With new growth opportunities in an evolving digital world, it continues to be beneficial and essential for small and mid-sized businesses to ensure their leading sales and marketing methods match the preferences of consumers. 

According to Visa’s Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce report, based on Maru/Matchbox 2018 consumer and small business surveys, 46 percent of small and mid-sized businesses sell their products and services online, and yet only about 15 percent of their sales actually come from digital channels.

If that disconnect sounds familiar, it may be time to examine opportunities to improve your company’s digital marketing, digital payment acceptance (which can account for anything from credit and debit cards to mobile wallet), and loyalty program strategies. 

But don’t wait too long — this area of expertise will only become more important, as 61 percent of consumers anticipate spending more online within the next five years, according to the report.

Here are three business opportunities to help you hone your digital strategy and improve customer relationships.

1. Sharpened marketing efforts

To better promote your goods and services, consider optimizing your digital tools to complement proven marketing approaches, including:

  • Targeted email marketing, which allows you to manage content so you can send different information to unique groups of customers and measure the effectiveness of your messaging via open and click rates.
  • Results-driven social media campaigns, which emphasize consumer engagement via shares and measurement of results.
  • A robust strategy for reviewing your site, including regular requests for customer feedback via pop-up surveys and timely follow-ups to reviews — both good and bad.

Whether it makes the most sense to outsource these tasks to a vendor or work them into daily responsibilities will depend on a business’s resources and capabilities. Conduct a thorough review of your current approach to marketing to begin assessing how digital improvements may fit into your strategy.

2. Lower-cost payment processing

Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business, but manually handling, processing, and dealing with cash, checks, and money orders can be costly and time-consuming. Per the report, Visa estimates that the average SMB cost of processing digital payments, accounting for both direct expenses and labor costs, was 57% less than non-digital payments.

There is also the potential for additional savings within Accounts Payables by using direct digital payments to suppliers and vendors.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of small and mid-sized businesses reported that customers using a card or phone-based payment application spend more on their purchases than those paying with cash. To smooth the transition to accepting payments via mobile phones and wearable devices, consider investing in new payment systems. You can learn more about your payment processing options at wellsfargo.com/biz/merchant.

3. Mutually rewarding loyalty programs

Loyalty programs have been found to strengthen bonds with existing customers and positively impact visit and sales figures: According to the report, 78 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a business that offers a loyalty program, and nearly 80 percent of businesses say they positively impact purchase size and the number of return customers. But despite these benefits, loyalty programs remain rare among small and mid-sized business.

While they do tend to require some maintenance, their advantages can make the effort worthwhile. Consider the following tips and tricks to help boost such a program’s impact:

  • Keep it simple: Put few limitations on program-eligible purchases and make the path to rewards short and clearly defined — especially for the first reward.
  • Make it valuable: A free item or discount reward should be worth working toward. Not sure what would be most motivating? Ask a few prospects or customers.
  • Spread the word: If you create a loyalty program and forget it, your customers will do the same. To keep the program strong, commit to promoting the benefits and encourage program members to do the same.
  • Go digital: Ninety percent of consumers in the report prefer managing their rewards digitally and leaving punch cards in the past.

Navigating the digital landscape

As the digital marketplace increasingly becomes the norm, it’s worth taking into account the potential benefits of online enhancements such as digital marketing, digital payments, and loyalty programs, and finding tangible steps for implementing these strategies.

For more insights, download Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce. The report is an independent study commissioned by Visa in collaboration with a consortium of trade associations, technology providers, banks and researchers.

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