By Rieva Lesonsky
Post sponsored by Alibaba.com
The word “transformation” conjures up images of instant change. Like a Harry Houdini magic act, one second the elephant is there, the next it’s gone. But the digital transformation of small business hasn’t quite moved at that pace. It’s taken more of a slower, evolutionary pace.
For many businesses that pace worked, until earlier this year when a global pandemic shook the world, changing both business and consumer behavior patterns almost instantly.
If your business is still playing catch-up, you must start or accelerate your digitization process now. This can seem overwhelming, because there are so many parts: marketing, sales, customer experience and loyalty, raising money, hiring and retaining employees, sourcing, going global, and more. On the plus side, once you digitize, you’ll have more time to focus on business and growth strategies.
When addressing the digitization process, you can’t ignore the impact of the coronavirus. Most consumers have apps on their phones for restaurants and retailers they frequently do business with, ordering ahead, arranging for curbside pickup. That’s part of the normalization of digital living.
Consumers now have higher expectations of businesses, because many went digital before businesses did. One area customers are increasingly embracing is digital payments. While offering contactless payment options was a direction many businesses were already headed in, COVID-19 gave that a powerful push.
Consumers—and employees—are reluctant to exchange money or even a credit card with others. Contactless payment solutions let customers pay, either from their phones or with credit cards, without any worries.
The coronavirus has made it more challenging to lure customers into your stores. You may need to incentivize them to shop with you, which digital customer loyalty solutions, such as Belly, Loyalzoo, and Spendgo, can help you do.
Marketing goes digital
Marketing is another area where digitization has taken hold. Social media, after all, is nothing but a digitized version of word-of-mouth marketing. We all know how effective email marketing is for small businesses, delivering an ROI of about 4,100%, earning you $42 for every dollar you spend. There are a number of email marketing companies that can help you automate the email process, such as HubSpot, Constant Contact, AWeber, and Mailchimp.
The ultimate way for some businesses to digitize is to operate remotely. By this time in the COVID-19 pandemic, if you’re a retailer, you should have created a robust e-commerce platform to supplement lost in-store sales. And it may be a good time to consider if you should perhaps transform your retail store into an online shop, permanently.
E-commerce on the rise
Numerous reports and studies show e-commerce sales are booming—despite the pandemic. StockApps.com reports on data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing a 31.8% boost in online sales in Q2 of 2020 compared to Q1 sales, and a jump of 44.5% compare to Q2 of 2019. Total online sales for Q2 reached $211.5 billion, or 16.1% of total retail sales, compared to 10.8% of all retail sales in Q2 2019.
Seize the opportunity during Super September
If you’re a retailer, wholesaler, or small manufacturer, you need to focus on your online sales. Luckily, this month is Super September at Alibaba.com, where you can take advantage of the great promotions they are offering.
One lesson all retailers hopefully have learned this year is the need to diversify their supply chains. Super September is a great time to do that, by exploring new suppliers on Alibaba.com.
Over 30,000 sellers are participating in Super September this year. Buyers can look at the merchandise in 3D reality and virtual showrooms and make connections with potential partners from all over the globe.
Alibaba.com is also offering special incentives, including:
Discounts on livestream products
Black Friday group buy discounts
New buyers can save up to $60 USD on transaction fees
All buyers can save up to $200 USD on logistics by placing orders through Alibaba.com Freight
Get 20% off third-party inspection service fees on-site
And if you’re concerned about getting your goods from the suppliers to your doors, don’t. Alibaba.com Freight is offering logistics assistance during Super September, making the shipping process less complex by helping business owners arrange bulk shipments and giving them the ability to instantly compare, book, manage, and track ocean and air freight in real time online.
Trade shows go virtual
Understanding the need to digitize Alibaba.com has taken the traditional trade show and transformed them into twenty-first century versions. So many trade shows and exhibitions have been canceled due to the coronavirus. To fill the gap, Alibaba.com introduced Alibaba.com US Online Trade Shows, which are category-specific virtual events, spread over several days, connecting U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers with business buyers live online.
If you’re concerned your small business is too small to successfully transform digitally, don’t be. According to a McKinsey report, businesses with less than 100 employees are 2.7 times more likely to experience a successful digital transformation than large corporate giants.
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