Digital Tools Drive Growth, But Are You Taking Advantage?

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Digital tools can help small businesses grow and innovate, but many have yet to unlock their full potential. Eighty percent of small businesses in the U.S. do not fully use digital tools to further growth, according to a new study by Google and Deloitte. But according to the report’s findings, the benefits of boosting your digital engagement are significant.

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The study, which analyzed more than 2,000 small business owners with fewer than 250 employees, defines four categories of digital engagement:

  • Basic: Companies in the basic group have a business email address but no website or social media presence, and advertise using traditional channels.
  • Intermediate: These businesses have simple websites (without e-commerce or booking capabilities) and limited social media presence, and they might employ tools like email advertising.
  • High: Businesses with a high engagement level have more advanced websites (mobile responsiveness, e-commerce capability), are active on several social media platforms, employ online marketing tactics, and use digital tools internally.
  • Advanced: These businesses take it one step further, employing data analytics to inform their decisions and online marketing tools to grow their business. They might even have a mobile app.

Compared to the most basic businesses, the most advanced companies earned twice as much revenue per employee and experienced revenue growth nearly four times higher than the previous year. The study also found that small businesses experienced an average of 11-percent revenue growth per additional level of digital engagement reached.

How can you take advantage of digital tools to grow your business?

Start by determining where you fall on the digital engagement spectrum. Once you determine which category your business falls into, it’s time to consider adopting the various digital tools outlined in the report, which can help you get to the next level.

If you’re at a basic level, the most logical first step is launching a website. You can create your own e-commerce site and go omnichannel using Square’s tools — no need to hire an outside company to do it for you.

You can also jump into digital marketing by creating brand accounts on social media channels. While the report found that 85 percent of basic businesses had no social media presence and 51 percent of intermediate companies had some social presence, social media accounts are bare-minimum essentials for small businesses.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are free and serve as go-to sources when customers are looking for information about a brand, so having a social presence is key. Social media also provides an opportunity for companies to connect with their customers and reach new audiences with tools like sharing and targeted advertising.

It’s easy to go right from intermediate to a high level of engagement by
enhancing your website with the capability to book appointments and make purchases. Square Appointments not only enables clients to make appointments but also can send text or email reminders, and it syncs with Square Payments so you can accept payments and send invoices.

Companies with the most advanced level of digital engagement employ analytics tools to examine their data and inform business decisions. While this might seem like the most sophisticated of digital tools, it also makes the most sense. After all, what is the point of investing in technology that isn’t going to boost your bottom line?

Square Analytics offers real-time data like which items are selling best, how much customers are spending, and which times of day sales are highest. This can help you make decisions about everything from inventory management to staff scheduling.

Finally, other technologies that high and advanced companies invest in are tools that streamline their internal processes. For example, Square Dashboard offers quick access to insights and allows you to easily generate reports. And the inventory management feature enables businesses to keep track of stock, and it sends you an email when you’re running low.

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