Digital Transformation for SMEs: Integrating E-Commerce for Business Sustainability

By Stephen Osomba – July 28, 2020

It is often said that in life, change is inevitable, in business change is vital. You can either resist it and potentially get run over by it, or you can adapt and survive. Indeed, change brings both inconvenience and opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many businesses that hadn’t embraced digital transformation on a back foot. Unlike blue-chip companies that most likely had begun rolling out their digital transformation strategy, most Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) hadn’t fully recognized the impact of accelerated cyberculture.

Digital transformation entails the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business with an objective to deliver superior customer value efficiently and effectively. Digital transformation has emerged as one of the most important key drivers in organizational competitiveness in today’s business world. From the face value, it may look like a simple concept. However, in reality, it is quite complex and pervasive. Its implementation requires an organizational cultural change, both in deeds and mindset across all ranks.

Given the colossal resources required to roll out a comprehensive digital transformation strategy, most SMEs are finding it difficult to transition to the new era of business. However, there are low hanging cyber fruits that can be quickly tapped to ensure business continuity and sustainability in the long run. One of those is e-commerce.

Since the onset of the pandemic, traffic to physical business establishments globally, more so retail outlets have significantly gone down as customers adhere to COVID-19 health safety precautions/protocols. While on one hand, this is a big inconvenience, it is a great opportunity for SMEs to move their businesses online. Various research reports like Kantar COVID-19 Barometer, Ipsos Media Consumption Habits Survey, and Google Shopper Survey among others have reported that customers are now spending more time online with a significant number engaging in shopping activities.

However, with an estimated market potential of Ksh.400 billion, the uptake of e-commerce in Kenya remains low. Some of the widely mentioned factors include fraud, low digital trust levels, high cost of internet, sale of counterfeits, poor residential addressing system, preference of cash payment to online payment, and supply chain/logistics hiccups among many others. In view of these challenges, physical store outlets still surpass e-commerce in terms of market penetration levels. Nevertheless, we are poised to see significant growth in e-commerce as more businesses as well as customers embrace online shopping owing to the new normal thanks to COVID-19 pandemic.

By moving to e-commerce as an SME, you will be able to enjoy a number of advantages that would go a long way in sustaining your business going forward. These include low operational costs, increased market reach locally & beyond borders, more marketing opportunities, access to relevant customer data for sound business decisions, gain new customers with search engine visibility and remaining open all the time among many other benefits. With these enormous benefits, there’s no doubt that it’s time to go digital! Pivot your business to e-commerce if you hadn’t done because progress is impossible without change. For those who had already moved, the focus should be on optimizing superior customer experiences.

Stephen currently serves as the Lead, Communication & Marketing at SMD Consulting Associates