Recently the topic of digital marketing has been in the news in Singapore ...a lot! The Singapore Government has made digital transformation a priority in its latest budget and a few Government agencies have rolled out new programs to support it, including supporting digital marketing.
State of Digital Marketing among SMEs
Besides all the news, what's really the state of digital marketing among Singaporean Small- and Medium-Enterprises (SMEs)? The short a1nswer is in the early stage ...if even that! Engaging customers in new way and being customer-centric is high on the priorities in digital transformations for Singaporean SMEs, but SME digital transformations themselves are still not fairing that great.
Few SMEs undertake digital transformation projects and, among those which do, the failure rate is high:
- We conducted our own research on the state of digital among Singaporean SMEs, highlighting that "a good portion of Singaporean SMEs have yet to jump on the digital bandwagon (60% still do not have a website; 38% do not engage in online lead generation; 62% do not practice e-commerce)"
- Microsoft and Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) surveyed 1,000+ SMEs, concluding that "only 57 percent of Singapore SMEs polled said they have heard of the term ‘digital transformation’, those who are actively implementing digital initiatives are optimistic about the potential impact that digital transformation will bring to their bottom-lines."
- More recently, EY published a report on Singapore’s SMEs looking to invest in digital technologies showing that "over half of SMEs (Singapore 55.4%, Southeast Asia 54.9%) are in the early stages of digital maturity, with digitalization programs remaining largely unaligned with the broader enterprise strategy and multiple initiatives running in parallel across business functions."
- Finally, there are still a lot of challenges when it comes to digital transformations in SMEs, as this SGSME.sg article calls out: "Worryingly, only one in four SMEs noted success in their digital implementation and even among the best achieving SME leaders with more than 20 employees, only half saw some level of success in their digitalisation efforts."
What's Next for Digital Marketing among SMEs?
SME leaders realize the importance of engaging customers in new ways. While the results are not great for now:
- Still, there is a lot of support from the Singaporean Government
- As well as by expert advisors, for SME leaders to get started.
The Singaporean Government is here to help, and not just with the announcement in the recent budget:
- IMDA's SMEs Go Digital program includes a number of tools that SMEs can use to improve their digital marketing capabilities.
- Digital marketing (as well as accounting, human resource management system & payroll, digital transactions and cybersecurity) is one of the areas of focus of the Start Digital program, which gives six months free access to digital solutions.
According to McKinsey Digital Singapore, the "Industry transformations maps (ITMs) and government initiatives have been helpful in encouraging businesses to pursue digital transformation plans, but the bulk of the responsibility remains with the private sector."
Luckily, to help the private sector, Singapore has a number of great advisors to help with digital marketing. Being a "regional hub" means that all global consultancies and agencies have a regional office here in Singapore, and for the smaller SMEs (who are not food for the global players yet), there is still plenty of choice in Singapore. Our guess is that Singapore counts on approximately 50 boutique and regional digital transformation agencies.
If you are not ready to find an advisor yet, and you would like to learn more about how to get started with digital marketing, here is an article we wrote on this topic: Three Articles to Help Singaporean SMEs Identify the Right SME Digital Marketing Solution.