage and I are in sync. In fact, recent research shows that 61% of SMBs using digital tech enjoy higher revenue than competitors.
There are efficiencies to be made everywhere when SMBs seize the opportunity to integrate digitalisation into places you might not expect. Often, automating the most basic manual processes can make a considerable impact, leaving room for businesses to focus on other opportunities to grow and stay ahead of the competition.
Putting an end to speculation
While SMB owners are often experts in their market, making decisions on how to become more efficient based solely on gut feeling is not a sustainable strategy, especially today when a huge number of external factors impact success.
Whether seeking process efficiencies, a better understanding of customer needs, or an answer to rising costs or supply chain challenges, SMBs can use technology to access real-time insight that helps them make informed decisions earlier and quicker.
Connecting every aspect of your business processes using digital planning systems, from supply chain to customer relationship management, and inventory to human resources brings all core business data into one system where you can access the insights you need to make decisions, holding all the information required to run your business more efficiently.
For example, let’s see how digital inventory management will help SMBs navigate the upcoming gifting season:
Digital tools for handling Christmas
From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and Christmas, the winter months are some of the busiest for retailers. The pre-Christmas discount period of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a growing trend, with 68% of consumers saying they are waiting until this time to make certain purchases.
By automating inventory management, retailers can ensure they have the right products in stock to meet customer demand, with instant insight into availability and trends. They don’t have to search for information manually. It is also possible to set minimum re-order levels, see warnings if you’re out of stock, get reports on your best-selling products and ensure that excess inventory doesn’t run the risk of reaching its shelf life before it’s used or sold.
With the cost-of-living crisis hitting consumers’ pockets, the ability to view inventory trends instantly can provide the data you need to make informed decisions about potential discounts, offers and incentives. At the same time, it leaves you free to concentrate on delivering excellent customer service, using all the digital data at your fingertips to ensure customer needs are met efficiently.
Reducing the effects of the energy crisis
With large energy bills looming, any SMB with a physical space, whether a shop, production space or office, should prepare for winter. Automation can help drive energy efficiency – for example by ensuring lighting, heating or other energy-intensive infrastructure is turned off when not in use. Similarly, with remote working becoming ever-more ubiquitous, some SMBs may consider using more technologies that enable digital working, negating the need for an office to be used throughout the week.
Automation isn’t just about your internal processes. It is also about seeking ways to mitigate external factors where you have less control. This includes energy and issues such as supply chain delays, where you can use digital technologies to link with global suppliers and ensure you manage partnerships closely but efficiently.
Catching up to streamline processes
The task for SMBs this autumn has been to assess their business in this broader context. Success means understanding what data is available, how to use it, and what the quick wins are when using technology.
Those that may have left planning a little late may find that catching up isn’t as difficult as large-scale automation or digitalization. Instead, they could use this time to look for golden nuggets of opportunity where technology and digital tools can quickly and conveniently streamline processes, enhance the customer experience, and save time, money, and energy all around!