The adoption of technology for marketing is essential for the survival of small businesses and yet little is understood about owner-manager practice in this area.
I recently had the honor to interview a fellow global citizen and marketer, Luisa Figueroa, responsible for the small customer segment at a worldwide leading logistics services company. One of the first things she noticed when she moved to Italy was the abundance of small businesses. So, as Luisa began researching and interacting with them, her passion to help them succeed grew stronger.
Measurence:What intrigues you most about working with small businesses?
Luisa: “I am interested in SMEs because they are particularly important for the economy. Nine out of every 10 enterprises is an SME, and SMEs generate two out of every three jobs in Europe. In Italy, SMEs represent 99% of total companies and 95% of them are small and micro businesses. Meaning that Italy is the country with the highest number of small and micro businesses. This share of micro-enterprises is the highest of the EU, with 3.82M of micro-enterprises, Italy almost doubles Germany (2.06M).”
Measurence: What are the top 3 trends in small businesses (& in Italy in particular)?
“Migration to the cloud: Nowadays, rushing all day long is the normal lifestyle of everyone. For small business owners, the one-man orchestra is even worse! They try to wear too many hats from financial, crowdfunding, recruiting, logistics, networking, business development, communications, basically everything! Not only that, they work everywhere and nonstop from office, home during evenings and weekends. This has motivated small business owners to move their data and softwares to cloud solutions.
The Industry 4.0 (the 4th industrial revolution): A new production and company management model initially related exclusively to the industrial manufacturing industry. In Italy, this worldwide trend became known as “imprese 4.0” (companies 4.0) given the high digitalisation potential of services companies.
Internationalization: In Europe, bigger companies export with more probabilities but today, small ones are also starting to concentrate their efforts in export more and more (25% of EU SMEs and 19% of EU Small and Micro enterprises have export activities.).”
Measurence: What are the top challenges small businesses are facing right now?
“The comparison era: Internet users conduct online research on local products and services before committing to a purchase. That goes to my second point, differentiation.
Differentiation: Nowadays, small business owners have to try their best to differentiate their products and services particularly, in-store. Retailers have to consider their storefront as a place to create an experience. Even with all the e-commerce hype, many people are still going in-store because of the experience the retailer provides.
Highly influencial role played by the owner: The rate of technology adoption in a small business is highly dependent on the competency, passion and interest that the owner has for technology.
Lack of digital competence: Small businesses are going through a mentality transformation process. However, the ability to take advantage of these opportunities is constrained by a lack of knowledge and in particular an inability to measure the return on investment."
Measurence: Do you see small businesses also joining the “Omnichannel era?”
Luisa: “Absolutely yes! Small businesses are beginning to have a good understanding of today’s online shopper, or what some have started calling the “Flexi-shopper.” This new generation of online shoppers, born in the digital era, always have access to information regarding product pieces and availability, and are ready to access the multiplicity of sales channels and use the one more convenient to them. Not only that, precisely because they are small, they are easier to adapt to the omnichannel era.”
Measurence: How are small retailers currently marketing?
Luisa: “Mobile is becoming more and more important in today’s marketing strategy. In Italy, there are more cell phone plans than people. Yes, that’s right! And the way mobiles are used has also changed, smartphones are a sort of shopping assistant. Online shoppers use their smartphones to find information on products, compare characteristics, read online opinions, compare prices.
The retail industry has understood that the role of retail stores is changing, small retailers included. The store is not thought anymore as the place to shop. It’s the place to pick-up your order, return/exchange your purchase, try-out the article before buying it online. In today’s constant promotions bombing, retail stores who survive are those who have understood that people are interested in the “experience,” not the price, product or brand.”
Whether it’s in Italy, the US or elsewhere, small businesses are important for a country’s economy. Despite their importance, there’s very little conversation on their offline marketing -- Who are their returning customers? In which areas are they lingering more? How will they know which tactics work best so they can offer the best experience to their customers without even analyzing it?
Measurence can help your small business succeed. Click to learn more!