Experts say that digital technology is the key to driving economic recovery for small businesses. When around four in five SMEs in the UK are finding it difficult to plan beyond 2023 due to rising costs and challenges in the supply chain (1), is digital transformation the answer? At ACI Group, we believe it could be.
What is digital transformation?
Not to be confused with ‘digitisation’, the textbook definition of ‘digital transformation’ is the integration of digital technologies throughout all areas of a business. Digitisation is what we would refer to when we convert paper statements into digital files. Digitisation is the act, while digital transformation is the process.
Many UK SMEs today use basic digital technologies, such as Microsoft Office 365, Sage or Quickbooks, and various HR software tools to keep their business running. According to a recent survey by IONOS, up to 80% of UK SMEs surveyed have websites and 64% use social media to help grow their business2. Compared to businesses in France, of which only 52% own a website, UK businesses are clearly leading by example.
Yet while SMEs are not averse to digital transformation, the challenge is in bringing these technologies together to create a unified approach to business. These digital technologies, particular legacy-based equipment, are often siloed in their data collection. Integration between technologies is then often complex, resulting in data sets that are not uniform causing challenging data analysis. When you cannot pinpoint where your business vulnerabilities may lie, how can you understand where the improvements should be made?
How can SMEs digitally transform?
Independent studies have reported that SMEs who prioritise digital transformation can double their revenue growth – some up to eight times the revenue growth compared to those who did not3. But where do businesses even start? Sometimes it’s as simple as transitioning into a remote-first workspace.
For example, ACI Group removed 90% of its paper within the office by implementing a new finance and customer relationship management (CRM) system. Data was imported automatically as part of the installation and the system fully integrated business inventory, increasing pipeline visibility. Going paperless and ensuring every customer detail was logged into the CRM meant that administration was halved, and all information was immediately visible to those working either on- or off-site – a great example of digitisation.
As a result of this, we started introducing new software that could easily ‘talk’ to our existing digital technologies without any complex configurations. A new CRM system, coupled with integration from a remote-first phone application, meant that our business was fully functioning during the pandemic, enabling us to scale easily with new opportunities.
Yet to really drive digital transformation at ACI Group, we had to look at our internal business model. Traditional distribution often favours the ‘direct’ approach, where retailers speak with the producer rather than a wholesaler to get the best prices. While this has been the convention for many years during economic stability, this is now no longer the case. Supply chains are increasingly complex, with many moving parts – and a distributor that innovates to positively disrupt the chain has a key part to play in this large-scale digital transformation.
How ACI Group is helping SMEs today
Our customer-centric approach means that we build our services around what our customers need. Right now, that is stability in a time of economic crisis, increased localisation of produce to decrease overall carbon footprint, and innovation into new methods of digitalisation to keep costs low. You can read more about how we’re offering stability to our customers and how we’re expanding our partnerships in the food and nutraceuticals industry right here on our website.
To support a digital transformation, we want our customers to benefit as much as we have. That’s why we’re introducing our new SaaS CRM solution to the market – Oomph. With easy integration with Microsoft Office 365, Sage, Xero, Quickbooks and Google Mail, Oomph is the key to bridging the data visibility gap for SMEs.
Available to all ACI Group customers, the solution is designed for time-strapped businesses that want to automate manual data processes without any complex installation or configuration. It incorporates everything from customer management to company performance by helping staff visualise the sales pipeline and nurture customer relationships in one single tool.
This means Oomph can support businesses through from initial enquiry through to project completion. For example, any website enquiries can be linked through to Oomph, a sales representative can pick up the enquiry and track the customer’s journey by handling quotes, invoices and more. Not only is there minimal risk of data loss with Oomph, but there is also complete visibility of the sales pipeline – so that users know the who, when, where and what – reducing costs and saving time.
Oomph is only the start of our digital transformation here at ACI Group. As a voice of change in the distribution industry, we want to help businesses grow and build resilience by encouraging digitisation from the outset.
To discover how ACI can help your business to grow, speak to one of our team today or visit oomphworks.com – the website of our digital business unit.
References 1. Wales Online, ‘Small Businesses remain optimistic but struggle to plan beyond 2023’, January 2023