Where will your business be in 2020? Have you plans for expansion, more staff, greater turnover, more sales? I have to admit that while I create plans for the year ahead, I’m not so good at setting goals for five years time yet the year 2020 isn’t far away.
Carlow LEO are having a Women in Business event on 27th May focusing on preparing your business for 2020 and it made me think. As I’m reasonably social media savvy, I don’t have that aspect of the business to worry about. When I started up my first business in 2008, I started blogging straight away and while not exactly an early adopter of Twitter and Facebook, I was using both early in 2009. I started using Pinterest relatively early so found that easy and as for Instagram, I was using it for personal reasons for some time and am now going to use it for business use too.
However, as this article points out, many Irish SMEs are in danger of falling behind – not just in terms of growing sales via their website but even engaging with customers via social media. Here’s some statistics:
While 63% of Irish SMEs have a website
- 91% cannot process sales online
- 62% cannot (in the first instance) take sales orders online;
- 68% cannot process payments online
- 51% don’t have the ability to interact directly with customers through social media or web chat;
- 54% don’t have responsive website designs for tablet or smartphone;
- 66% don’t have video content on their website;
- 4% have the capacity to run analytics on their website performance.
I fully appreciate that not every business necessarily wants to take bookings online or sell online, for example, hairdressers may prefer to take calls and slot different requirements in together but is it something that they (and other businesses) should be thinking of? Will people expect the option to purchase everything online soon, to make bookings online, to get their queries answered? It’s certainly worth thinking about. Customers are already moving to communicating with businesses by twitter and their facebook pages, partly because they know they will get a reply within minutes if not hours and it saves them having to telephone. Would you believe that 42% of customers expect a reply within 60 minutes (and they don’t necessarily take differences in time zones into account either).
@perfectzoesugg Hi there, I’m very sorry to say that this popcorn has been discontinued. Can I help you find an alternative? – Jamie
— Tesco (@Tesco) April 22, 2015
Large businesses have staff manning the twitter account almost continuously – providing customer service, answering queries and dealing with complaints as well as thank yous. If you are a small business, customers won’t expect immediate replies but they will expect a response within 24 hours at most. If 51% of Irish businesses can’t communicate with customers online, that’s 51% of businesses missing out on valuable engagement opportunities.
People buy from people and being personable and chatty on Twitter is so much more engaging than being salesy. I’ve purchased many books written by authors (self published and traditionally published) I follow on Twitter, not because they have posted ‘buy my book’ tweets but the opposite – they post the occasional tweet about their book so I know where to buy it but other tweets are chatty, friendly, informative. Even if I’m not a keen reader of a particular genre, I’m often keen to give it a go because I like the author.
Facebook isn’t just about selling either. Followers who are potential customers will engage via comments, likes and shares, and yes, if they like your brand personality, they are likely to purchase. Your Facebook page is also a great way to get testimonials as well as receiving feedback on your business. Tayto Park has over 3,000 reviews on Facebook alone.
With the growing popularity of Pinterest, where each pin links to the website page it was pinned from, businesses are missing out if they are not selling their products online. Two years ago, I made the decision to grow my business by offering eLearning courses whereby they could be booked online, delivered online (by email) and thereby my target audience grew from just being in the SE of Ireland to worldwide. As a result, Pinterest is a key social media platform for generating traffic and sales for my business now.
The number of people embracing social media is growing daily with Instagram users now surpassing the number of people on twitter. Customers expect businesses to have websites, they expect to communicate with them on social media, they expect to be able to purchase or book services via the websites. We’re only in 2015. This week saw mobilegeddon whereby Google will be penalising any websites that aren’t responsive to mobile – many changes are afoot. It will be interesting to see what changes come about by 2020. How will you prepare for business growth for the next decade?
If you’re near Carlow and are a Woman in Business, do come along to the Bold New Frontiers event on 27th May – it should get us all thinking about the future and the possibilities.