Running a small or medium-sized business (SMB) presents owners with many challenges. Without the big bucks behind them, there’s a danger of being left behind when it comes to the latest technology. And Ireland is taking its time with digitalisation, even though it’s considered ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, but it’s not too late.
SMBs dominate the Irish economy, and for the country to move quicker with digitalisation, small businesses need a digital transformation-friendly society.
Find out why some businesses are struggling to get to grips with digitalisation, how to future proof your business, and how SMBs should prioritise.
Running a small business in Ireland
A 2019 report into small businesses revealed the extent of the challenge they face. Although Ireland is among the most digitised countries in the world, this is down to a small number of foreign-owned multinational companies with high digitalisation levels.
Most small businesses in Ireland exist in non-digital sectors. More than 50% are operating in the service sector, 20% are in the construction and distribution sectors respectively, and the remaining 7% operate in the industry section, which is dominated by manufacturing.
The report suggested a number of initiatives to help businesses in Ireland to raise awareness and help fund their digitalisation efforts. London-based business support group Enterprise Nation recently announced it was teaming up with Microsoft, Klarna, and Vodafone to launch a free digital training programme for Irish SMBs, called Go and Grow Online.
What is digitalisation?
Digitalisation has several definitions but in the world of business, it’s the adoption of digital technologies to upgrade processes or modify and improve a business model. The world was already heading in this direction, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated progress through necessity.
With the world in lockdown, the restaurant industry took a big hit. Even some of the biggest hospitality chains struggled through closures. When the world began to reopen, restaurants were particularly limited by restrictions, and many customers had understandable concerns about hygiene. It was a case of ‘adapt to survive’ for many, and pivoting to a takeaway business model became the new norm for many.
Restaurants wouldn’t have been able to make the pivot without digitalisation already in place. Here’s just a few of the services they provided, which meant customers could still enjoy their menu, from the comfort of their home.
Online and in-app ordering
Click and Collect
It’s not just restaurant customers that have benefitted from digitalisation. Digital technology such as point of sale systems have helped improve efficiency and simplify or improve internal processes.
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Future proofing your business
Digitalisation was inevitable, but seismic shifts in the business world brought on by COVID-19 made them necessities in many areas. Although the impact of the pandemic will taper off, the technological advancements the world has undergone as a result will not disappear.
According to Marketing.ie, 43% of Irish adults intend to entertain from the comfort of their homes more in 2022, even when the pandemic is over.
So, it’s clear that digitalisation is not a passing fad and now’s the time to get thinking about future-proofing your business.
What should small business owners prioritise?
OK, deep breath. Digitalisation might sound daunting, but even taking small steps towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform your business and stop you feeling too overwhelmed. Here’s some ideas to get you started.
Plan a strategy – make digitalisation more manageable. Identify pain points, plan out what you want to accomplish, and how to get there.
Omnichannel selling – a multichannel, synced approach to sales, where the customer experience can seamlessly work via a laptop, smartphone, or bricks-and-mortar venue.
Cloud technology – allows your data to be stored remotely and protected from hardware issues or cyber attacks. It gives you the flexibility to scale up (or down) when needed and collaborate with others, anywhere.
Social media – do you have an online presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? If not, you’re missing out on advertising and even the ability to sell products.
Reassure staff – it’s important to reassure your team that digitalisation doesn’t mean they’ll be out of a job. Help them see the process as a way to make their jobs easier, not irrelevant.
Digital training programmes – sign up to Enterprise Nation’s Go and Grow programme, or any similar courses to keep up to date with the latest guidance.
How digitalisation can support your business
It’s important not to feel like digitalisation is a huge task that has to be done just to keep up with the crowd. The benefits of such a move are many and, once you do it, you’ll feel empowered and may wonder why you left it so long.
Customer engagement – the data you can collect on customers with digitalisation is invaluable. You can better understand who you’re selling to and identify potential areas of improvement.
Optimise processes – manage workflow, easily access data, and streamline business processes in ways that used to only be available to large companies.
Transform your products and services – digitalisation can make you aware of new revenue streams and improvements to existing products.
Empower employees – free up your staff from laborious manual processes so they can learn new ways to help your business.
Growth – whether it’s revenue or customer base, the money it will cost you to digitalise will soon be earned back when you reap the benefits.
Start your journey
Every business is unique and so is the road to digitalisation. Square can help you transform yours with intuitive digital solutions that suit your needs, plus expert advice for your business. Exciting times are ahead.