One of the things we take for granted these days is the humble smartphone - it’s easy to forget the full range of its capabilities and features, which only continue to expand every year. Think of the number of separate items that have been packed into a single svelte device. To name just a few: a camera, watch, calendar, notebook, miniature TV, speakers, mp3 player, gaming console, calculator… and more! Even the computing capabilities of a modern smartphone would be considered to be on par with a supercomputer of the past.
The ever-increasing feature set of smartphones serves as a good analogy for the digital shift we’ve seen across the world. We use our smartphones to store and keep track of everything important to us in our personal lives - contacts, photos, music, appointments, and more - without worrying about losing any of this data, since it can be easily synced across devices.
Recent events have resulted in an even more significant change in consumer behaviours, with online activity and transactions increasing significantly - a report from ACI Worldwide showed that global ecommerce transactions grew 81 percent in May compared to the same period last year, whilst April saw a staggering 209 percent growth in a similar comparison.
However, many small business owners aren’t adopting the same digital mindset when it comes to their businesses, and aren’t considering how the smartphone has become a powerful business enabler. Many still think that digitisation means huge investments in IT infrastructure and personnel, which is simply no longer the case. Perhaps more important than the in-built features that I had mentioned above are the apps that smartphones allow access to - powerful yet cost-efficient ways of bringing small businesses into the digital era. Here are some quick and easy ways in which business owners should be looking to modernise:
Reach out to your customers
Whilst I believe that print and out-of-home advertisements still have their purposes, their costs may be too high for small businesses to engage in on a regular basis. Instead, social media has become the de-facto channel of engagement for many small businesses - and may be significantly more cost-effective. One tip: a steady stream of visuals is absolutely essential for social media, but don’t worry about purchasing an expensive camera. Many modern smartphones offer stunning image quality for social media posts with much less fuss.
Set up your website
Research from Blue Corona has shown that 90 percent of consumers will check a business’s website before calling or emailing. With website development being perhaps the most daunting task for many small business owners, many ecommerce apps have significantly simplified this task by offering professional and modern website templates that can be set up in less than an hour. Some only require the choosing of a colour theme and layout, as well as some information about your business - and you’re good to go. Website development is no longer exclusively the domain of the tech-savvy (though you should definitely consider consulting web development professionals as your business expands).
Manage your IT costs
Mention ‘business IT’ and the image of massive immovable desktops come to mind - along with thousands of dollars of cost in software, implementation, training, and server costs. Cloud apps charge monthly subscriptions instead, allowing you to pay as you go - and allow you to optimise your business investments for immediate growth.
Create digital invoices and payment reminders
Many small businesses suffer from the issue of late payments - a single large overdue invoice can be enough to wreck a small business already suffering from cashflow issues. With technologies like machine-learning and automation, small business owners can create and manage invoices, as well as set up automatic payment reminders.
Get a holistic view of your business anywhere
Modern life is one where we’re constantly on the go. This can be a source of worry for small business owners that have to step away from their physical stores or offices. Super apps for business may even have an in-built app marketplace with a massive range of business-focused apps and can help provide real-time information on your business through intuitive dashboards, right on your smartphone.
To sum things up: our personal lives are now more digital than ever, and our consumption habits have similarly shifted. It stands to reason that the businesses we run should be no less digital, and that small business owners should be looking to tap on the most powerful digital tools they already have: their smartphones.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Kevin Fitzgerald is the Managing Director, Asia at Xero, where he leads the growth and performance of the Asian business, spending his time between the Singapore and Hong Kong offices. Kevin and his team help small businesses and their advisors across Asia embrace cloud technology to run productive, more profitable businesses.