Small businesses must embrace the digital world

Digital interaction – and customers’ digital experience – are more important than many small business people realize. These days, a business’s online reputation and online availability can mean the difference between growth and failure – even for businesses that don’t engage in e-commerce. This is because of changes in the way customers find, share information and interact with businesses today.

A new study from professional services firm Deloitte reveals that digital interactions influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores, totaling $2.1 trillion by the end of the year. That’s up from 14 cents of every dollar spent in 2013.

America is thinking young

One compelling headline from the study is "Millennial" is now a "mindset" – not just a demographic”. Deloitte found that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of non-millennials are now using digital devices either two or three times throughout their shopping trip.

When it comes to mobile device usage, the age gap is shrinking. Even older customers are looking for businesses on the fly, using mobile devices. Will they find yours?

Consumers are taking control over when and how they interact with a brand. For instance, the study found that two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers now prefer a self-directed shopping journey, up from nearly one-third (30 percent) in 2014.

And here’s a dramatic finding: two years ago, 70 percent of surveyed consumers said they responded to advertising compared to nearly 30 percent in this year's study.

More customers share good, and bad information online

Customers are more willing to share data than ever before: Deloitte found that nearly half (48 percent) of shoppers and 58 percent of millennials willing to share data in return for personalized service. For example, more consumers are starting to share their location and personal details to acquire better service and perks from a store or to receive more personalized emails with recommendations and suggestions to blogs.

You simply cannot avoid the “digital issues” of business. Even if you have avoiding most of these changes, you can be sure that your competitors, (and future competitors), haven’t.

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