The Local Business Guide to Digital Transformation

It’s no secret that customers have wanted a digital-first experience for a long time. In fact, “digital-first” is how they operate in their everyday lives. They would rather text than take a call. They would rather DoorDash than go out to eat. And, they prefer mobile payments and curbside pickup/delivery more than ever before.

With the onset of COVID-19 and consequent restrictions, businesses have been forced to adopt a digital strategy almost overnight to survive. As businesses across the country reopen, they’re finally reinventing business to be what it always needed to be—digital-first with a seamless transition between the online and offline world.

The idea of digital transformation can be a daunting one, especially in such an uncertain time. But it is important to remember that digital transformation is not just about technology. It involves improving every step of the customer experience and optimizing every moment of customer engagement. Digital transformation centers around making small changes that allow you to offer a customer experience that is more convenient and personal.

This guide highlights seven key points along the customer journey where you can easily incorporate influential digital touchpoints to meet customers where they already are and significantly improve their experience with your business.

01. Initial Search

For an increasing number of customers, the purchasing process has become one that begins with an online search. While there are many factors that go into online rankings, you can optimize your business’s chances of appearing towards the
top of the search results page by taking a few simple steps to stand out from the competition.

  • Effectively collect and manage reviews. Reviews, in terms of consistency, diversity, and authenticity, account for approximately 10% of the factors Google uses in its ranking algorithm. What that means is businesses need to focus on collecting a high volume of high quality reviews consistently if they want to climb up the rankings. Additionally, businesses should take the time to respond to reviews, both negative and positive, as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure your “Google My Business” info is up to date. This includes your hours of operation, address, map/direction, phone number, and more.
  • Ensure your NAP (name, address, phone number) listings are consistent. Mismatched information bits, such as two different business names or addresses, can confuse search engines (and customers!) and affect how you rank in a search result. Maintain consistent information to get found quickly.
  • Optimize your website to perform equally well on desktop and mobile. Your website should perform just as well on a customer’s phone as it does on their computer screen. Optimize your site in terms of screen fit and make sure that each page loads at lightning speed. It’s important to keep in mind that after the pandemic, customers will likely use an initial search to identify a business that they can trust to meet their needs and keep them safe. Almost 60% of consumers say a local business’s pandemic- friendly services (curbside pickup, local food and grocery delivery, contactless payments, etc.) led them to purchase goods or services from that business for the first time. And 53.3% of consumers say a local business’s failure to offer pandemic-friendly services led them to engage with a competitor or discontinue patronage altogether. You can let your customers know that you offer pandemic-friendly services by:
  • Update your listings to indicate that you offer pandemic-friendly services.
  • Sending a text. Messaging is a powerful tool that you can use to send personalized promotions and updates about the services you offer.
  • Using social media. Keep your Facebook and Instagram accounts up to date with your business’s latest and greatest, including posts about policy changes, pictures of your products and experiences, and videos of your showroom.

02. Website Visit

Did you know that it takes about 0.05 seconds for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they’ll stay or leave? And that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unappealing? As much as we like to think otherwise, snap decisions rule the world of online business engagement.

Consider your own website experience. Does the first thing visitors encounter immediately confirm what they’re looking for? Does your site communicate your understanding of their wants and needs? Can customers find what they need quickly? If they can’t, what features are in place to help them? Undergoing a digital transformation means designing your website to facilitate a successful visit through transparency, responsiveness, and convenience.

How to digitally transform your website experience:

03. First Interaction

When it comes to your customers’ first interaction with you, it is important
to consider your business from their perspective. Is your contact information
easy to find? Do you make it easy to connect with customers via their preferred channels? Helping your customers have a positive first interaction with you involves implementing technology that reduces friction and make it easy to engage.

To accomplish this, make it a goal to offer omnichannel communication, allowing customers to connect with you through every viable channel. Most businesses already offer phone and email as channels. However, over 85% of consumers expect local businesses to offer more convenient communication and services now than they did prior to COVID-19. Text is at the forefront of this expectation as approximately 65% of consumers think that texting makes working with a local business more convenient, and 40.5% report they are “likely” or “very likely” to switch to a different business because they offer text messaging to communicate. Consequently, businesses that have experienced a digital transformation meet customers where they’re at, including modern messaging channels such as SMS text messaging, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Instagram, and more.

