India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and SMEs are said to be the backbone that drives this growth. Yet, in terms of their own growth and development, several SMEs face challenges when it comes to managing various business activities due to factors such as a crunch of funds, poorly planned infrastructure and/or lack of hands on deck. However, their diverse and widespread nature means that they have scope for significant socio-economic impact as well as facilitating the equal distribution of wealth across the country, provided the businesses themselves are aptly facilitated.
As per an Omidyar Network-BCG report, India houses 55-60 million MSMEs, and the sector is the top contributor to the country’s GDP, at over 40% annually. Given these numbers, it is only right to assume that further enhancing these businesses will reap major benefits on several counts — most importantly streamlined operations, increased employment opportunities, greater visibility and scalable growth. Today, these solutions come in the form of the new technologies that are fuelling an increasingly digitised business landscape.
Scope for digital transformation within the SME sector
So far, the SME sector has been slow to go the digital way, even with advanced technologies, because of perceived costs involved, a lack of awareness and a wide skill-gap amongst the workforce. However, the rise of digital lending payment platforms has largely bridged the problem of access to credit, and several government-led initiatives have helped with creating awareness and opportunities to upskill and embrace the digital era. Therefore, it is the need of the hour for SMEs to tap into these avenues.
Digitisation is the fast-track for SMEs to open up avenues for product and service innovation, leading to growth and expansion. Additionally, it will enable them to tackle the local markets more effectively, as well as compete in the global markets – all at a significantly low cost.
With technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data being implemented for the digitisation and automation of enterprises, it is easier than ever before to operate and manage businesses, both big and small. Moreover, these technologies have the potential to transform and optimise various business functions, such as marketing, sales and customer engagement. This makes it possible to predict, track and monitor each aspect closely and more accurately, providing positive results within a fraction of the time that it takes traditional methods.
Let us look into how SMEs can use advanced technologies to tackle issues related to engagement, reach and optimisation of processes.
Improved targeting with automated marketing and advertising strategies
SMEs can make use of technology-driven platforms that help with carrying out important marketing functions to ensure their content reaches the right audiences. For instance, they can build ad relevance by incorporating programmatic advertising and/or performance marketing into their strategies. This type of approach, once customised, is completely automated and, backed by complex machine learning algorithms, can smartly target individuals who are likely to initiate and complete purchases. It can help SMEs generate new business, remarket to existing consumers and reach out to potential ones.
Facebook advertising is one of the most preferred channels for businesses today as, being a social media platform, it garners high, consolidated traffic every day.It also shows you exactly where your money is being spent. Facebook advertising lets you customise your target audience based on factors such as demographics, geography, clicks, pages followed and surfing behaviour of users.
In this way, advertisers can pay for the value they receive, with real-time insights generated on various specific data points including likes, impressions, views, and website clicks, as well as factors like which landing page they discovered you from.However, Facebook ads are limited to the site and its subsidiaries such as Instagram. Other programmatic advertising platforms with a broad reach are AdRoll, Adobe Marketing Cloud and Google DoubleClick.
Using chatbots for enhanced user-engagement
Chatbots are by far amongst the most engaging yet simple tools that businesses are making a key part of their marketing, sales and customer/employee engagement efforts. They are conversational AI tools that are backed by machine learning and natural language processing. This enables them to learn independently and efficiently, while carrying out human-like conversations with thousands of users at a time via chat.
Chatbots can be programmed with data that is relevant to a particular business and can track keywords and consumer behaviour to deliver real-time insights on several data points. With this, they can instantly address basic queries of customers/clients and guide them to completing various actions and transactions through personalised recommendations, promotions and offers.Moreover, given their cost-effective nature, they are ideal for SMEs who cannot afford to hire several customer service agents. As per a report by Chatbots Magazine, chatbots and virtual agents can help businesses cut-down customer service costs by up to 30%.
There are many platforms today that are helping businesses set up custom-made bots aligned to their varying strategies and business goals, making it easier than ever for enterprises to set up and incorporate one into their business. They can also be programmed to be used with commonly used messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. In this way, chatbots are an effective tool for businesses to raise levels of engagement and accuracy while dealing with customers, thus leading to greater customer onboarding, satisfaction and retention.
Implementing emerging technologies to streamline internal operations
While emerging technologies such as AI and data analytics can be implemented to enhance end-user engagement, an important aspect of such tools is that they can help enterprises understand and enhance the internal functions and processes of an organisation as well. This enables organisations to get a clearer picture of the business environment and cater better to the needs of employees and, in turn, clients.
Data science and big data tools can study vast data pools and provide accurate sets of insights through methods such as predictive analytics, which use past and present trends to determine those that are likely to emerge in the future.
Equipped with robust algorithms, they can unearth valuable information that human teams using traditional software may miss out on, given their bandwidth. SMEs can benefit greatly by identifying problem areas and gauge the potential for changes, enabling them toproactively enhance operations and effectively prioritise the utilisation of funds.
In essence, while several SMEs are still struggling with which channel to best market their product on, the solutions new and advanced technologies are providing can easily be used to tackle such issues and beyond.
However, for this to be set in motion, there is a need for greater awareness on the role technology will play in carrying out this work for them and guidance on creating the right framework to implement it effectively.