Why digital is the dominant interaction channel for businesses and consumers

March 17, 2016
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, Mobile Econ Africa

It’s a new age. A digital age. According to a 2016 World Development report titled, Digital Dividends, more than 40 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet with more online users coming in every day. It’s a digital revolution where digital technologies

It’s a digital revolution where digital technologies have and continue to revolutionize every aspect of our lives; How we live, work and socialize is now significantly different to how we did that just 10-15 years ago.

In the business realm, digital technology has impacted every step of the entire value chain from sourcing to consumption. The old way of doing things is out and becoming obsolete by the day, replaced by this new digital phenomenon. Businesses that have been the bedrock of society and served as the “establishment”

Businesses that have been the bedrock of society and served as the “establishment” before this new digital age are now playing catch up in order to compete with startups that seemed to have sprouted up overnight. Whether big, small or medium sized, all businesses are now forced to adapt or die.

Africa has embraced this digital revolution with both arms wide open with internet usage growing exponentially. The World Bank in its 2016 report on Digital Revolution placed Kenya among the top countries in Africa whose people can access the internet, and according to Communications Authority of Kenya, penetration is at 74.2 percent.

The WB report showed that the internet is now a medium of choice for consumers who have integrated digital media in every facet of their lives. It only makes sense that businesses should embrace digital channels to interact with their consumers who seem to be perpetually online.

It makes great business sense for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and any business for that matter to use digital platforms to interact with their consumers. First and most important, these businesses get to directly interact with more consumers by engaging with them online due to the ease of technology. According to a Sector Statistics Report by the Communications Authority of Kenya, as of December 2015 the number of internet users was at 31.9 million growing from 29.6 million users recorded in June the same year.

Out of these users, 72% use social media sites, 65% visit search engines while 42% look for online shops. With these numbers expected to continue growing in the next few years, a business has the chance to be seen online by millions of consumers.

Thanks to the digital revolution, marketing practices have changed. They have increased in geographic and demographic scope due to the ability of these new technologies to hone in on specific target audiences. This increased but focused reach can be leveraged to grow your business without a lot of “advertising wastage” which was the case a few years ago where companies had to cast the net wide in order to grow into new markets.

The second reason why interacting with the consumers on digital platforms is popular and is now a must for every business is their ability to relay immediate feedback. The process of choosing what to buy and the post-buying experience have been taken online, with social media networks playing a huge role. People now look to see what other people think of a product/service/place before they decide to purchase it and when they experience a product/service look for platforms to voice their views which

People now look to see what other people think of a product/service/place before they decide to purchase it and when they experience a product/service look for platforms to voice their views which amplifies their opinion compared to word of mouth. The information on what consumers are saying, what they like or don’t like, and their preference

The information on what consumers are saying, what they like or don’t like, and their preference of one product or service over another is important to any business. The fact that this information is now accessible online enables businesses to take immediate action to either remedy their products or services or improve them in order to meet the consumers’ needs.

Interacting with consumers on digital platforms is also cost effective. Most customers prefer to conduct their purchases online rather than in person since transaction costs are reduced. When a consumer buys a product, they spend time and money searching for it, comparing it with other products, negotiating a price, and ensuring that they get what they paid for (transaction costs).

A research by the World Bank, The Economics of the Internet, shows that consumers find it cheaper to get a product or service online and cut down on inconveniences such as looking for it and bargaining to prevent incurring extra costs.

According to GroupeSpeciale Mobile Association (GSMA), one of the biggest association of mobile operators and related companies in the world, businesses and consumers are increasingly looking to digital commerce as a key channel in providing flexible and efficient transaction services across a range of sectors. The advantages with digital media and technologies in this new, brave world, show that businesses must jump on the digital bandwagon if they haven’t already.

That said, a business should employ a good digital marketing strategy in order to compete effectively with other companies and ensure its success by cultivating their online presence. From joining digital platforms such as social media networks to having their products and services reviewed in business review websites, businesses will not only popularize their brand, but they will have a one on one interaction with their consumers as well as improve customer relations.

With digital channels, all businesses whether big, medium or small are competing on a level playing field. The difference is a business’ ability to effectively integrate it into its operations.

The bottom line – business survival in today’s digital age where customer loyalty can be fickle, with the multitude of options on offer, requires a business to be nimble and use digital channels to interact with their customers and constantly gauge the pulse and respond in an efficient manner.

By Imran Khan – founder of Yululate Kenya. Yululate is Kenya’s premier consumer review website and largest social network for businesses.

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