Using the potential of new technology and a ‘digital first’ mindset, it is possible to bring the small business bespoke model to the masses and deliver truly personalised experiences at scale. This is no time for big business leaders to be coy about learning from the little guys.
In case you hadn’t noticed, small businesses are on the rise and the bespoke economy is booming. The latest figures show that SMEs (i.e. with less than 250 employees) comprise 99% of all enterprises in both the EU and the USA. The World Bank estimates there are around an additional further 400 million SMEs in emerging markets. Investors love small business owners because they are innovative, driven, motivated, light on their feet, and they create jobs.
The advent of e-commerce, easy online payments and the ability to reach massive audiences via such behemoths as Amazon, eBay and Etsy means small is the new black as budding entrepreneurs from all walks of life are turning their backs on the corporate world and creating their own enterprises.
Customers are flocking to these impresarios in their millions, for the personal and responsive customer service, the product quality and the good vibes that come with knowing they are supporting a small business. Not for nothing do the “When you buy from a small business” memes frequently get shared in their millions on social media. And with tax-avoidance by big business constantly making the headlines, you can understand the sentiment.
What can big business learn from the little guys?
Small businesses are highly skilled at building relationships with their customers, creating a better and more personalised service, listening to customer feedback and adapting their propositions to suit the demand in ever ingenious and creative ways. They are enabled and empowered by new technology and adopt highly agile manufacturing processes.
Take Prose shampoo for example: a company attracting thousands of customers a year with a promise to concoct hair care products exactly suited to your hair type. Or Elsa and Me: fully customisable dresses based on just three styles but with endless bespoke variations. And for the gents there’s Knot Standard, a company offering tailored and customisable business suits at a fraction of designer prices that has enjoyed a 1,000 percent growth since launch.
Larger organisations should take note. Small scale businesses are adept at finding markets that the big boys overlook or historically have found too expensive to exploit. Until now.
This is where digital transformation comes into its own. The opportunity right now is to adopt a digital culture that re-shapes your business model, allowing you to become the disruptor that reinvents your market, raises the bar for your industry, and helps you remain relevant in an evolving digital economy.
This isn’t about doing the same things faster. It’s about discovering what new things technology enables you to do and how you need to adapt your business and your processes for the new world order.
Digital transformation’s role in thinking big and delivering small
Digitally-savvy customers expect more, demanding instant access to information and services 24/7. New digital technologies allow you to be open and available when your customers need you. Today’s winners are using AI to mine data for deeper insights, track customer interactions, and simplify processes. They make decisions driven by real time data, reacting to changes in customer behaviour and proactively heading them off at the pass before problems arise.
New technologies facilitate a truly bespoke and personalised service whereby an existing customer’s changing needs are tracked and supported. Big data can drive algorithms that will forecast what products or services a customer is likely to need and when, creating those ‘Ta Da!’ moments that make you stand out from the crowd. Customer loyalty becomes a no-brainer when you can anticipate and identify customer needs and meet their demands.
Getting up close and personal
One of the main differentiators between big business and small enterprises is the small business’ ability to get personal with their customers. A digital transformation strategy facilitates the kind of one-on-one attention that used to be common decades ago. A digitally mature organisations’ planning and thinking begins and ends with their customers: how do we recognise them, engage with them, serve them and add value? They ask the big questions like “How can we change our processes that will allow for better decision-making and a better, more personalised customer experience?”
Under the old model you waited for your customers to find you, either in person or by calling in. But with the rise of social media listening, digitally mature companies are finding new ways not just to promote their products, but also to directly communicate with customers on an individual basis. Plus they are using new technology to streamline their existing customer service operations. AI allows for things like chatbots, something once viewed sceptically by the average consumer but are now rapidly becoming a hygiene factor.
We’re in an “expectation economy” where customers want to feel valued and like they’re getting a personal service, whatever size organisation they’re dealing with. When business leaders stop thinking about them as purely numbers on a spreadsheet and instead start thinking in terms of bespoke products and services delivered at an individual level with a respect for the relationship, it’s a win-win all round. That’s how small businesses do it, and so should you.
If you’re interested in discovering how digital transformation can make your business bespoke, get in touch today.