“Digital has dramatically transformed how we interact with each other and even how we vote. However, when it comes to our own businesses, we still struggle to see the value of changing the way we do things. Not only have we been used to operating in the same way for a long time, but we have also followed the advice of friends and experts too many times and not seen the value...”
This quote from a customer summarizes the dilemma that all leaders of Singaporean small and medium enterprises face when it comes to digital. Not only is transforming a business hard; but the selection of vendors and tools is also complex.
Singaporean SMEs need advice, and it’s hard to find the right advisors. The larger vendors are out of reach for SMEs (especially those only focused on the Singaporean market). The usual suspects are more focused on digitization rather than digitalization. Still, there is a clear push for SMEs to embrace digital transformation (including from the Singapore government, with the most recent budget and the various grants helping SMEs to go digital).
We did our own research recently, and confirmed that the fastest growing Singaporean SMEs have a more complete and cohesive online presence, leverage online demand generation, and have a high adoption of e-commerce. Also Microsoft recently released the results of a study confirming that “Singapore SMEs who embrace digital transformation expect to see average revenue gains of 26%.”
Although this post won’t be able to answer all the questions you have about digital for SMEs, our goal is to collect and share some useful resources. And we hope that these resources will help you to start off on the right foot with your transformation journey! 🙂
The Basics of Digital for SMEs
For us, digital for SMEs has four pillars:
1. Digital Presence
This first pillar is about your online footprint or your online properties. This can be a website, through social media or through industry or service specific apps (think or RedMart for someone selling household good, or Chope for a café or restaurant).
If you think you are not there yet, well, you are in good company. Only 40% of SMEs in Singapore have a website. The percentage goes up to 53% among the fastest growing SMEs (those with revenue growing faster than 15% per year). Even though there is not a single format that works for all, a website is a must-have. Then you can consider a presence on Facebook and/or Twitter (respectively for B2C and B2B), and finally, LinkedIn if you are planning on selling services to professionals.
2. Online Demand Generation
This second pillar is about leveraging your online presence to find prospects for your business. This can be done in several ways, including paid online advertising, social media, or creating great content to get people to come to your online properties (such as this blog post that you are reading now 🙂 )
Most Singaporean SMEs that do online demand generation focus on online advertising. However, the fastest growing ones have a more balanced approach which also includes content (both articles and videos).
This third pillar is not for every SME. It makes sense for retailers and for B2C companies. There are various degrees of e-commerce adoption, starting from third party marketplaces like Lazada or Amazon, to having a dedicated ecommerce website.
Singaporean SMEs do relatively well in terms of e-commerce adoption overall, and the majority of the fastest growing SMEs use e-commerce.
The final pillar of digital for SMEs is about having the appropriate tools to support their own transformation. For example, tools to manage your online presence, you social media, but also marketing automation, CRM, and survey tools.
Practical Guide for founders and CEOs
Here are some practical resources for Singaporean SME leaders to get started on the digital transformation journey:
During the 2019 “budget season” in Singapore, multiple news stories discussed the role of digital in Singapore and, specifically, among Singaporean SMEs. One came out recently, after the Minister for Communications and Information said that: “it is critical for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to plug into the digital economy as it would make a noticeable impact on Singapore’s growth.” So, how to get started? Here is Daptiv’s four-step approach to digital transformation for SMEs
You have probably heard the quote “The hardest part of any journey is taking that first step.” We are here to help with this. These are ten ideas for you to take your first step(s) in your SMEs digital journey.
“Online Advertisement” is the top query on Google in Singapore, among all the searches related to online presence, online demand generation, and e-commerce. Here are some tips for those who want to start with online ads.
$14,000-25,000 per months, if you are like the average Singapore SME already engaged in digital marketing. Click here to see our analysis on SME spend on digital marketing.
35% of your marketing, according to this 2016 article from Entrepreneur – For those of you who already started their transformation and what to see how they compare to the rest of the SMEs. Click here to see the article
Our own proprietary research among Singaporean SMEs, for you to know where you stand compared to other SMEs in Singapore and what the best performing SMEs are doing online.
The Singapore IMDA page dedicated to this initiative is one of the best starting point to see what the Singaporean Government recommends for SMEs. We recommend bookmarking it and checking it out periodically!
A great article form VentureBeat on how technology enables SMEs to compete with the "big guys" when it comes to customer communications, sales processes, and customer service.