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25 April 2014

Digital World to Bring Major Changes to SA Business

Digital and SA business influence each other
More and more businesses are going online.

I was invited to speak at the NMMU Business School’s strategic conversation on how the web is making us all rethink our business habits, processes, systems and budgets.

You can find my summarised transcript below:

The time has come that you, as business owners and managers, need to equip yourselves with knowledge and understanding of the web. This will ensure good decision making and that you stay ahead of your competitors in our digital world.

If we look at how the web fits into your business, chances are that you’ve labeled it as an IT responsibility – who may have great technical understanding doesn’t have faintest idea of how the brand needs to be positioned or represented. In strong contrast, you may also label is as the responsibility of the marketing department, who tend to be happy as long as it looks appealing.

The reality is that neither one of these departments is suited to manage your company’s web strategy optimally. You need someone or a department that slots in the middle. 

The Webmaster 

This is where the webmaster, or web department, is becoming so important nowadays.

Managing a successful web presence has become a full time job, so businesses are going to have to invest in educating staff, creating departments and assigning sufficient budgets.

You’re going to need people to manage roles such as:

- Website content management

- The origination of content and supporting elements like photos, illustration, multimedia, video and widgets

- Social media management and monitoring

- Search engine marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns

- Understanding, analysing and reacting to analytics

- Identifying and researching business processes that can be taken online and can make and save money

These days, we need a different type of IT specialist – one who is less technical and more business-focused; one that understands the importance of the right brand message. Of course, we also need a more tech savvy marketing department that can be more about innovation and engagement. 

The Kids of Today, our Customers of Tomorrow

A great example of the extent that we need to change our thinking is the frustration we feel when we see our kids (or others’) with their heads down and looking at their cell phones all the time. As frustrating as it may be, in 5 to 10 years’ time, these kids will be grown up and essentially be our customers! Instead of shunning them, we should try to understand them more as we need to think about how we can cater for that generation.

Although we may not think it, kids of today communicate more extensively than ever before!  They have access to all of their friends all the time. If we are going to want their support in the future, we are going to need to be more forward thinking. 

It's Time to take the Web more Seriously

Let’s take a look at why you should be taking the internet more seriously:

- According to Arthur Goldstuck’s World Wide Worx’s research this year, 13.6 million South Africans have       access to the internet. Granted, much of that is due to the availability of the web on smart phones and           devices, but there is still a significant 4.6 million that access the web regularly via desktops and 1.5 million     of those that shop online.

- Google Engage estimates that digital advertising has cannibalised as much as 50% of the budget that           businesses used to set aside for advertising on traditional media like print, radio and the Yellow Pages.

- Facebook, whether dying or growing, only turned 7 in September and it already has nearly 1 billion users.     With over 9 million Facebook users in South Africa, the worst thing you can do is think this stuff is just for       Generation Y. Its impact is tremendous. Web 2.0 is going to be a way of life for all of us.

- The popularity of these social platform and networks have encouraged participation and exposed                 consumers to the technology – stimulating consumer’s confidence in doing business and transacting             online.

Examples of how the Web is Impacting Business

- Highlighting the power of social media is the YouTube video, United Breaks Guitar, which went viral. 

- Ramtec, a local engine remanufacturer that is running very successful pay-per-click campaigns to                 stimulate lead generations.

- Rulotools is a website that highlights how a facelift, a call to action, a properly structured website and             content optimisation exercises has pushed their manufacturing facility to capacity.

- Barry Hilton and his online DVD store. It has become a huge hit and attracted a lot of national interest.

- A tyre manufacturer has stopped printing and posting their statements and rebates, forcing customers to     view these documents online. This proves that e-commerce and e-business is not only about making             money, but saving it too. 

Web Smart 

As with all technology, the web is fast-paced and it takes a considerable effort to stay on top of it. Business owners, managers and administrators need to invest their time in educating themselves and their colleagues in:

- The available web technologies

- The mechanics of the search engines

- The search engine’s utilities and tools

- Social platforms, their opportunities and challengers.

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