Digital Transformation and Automation

Digital transformation and automation are increasingly crucial for business success as technological advancements increase.

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of digitizing business processes to help make aspects of your business more streamlined and efficient. When you digitally transform your business, you’re using technology to make your services more efficient, which can mean anything from dealing with shipping your product or online retail to using a point-of-sale system so that you don’t have to write handwritten receipts.

What technologies enable digital transformation?

This may sound vague, but any technology that takes your manual processes and streamlines them with the help of automation is digitally transforming your business. The types of technology that businesses need change based on the type of business you own.

For instance, a doctor’s office might need to invest in telemedicine software in order to get their virtual care off the ground, while a retail store might need to invest in software that automates the billing and invoicing or inventory management process. 

Businesses that have a focus on customer service might consider a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution to help streamline their customer service call centers or even an advanced chatbot software solution that can answer simple questions without needing a live person on the other end.

Why is digital transformation important?

According to Gartner, 73% of retailers expect to increase store technology investments in 2022, which means that if you’re not at least thinking about increasing your spend on digital technologies, you’re in the minority [1].

Digital transformation helps improve customer experience, productivity, and existing revenue streams while also reducing costs in the long term. When your business is equipped with digital technology, you have access to greater analytics and sometimes even artificial intelligence (AI). This can provide you with better forecasting to help you optimize your product or service prices for the best return on investment (ROI).

Additionally, many digital channels also come with self-service options which is becoming increasingly important in the post-pandemic era because customers are more accustomed to low-touch, low-interaction service options.

What is process automation?

Process automation is when a business uses a digital tool or a piece of software to orchestrate and execute business processes and workflows. This automation enables much faster execution of processes while reducing manual effort and error rates. With enough process automation, you can even eliminate the need for some headcount or free up some employee bandwidth so they can focus on more important business tasks that need to be done manually.

No longer is cloud computing something only large enterprises can afford. With advancements in technology, small businesses can reap the benefits of cloud computing more easily than ever before. Below, we’ll break down what it is and how it can help your business.

What is cloud-based software?

Cloud-based software, also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), is a software delivery model that allows you to use software solutions on a pay-for-use or subscription basis. The benefits of cloud-based software include being able to use the software immediately, typically with a web browser or downloadable application. To gain access to the software, you usually pay the software vendor for software hosting, server hosting, customer support, maintenance, backup, upgrades, and security.

What is cloud computing in simple terms?

Put simply, cloud computing is when you have a connected network of computers that work together to solve complex problems or enable application use by combining computing resources. Cloud computing enables website hosting, improved storage, and better data backup.

Nearly every time you use your smartphone (and oftentimes your computer), you’re accessing cloud resources. These cloud resources are a large collection of servers where all applications and data are being hosted and stored.

Why is cloud computing important for business?

From a business perspective, you’re likely going to be using some other business’s cloud computing services by renting them. For instance, if you’re purchasing SaaS software, you’re subscribing to and accessing that software vendor’s cloud.

With cloud computing, you don’t need on-premise tools to gain access to the benefits, nor do you need a server room or an IT team dedicated to maintaining complex computing infrastructure.

With the invention and mass utilization of cloud computing, businesses are able to afford more complex and feature-rich applications that can help their businesses grow and succeed in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Cloud Management Software

Marketing is a cornerstone of nearly every business, so it’s important to stay on top of current trends. Automation in marketing is a crucial evolution that small businesses need to be aware of and use in order to stand out and stay competitive.

What is automated marketing?

Automated marketing is when you use software to automate marketing workflows and tasks. To do this, you need to set up triggers so that marketing actions are automatically taken based on those triggers without the need for human intervention. For instance, if someone signs up for your email newsletter, you can have software automatically send out the welcome email instead of having to do it manually. 

Typically, automated marketing is used for customer acquisition and retention via email or social media, but this is not always the case.

Why is marketing automation important?

According to Gartner, 72% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers reported completing a recent significant purchase through digital commerce instead of a more traditional rep-led process [2].

Marketing automation should be a no-brainer for any business that has a significant investment in their marketing strategy. Not only will automating simple, repetitive tasks save you time and money, but your outreach for customer acquisition will be greater because you can focus on strategy instead of menial tasks.

What is sales automation?

Put simply, sales automation is the use of technology that supports the automation of sales activities, sales processes, or administrative responsibilities for businesses’ sales reps. If your business has a sales floor or call center devoted to sales, you likely already use some form of sales automation. 