Messaging is quickly gaining traction as the most preferred method of communication and will help to make for a great first interaction with your customers. During the pandemic, restaurants such as the Protein Foundry used text to coordinate curbside pickup services. Texting provided a way to facilitate a convenient and flawless first interaction and has stayed a major part of the industry, even as physical locations reopen. To digitally transform, give your customers the option to message your business from multiple channels in order to make your first contact a success.

04. First Visit

Your customer’s onsite visit should no longer be solely offline. It should be a digital hybrid experience, optimized for comfort and convenience. Your transition from online to offline and back again should be seamless, making for a smooth customer experience from start to finish.

If you’ve implemented an omnichannel communication strategy and have engaged with your customers before they come onsite, making that transition from online to offline should be easy—especially if you’re using a messaging platform to manage communication. A messaging platform will help you gather basic information (such as what customers are looking for and what questions they have) before an in-store visit, making a first visit more convenient and helping you close your sales cycle faster as well.

Make sure to review the conversations you’ve had with your customers online before they come on- site. You don’t want to make them feel like they are starting their conversation with your business all over again. You should be able to move to the next step in the sales process automatically.

Just as your in-person contact will be lively and conversational, digital transformation involves making your online conversations just as personal and conversational through use of colloquial language, punctuation, emojis, and features such as video. If using a live chat, you can automate personalized messages to collect basic information easily and increase convenience.

Depending on your customer, your first visit may actually take place virtually over an online video call or other medium. If this is the case, make sure your brand is consistently evident in the background you’re set against, on-screen logo, client software background, and any other elements. Train your staff to be consistent in how they greet customers and describe your company/ services online and in-person.

Woman texting on her phone.

05. Payment

Since the onset of COVID-19, payment preferences have changed. While the majority of consumers still prefer traditional payment methods, a significant portion chose mobile payment methods as their #1 preferred choice in a recent survey. About 61.3% of consumers prefer a traditional payment option while 30.6% prefer a mobile payment option. This means that though traditional payment methods are acceptable, there is a growing demand for methods that are more convenient, safe, and frictionless.

Consider your current transaction methods. How easy is it for customers to give you
money? Is your payment process secure and contactless? Businesses that have undergone a digital transformation offer multiple payment options, including traditional, online, mobile, and alternative (such as placing tablets throughout your store where people can pay individually). They make the payment experience more convenient for customers and staff by using technology such as Podium Payments, which allows businesses to use text to send a link that customers can click to pay.

06. Continuous Feedback

Did you know 90% of customers believe that when it comes to delivering a good customer experience, most brands fail to meet their expectations? Paradoxically, 82% of marketers believe they are meeting customer expectations with regard to customer experience.

This gap between reality and perception means that marketers are not putting in the effort necessary to consistently get a good pulse on what customers want and need. Nor are they collecting accurate feedback from customers concerning their own business operations. Digital transformation involves collecting continuous feedback through convenient, digital means. Now more than ever, businesses need to consistently collect and implement feedback. In fact, they can’t afford not to. Because if they do not adapt, they’ll lose their customers to the businesses that do.

How can you use technology to efficiently collect feedback?

07. Staying Connected

The fastest way to lose a customer is to disappear after their purchase. The simple act of contacting them to assess their satisfaction with their experience earns more loyalty than almost any other action. It’s also very easy to do.

Digital transformation involves using technology to stay connected with customers in the “in-between” by maintaining communication and building relationships through online engagement.

Digitally transforming to stay connected might mean that you:

Change is never easy. Implementing technology can occasionally be stressful and challenging. But the time to improve your customer experience digitally is clearly here. If businesses want to stay relevant, they no longer have a choice when it
comes to digital transformation.

And it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by optimizing the key touchpoints in your customer journey that have been discussed here.

Most of all, remember that you can do this. Digital transformation centers around increasing convenience and personalization. If you can focus on these principles, you’ll be able to meet the expectations of your customers now and set yourself up for success in the future, no matter what it brings.

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