Five steps a business should take in the digital age

Ways of doing business are changing fast in the modern world, and failing to keep up could cost you dearly. There are five key steps a business should be taking in the digital age should they wish to retain their competitive edge and not be left behind.

Businesses should adopt digital strategies to help retain their competitive advantage1. Have a mobile-friendly website

A mobile-friendly website is one that is designed to be viewed from a mobile device such as a smartphone. This means that the site is easy to use and navigate on a small screen, without having to scroll sideways or enlarge the text. A site that is not mobile friendly might appear cluttered, with tiny text that is difficult to read and call-to-action buttons or links that are too small to use. 

There are several reasons why having a mobile-friendly website is important for your business:

  • In April, Google introduced a new algorithm designed to reward mobile-optimised sites with higher search engine rankings. The introduction of the algorithm was known ominously as Mobilegeddon, amid expectations that non mobile-responsive sites would lose their rankings.
  • The use of mobile devices to access the internet is fast accelerating past that of desktop. Data from the ABS shows that the volume of data downloaded via mobile devices increased by 40% in just six months from December 2013 to June 2014.
  • The portability of mobile devices means that people can access the internet at any time. You run the risk of losing business if someone travelling home from work on the train for example can’t browse your site or buy from you using their phone. 

In addition, you might consider whether your business would benefit from developing a mobile app. An app can help to improve brand recognition and exposure, and make it easier for customers to use your website and your services. Google has also announced that it is going to start indexing apps as well as websites. 

2. Have a digital strategy

Having an effective digital presence that works for your business is about far more than just creating a website or social media page, and seeing what happens. You need to have a plan in place that will govern your use of digital platforms to achieve measurable goals, such as increased traffic, engagement, leads, sales conversions and so on. The digital strategy needs to include ongoing plans for website content, search engine optimisation, and social media interactions and community-building. It also entails the use of tools to measure success. The digital strategy should be incorporated into your business’s overall marketing strategy, and not be seen as separate from it. 

The number one reason to have a digital strategy is because so many consumers now use digital platforms to engage with businesses. Business owners who learn how to use digital tools to promote and grow their businesses and engage with people outside of the organisation, and have a detailed plan in place to achieve their objectives, will be far more likely to remain competitive. 

3. Think long-term, instead of trying to do it all at once

Not having a long-term focus and only focusing on immediate or short-term actions can result in unsuccessful campaigns. Examples may include focusing on this month’s bottom line, trying to achieve too much day-to-day, or spending too much time putting out fires rather than on achieving longer-term goals.

Some of the signs of short-term thinking include holding too much information in your head (rather than in writing), failing to delegate tasks, and having a poor ability to set limits. This can lead to disorganisation, procrastination, and attempts to do too many things at once – which can often result in achieving very little! Short-term thinking can also cause you to miss the signs in the wider landscape that your business needs to change and adapt. 

So why embrace longer-term thinking? Long-term strategies and plans provide you with a ‘map’ of where the business is going and help you to keep your eye on the road ahead. This can also enable you to see new opportunities, as well as the signs that you might need to make some changes in order to remain competitive.

4. Utilise new technologies such as cloud accounting

If you’re not using new technology, you might be missing out on simplifying your business processes, and saving a lot of time and money. Cloud accounting is one new technology that is taking off very quickly now, as businesses recognise the cost and time saving benefits it provides. 
With cloud accounting, the software for accounting processes is accessed online, rather than being purchased and downloaded onto a computer. Data is also stored on the cloud provider’s servers, rather than on the business’s own computer system. 

Cloud accounting is accessible anywhere that a secure internet connection is available. It can simplify tax processes and compliance, be used on mobile devices, and save considerable office space as well as money on the cost of hardware, software, backup storage and printing. 

Recent research by MYOB revealed that business owners reported saving an average of 10 hours per month simply by using the bank feeds feature, where accounts are synced to online bank accounts. 
The time saved by using cloud accounting can be used for other purposes, such as promotional activities, or increasing your client base.  

5. Don’t fight the trends, try going with the flow

Now more than ever it is important for business owners to adapt to the changing marketplace, including the proliferation of new digital developments and trends.
Ignoring the trends can lead to you getting seriously left behind, and even becoming obsolete. 

Two classic examples of this are:

  • Kodak – While a Kodak staff member developed the very first digital camera in 1975, the company failed to promote this new technology, preferring instead to focus on film. This is because the company saw digital as a rival to film – which means in effect it didn’t want to compete with itself. When rival companies jumped on the bandwagon with digital, Kodak unfortunately missed the boat and went bankrupt.
  • Borders – Borders kept on investing in mega bookstores around the world just as people were taking to websites to buy books. By the time the company caught on, it was already too late.

It’s important to keep your eye on the trends to see what’s happening out there in the digital age. Embrace new technology, and take the time to engage with your customers to find out what they want and need from your business, and to adapt to the changing market landscape. 

Ignoring digital trends can mean losing that competitive edge. Don’t be left behind, get on the front foot and start planning for your business future today.

For more information about this article, please contact your nearest RSM Office