AI-powered chatbots grow and improve the more interactions they have with your customers, which helps parse out key information from customers in order to either solve their problem or connect them with the right agent. Interactive voice response systems help funnel customers to the right agent faster which can eliminate a lot of back and forth and confusion in a call.

Call center automation software helps automate agent workflows which removes repetitive, mundane tasks that can help agents focus on customers instead of menial tasks which can lead to agent errors.

Related resource

Check out our Digital Marketing For Small Businesses hub page with a list of resources dedicated to helping you understand digital marketing for small businesses.

Related videos

Interview: Rebuild Your Small Business

Ivana Taylor Shares Marketing Automation Advice in an Interview With GetApp GM Thibaut de Lataillade

Automate Your Marketing

How To Automate 80% of Your Marketing: Ivana Taylor & Thibaut De Lataillade

While not applicable for every business, technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality are already playing crucial roles in helping businesses grow and increase their revenue year over year. So even if it’s not something you need right now, it’s important to have a grasp on what they are and how they are helping businesses, because they are going to become more and more common in the future.

What is the future of digital technology?

Digital technology is evolving to become more and more involved in emerging markets such as artificial intelligence, data science and analytics, and virtual reality. 

While virtual reality might not be applicable for most small businesses to utilize to its fullest, AI and data science and analytic software are becoming increasingly mainstream which means small businesses have access to insights and trends previously only available to large enterprises.

How can AI be helpful?

Artificial intelligence is helpful for businesses in a couple of ways. It: 

  • Automates everyday tasks

  • Delivers better customer service

Gartner predicts that 90% of large organizations globally will have adopted robotic process automation (RPA) in some form by 2022 as they strive to make operations more efficient [3]. RPA is when scripts or “bots” tackle and execute repetitive tasks. 

However, RPA is equally important for small businesses to consider because it gives you and your staff more time to focus on higher value work instead of menial, repetitive tasks. 

Whether it’s AI chatbots answering customers’ frequently asked questions, AI studying customer behavior patterns to predict trends, or natural language processing to gauge a customer’s level of frustration to speed up response time queries, AI is a powerful tool to help improve customer service.

What is data science and analytics?

Data science and analytics is the process by which meaningful insights are extracted from a set of data. Most data science practitioners use machine learning and AI to take a set of numbers, text, images, video, or audio to produce insights and trends that businesses can use to make important decisions. 

Most data science uses advanced algorithms and technologies that can perform tasks that normal human intelligence has no chance to match in any reasonable way. Millions of data points can be analyzed in a fraction of the time it would take a human which has enabled greater growth and understanding about how people interact with technology, marketing, sales, and the general world around them.

Why is data science important?

The insights offered by data science are incredibly important to any business that wishes to remain competitive in the age of big data. Making decisions based on historical data is crucial to getting the most out of your technological investments. When you’re spending a large percentage of your budget on marketing, sales, or customer service efforts, you need to have peace of mind that the decision you’re making is backed up by as much information as possible.

How does VR work?

Virtual reality (VR) works by using technology (usually a headset, a computer with a powerful graphics card and processor, and some haptic controllers) to simulate a realistic environment that makes the user feel like they are in a different environment.

Just a few years ago, VR was largely a niche market with only a small percentage of users able to use it because of the high cost of entry. A headset was several hundred dollars, and the PC needed to run the headset at a high enough frame rate could often cost well over $1,000. Space was also a factor since you needed a large room in order to get the most out of most virtual reality experiences.

Now, however, headsets are self-contained and wireless, so you no longer need a dedicated PC to run the virtual reality programs which makes the technology much more applicable for businesses to consider. 

For instance, people in the remodeling or construction field often use VR to show potential customers what their new renovations or pool might look like as a sales tool.

Understanding Data Science and Analytics in Marketing

Related videos

Business analytics have never been more complex or important than they are now. With thousands of data points that are easy to gather and use, it can be hard to understand how best to utilize the data you have. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how digitally transforming your business by implementing automation, AI, and data analytics is necessary for nearly every business no matter their size.

Sources

  1. Retail Digital Transformation and Innovation Primer for 2022, Gartner, Inc. 

  2. B2B Buyer Survey: Avoid Pitfalls and Realize the Promise of Digital Buying, Gartner, Inc. 

  3. Gartner Says Worldwide Robotic Process Automation Software Revenue to Reach Nearly $2 Billion in 2021, Gartner, Inc.