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Why even the smallest businesses must adopt digital-first strategy

7 min read
Toshani B

‘Digital-first’ is the latest buzzword in the business universe. It’s trending everywhere — from boardrooms and business events, to training sessions and coffee table discussions.

Although some organizations began their digitization journey before the pandemic, there's no disputing that COVID-19 accelerated the pace of digital adoption. This demand forced businesses to come to terms with a ‘new normal.’

Numerous studies show that the businesses with a digital-first strategy have survived and thrived in the current landscape.

Those that didn’t go the digital way faced major consequences.

However, the process of adopting a digital-first approach can be challenging. Very few actually get the basics right. Hence, it’s important to understand what a digital-first strategy is, what its components are and how to get it right.

What exactly is a digital-first strategy?

According to the World Economic Forum report, “An estimated 70% of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled platform business models.”

In a digital-first strategy, businesses use digital modes to connect with and resolve customer problems. This differs from a traditional physical-first approach in that all customer experience touchpoints are digital and integrated with one another.

Mark Wilson, in his article ‘Digital-first: the essential modern business mindset’ offers the following definition:

“Simply put, digital-first means approaching any new opportunity, or problem, with the assumption that the solution should be ‘as digital as possible.’”

He adds that many of the services you create can be used by customers on existing digital platforms. Here are a few examples of businesses and institutions that have made the jump to digital-first:

Digital-first example 1: Online banking

Online banking is a good example of digital-first, as it is a much faster and convenient upgrade for customers. Instead of heading to a physical bank branch and standing in a queue to make a payment, they can do it anytime from wherever they are.

Digital-first example 2: Contactless hotel services

Small and mid-sized hotels are now creating contactless experiences for check-in and check-out processes in response to COVID-19. Instead of relying on the face-to-face checkout process, they’ve had to transition digitally to reduce the risk of infection.

Digital-first example 3: Online learning

Educational institutions have also transitioned to digital strategies. Instead of communicating through paperwork and face-to-face meetings, they’ve now had to make online their key means of communication and instruction.

Young boy working at a computer
Some schools have redesigned their websites in order to deliver student instruction.
Photo: Ralston Smith on Unsplash

The biggest benefit of a digital-first approach lies in its greater appeal to customers — a prerequisite to a superior customer experience. However, improving your automation and streamlining your business processes can also help save you costs in the long run, which benefits your bottom line.

More importantly, your business will be better able to handle unforeseen circumstances like COVID-19.

You’’ll also be more prepared for future advances, compared with a business that hasn’t gone digital-first.

5 ways to help you adopt a digital-first strategy

A company with a digital-first strategy has the tools, skills, processes and culture to successfully operate in today’s world. With a digital infrastructure in place, employees can work together remotely and access data anywhere through their digital devices.

Business professional typing on a laptop

Below, we’ll review some key digital strategy components that are especially suitable for small businesses. Keep in mind, this may vary depending on your business type and industry.

1. A mobile-friendly website

The purpose of having a website is to increase your business visibility and get new clients. It also acts as a hub that all other media drive customers to:

  • Social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
  • Advertising profiles (ad banners and Yellow Pages Online)
  • Other business platforms (rating and review websites)

It’s important that your business website is easy-to-use on any device — from smartphone to desktop computer. You don’t want to lose customers because they can’t use your website on their phones.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Website Builder makes it easy for anyone to build a mobile-friendly website — no tech knowledge required. You can even build your website on your smartphone. Try it free!

2. Promotion through digital marketing

Digital marketing is the best way to promote any business, regardless of size, location or industry. Tactics include:

  • Business blogs
  • Mobile apps
  • Search engine marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Social media ads
  • Mobile banner ads
  • eBooks

Even one or two of these will help establish your presence in the online world.

3. Setting up online store

Setting up an online store for your products can help increase the number of people you are able to reach, since they can buy from anywhere in the world. In the long run, it costs less than setting up a physical store as well.

Since your business can operate digitally around the clock, you have more opportunity to minimise operation costs while maximising sales and profits.

4. Customer relationships

In a digital-first strategy, customer interaction happens via a mobile device, desktop computer, phone call or social media.

To support your engagement with customers, you could use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to capture data on customer behavior and preferences. This allows customer service staff to take informed actions to drastically improve the quality of customer experiences.

5. Supplier interaction

To succeed in the digital economy, you’ll want to establish strong supplier relationships. Automating information exchanges between your business and the suppliers can help make interactions more efficient, saving you money and reducing mistakes.

Two men walking side by side in a warehouse
A digital-first strategy can benefit your supply chain by saving time and errors.

By helping your suppliers adopt a digital strategy, you help them improve their own business prospects. A common portal or supply information management system can help your businesses manage meetings, quotes and invoices together. This means they can be easily queried.

6. Efficiencies through technology

Using the right digital technology — and for the right purpose — is the hallmark of a digital-first strategy. Whether it’s your smartphone, a CRM system, or customer service chatbot, digital technology can help you save time and costs and provide much better service to customers.

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can use technology to be more efficient.

Make things mobile-friendly

Integrating mobile-based solutions into your business strategies helps provide an added advantage to your business. You could consider implementing mobile commerce and other mobile applications.

Utilize cloud services

Small businesses opting for cloud computing can reduce costs and increase efficiency. Many cloud services allow you to store, update and access data and programs over the internet. This is beneficial since you don’t have to overload your computer's hard drive and the information is accessible even if your computer is hacked or destroyed.

Invest in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is another area online businesses should take seriously.

It’s important to maintain regular security updates and patches, while having a strong firewall.

Besides that, you’ll also want to draft an online security policy and use multi factor identification as extra support. These will be essential for keeping your business data safe and secure.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s all-in-one Website Security keeps your site safe with daily malware scans, automated backups, a firewall and SSL encryption to protect customers’ banking details.

Final takeaways for a digital-first strategy

As you make the move into a digital-first approach, remember that it’s not synonymous to ‘digital only.’ You need to add offline interactions and touchpoints too.

That’s because consumers like interacting with brands offline — even if they are digital-first brands.

Since the end goal of your business is customer satisfaction, a digital approach with the option of personal interaction can make all the difference. In the post-pandemic world, this will be crucial for your business to thrive.