There are 5 growth strategies you should employ to digitally transform your business. By understanding your buyers, experimenting with new sales channels, re-examining your foundations for scalable growth, automating everything and making friends with data you can drive a lasting impact with your customers and set your business up for long-term success.
Growth strategy #1 – Know thy customer
Invest a good amount of time to regularly research and understand your buyers. I know this sounds basic, and it is, but customers today are more dynamic then they have ever been in how they purchase, how they discover products, and how they become loyal, repeat buyers.
Merchants today are experiencing a seismic shift in the proliferation of sales channels and varying digital platforms. That’s further complicated by the changing demographics of their buyers, on both the B2B and B2C side of the equation.
A Google Consumer Insight Report found that in 2014, 46% of B2B buyers were millennials. Today that number has tipped well over the halfway point. And on the B2C side of the equation, in 2015 millennials represented 35% of all buyers, with GenX trailing at 17%.
Whether purchasing for B2B or B2C, millennials want to be able to find detailed information on products without having to talk to a sales representative; they want to find a great deal, and they are not afraid to cross-channel shop. Interestingly, many also want to support organizations that align with their personal values, even if this means that they need to pay a premium.
This behavior and these B2C expectations are driving the shifts you see today across the commerce space. And they’re not only relevant to the millennial generation – these buying patterns are now starting to make their way into how GenX and the Baby Boomers shop, both as individuals and as business buyers.
Growth strategy #2 – Experiment with new sales channels
Your brand needs to be present where your customers spend their time!
Selling on a single platform today is not only passe, it’s limiting. As we’ve just learned, buyers today are cross-channel shopping whether you want to admit it or not, and they’re doing so for a number of possible reasons.
- They may be looking for more information on a particular product
- They may be looking for related alternatives
- They may be looking for a better price
- Or they may be looking for a more ethical supplier/merchant
As a merchant, making the move to supporting another sales channel like a marketplace, eCommerce store, Brick & Mortar location or direct-to-consumer sales team has many benefits. These include:
- Increasing your discoverability for new and existing customers. Brands who are present on multiple channels often attract loyal, repeat buyers.
- You’ll show that you have the scale and wherewithal of a large and reliable organization.
- You will be able to more easily research competitive pricing or positioning or identical products, which will allow you to counter and be more strategic.
- You’ll have more opportunities to have your content indexed by search engines and surfaced to buyers that have high purchase intent.
Digital expansion is the easiest way to get going and also has the highest potential returns for effort invested.
- Consider building a B2B eCommerce channel to create what is essentially an always-on wholesale stream. Bonus points if you can find a platform that integrates with your inventory & order management system .
- There are a number of B2C eCommerce platforms you can choose from for either a free or paid experiment.
- Digital marketplaces are another great option to expose your brand to new buyers. Amazon may be the first marketplace to come to mind, but there are plenty of other product specialized marketplaces like Lazada that offer a wide assortment of products, Joor for fashion & apparel and Jet for household goods.
Growth Strategy #3 – re-examine your foundations for scalable growth
Driving a successful digital transformation strategy is only possible if you’re captaining a lean ship.
Operations are often the largest headache of running any organization. Fortunately, the ability to manage and streamline them today has never been easier and the barriers to accessing great technology and learnings has never been lower.
However, the biggest barrier to success here often lies with you or your people. Change is good and it’s time to overcome the “me” mountain, free your team from the spreadsheet olympics and embrace digital transformation.
A few of the benefits cloud-based systems provide include:
- They’re updated on a frequent basis, meaning you always have access to the latest software without having to perform manual installations
- They’re designed to grow alongside your business with the click of a button, not through buying and installing additional servers or software
- Your data is often secure and protected on enterprise-grade servers, even if you run a 1-person operation
- The good ones provide native integrations to other technologies as well as offering developers access to an API.
Growth Strategy #4 – Automate everything
In the best case scenarios, a person’s manual error rate is 5 to 10 mistakes for every 100 entries. In worst case scenarios, this can be as high as 30 mistakes per hundred. Miss too many orders as a result of overselling and not reflecting inventory counts accurately on too many occasions and your customer will search for a merchant that can meet their needs…
When looking for operational systems that support automation, as a merchant you should focus on whether or not they can deliver on one or more of the following:
- Ensures that your inventory is updated in real-time so you don’t list items that you can’t fulfill
- Syncs orders with your accounting system to avoid reconciliations and manual errors
- Receives goods by scanning purchase order barcodes vs manually counting stock
- Automates part of your fulfillment process to save on shipping costs
The possibilities for automation are literally limitless and both your staff and your bottom line will thank you for making “busy” meaningful again.
Growth strategy #5 – Make friends with data
Data is not your enemy. It does not have to be scary or overwhelming.
And now that you have a modern Cloud system that automates tasks across your supply chain, you can trust that it’s collecting and aggregating all of your cold hard data into a single source of truth from which to explore the inner workings of your organization.
This ability to take advantage of purpose built, out of the box reporting and forecasting lets you examine your organization’s data.
You may think you have a strong understanding of your business but some of these technology providers have thousands of merchants who all have different ways of thinking about your business. They leverage all of these learnings to help you run your business more efficiently.
Being able to understand channel performance, under or over-performing SKUs, identify buyers who are late on payments and even prevent you from over-ordering, resulting in deadstock…. and doing all of this without the help of a Data Analyst, makes this an invaluable growth strategy!
Related: Innovative Technology Solutions
Data isn’t just your friend. It’s one of your most valuable assets.
If you’re going to truly grow your business, re-examine the foundations of your business strategy and the systems that you’ve selected to support them. This is where your bottlenecks typically exist and will emerge. By identifying areas where you can streamline operations, identify efficiencies and iterative wins, you’ll be able to allow your company to thrive in current and future market conditions.