In today’s digital world, there’s an app for that – whatever “that” may be. Devices like smartphones and tablets are becoming the dashboards of our lives. Depositing a check? Snap a picture of it and tap the button on your bank’s app. Does your son or daughter at college need money? Transfer it electronically. Forgot to pick up milk? Hop online and order it. Fueled by smart technologies, mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity, the way consumers browse, shop and pay is increasingly digital.

For small to medium-size businesses (SMBs), that can present a challenge. This year alone, 280 million Americans are expected to go online every month, according to eMarketer research, and Pew research estimates that eight in ten Americans will make an online purchase. Yet, according to research by Visa, less than half of SMBs have an online presence. Similarly, for in-store shopping most consumers (78 percent) surveyed by Visa say that they prefer making payments digitally either with a card or their phone. Does your SMB accept digital payments both online and in-store?

As digital commerce continues to expand, SMBs that don’t jump onboard risk being left behind. In an effort to understand more about what consumers want from SMBs, Visa and a consortium of partners surveyed more than 400 SMBs and nearly 2,500 consumers.

The result is a guide on how SMBs can grow their businesses in an increasingly digital world: “Digital Transformations of SMBs: The Future of Commerce.” It offers actionable tips for technology and digital upgrades that SMBs can implement to help grow their businesses, including a “how to” on digital payments, marketing and advertising tactics, new service considerations and customer loyalty programs.

Some of the findings that came out of the survey might surprise you. Here are three key reasons why SMBs should go digital:

Consumers expect it, but you’re not offering it. While 90 percent of consumers say they want to support small businesses, there is more to the story. Consumers still expect convenience, and today, that means digital offerings. This creates a big problem for SMBs, whether they realize it or not. Visa’s survey found that only 15 percent of SMBs sales are conducted via digital channels, yet 61 percent of consumers surveyed plan to increase their online purchases in the next 5 years. That represents a significant gap between what consumers are planning and what SMBs are delivering.

It may help the bottom line. Moving, storing and securing cash, checks and money orders takes valuable time and is also subject to fees, losses and theft. Based on survey responses collected from SMBs, Visa estimates the surveyed SMBs’ average cost of processing digital transactions was 57 percent less than cash transactions. This, based on annual sales volume, number of cash versus digital transactions, and processing costs for digital and cash payments (inclusive of direct expenses and labor costs). Adding digital payments may help businesses increase sales: two-thirds of SMBs surveyed shared that they believe customers spend more when using cards versus cash.

Consumers want digital loyalty plans. Only one in five SMBs surveyed offer a loyalty program, but rewards can drive consumer preferences. Seventy-eight percent of consumers say they’re more likely to choose a business that has a loyalty program, and of those, most say that they check out the programs before trying a service, a restaurant or a store for the first time. Every SMB knows that differentiating themselves is a key to success; a loyalty program is an excellent way to stand out from competitors. Why do a digital loyalty program and not, say, a paper punch card? Because nearly all consumers surveyed – 90 percent – prefer digital.

If you want to find out more about how to go digital, download the “Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce” guide at www.visa.com/smbDigital. It’s free, and it’s filled with actionable tips to help you get started.

*References to consumer and small business preferences are based on findings from the survey Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce. Survey was commissioned by Visa and conducted by a third party research firm, Maru/Matchbox, during February and March 2018 and administered in English to U.S. 425 small and medium size businesses with storefront or at home business in food/dining, retail, services and grocery industries, and 2,458 consumers taking into account balanced income, age and regional representation.

Protection against cyber attacks is crucial for any small business. A surprising report says that the average small business website is attacked by bots 44 times a day; however, many small businesses can’t picture themselves as a target. It’s easy to think that only large companies are subject to cyber threats, and therefore, overlook developing cybersecurity systems and tools due to cost and lack of resources. This is the exact reason why hackers will target small businesses – they are expecting to find weaknesses. It is essential for small businesses to protect their data, develop backup measures, and build recovery plans to counteract cyber threats in order to reduce the risk of losing everything they’ve worked so hard to build.

As technology continues to advance, small businesses need to consider what new technologies are best to help them, and protect critical business and customer information. There are several key areas for small businesses to focus on.

Secure access

Customer and business data needs to be protected at all times and everywhere it lives within the business. Cyber attackers use automated-malware to constantly search for weaknesses in data security and then employ ransomware to seize data and systems to extort billions of dollars a year from businesses around the world. According to the FBI, more than 4,000 attacks occur every day. Technology features such as strong passwords, multi-factor authentication and time locks can help secure points of access, and there is a wide variety of hardware and software available to help small businesses do so.

Without previous technology experience, it can be hard for a small business to know where to start when it comes to purchasing and implementing cyber-security solutions. Working with an IT adviser can significantly help with these decisions.

Secure network

Along with protecting access points, network data also needs to be protected at all times. Keeping a network secure protects valuable customer data.

Businesses can most effectively do so by leveraging encryption, which scrambles the data into unreadable code on your wireless network, making it more difficult for hackers to intrude on your information. Any kind of compromise to customer data can take down a small business; thus, taking strong precautions is crucial.

Data backup and recovery

Small businesses often do not back up their data. According to the FCC, nearly half of small businesses report that they never back up data. This puts small businesses at a major risk of losing key information if a data breach or disaster event ever occurs. Threats to data can come from cyber attacks, natural disasters or even user error. Making backup copies of data is like having an insurance policy to help ensure your business is able to continue operating under all types of circumstances.

Proactive data protection and backup can help small businesses reduce the risk of downtime, lost production and even loss of customers. Cloud backup services can automatically detect and back up new and changed files from laptops and servers even after the initial file is uploaded. This can provide a second line of defense against malware attacks. Management, compliance and other reporting requirements can be met, and the need for additional storage hardware can be reduced.

Staying protected

Keeping up with the fast pace of technological change can be difficult, but embracing and adapting new technologies can improve efficiency and provide a competitive advantage. Data backup and cyber-security can protect business information from threats and keep systems running smoothly. In addition, website attacks and cyber threats are growing in numbers daily. Recent studies show that more than 50% of all internet traffic is from automated sources such as hacking tools, scrapers, spammers and bots. It is absolutely critical that you take proper measures to secure your online presence.

If you manage a deskless workforce, then you need to have the right strategies. While their are many benefits of going remote in today’s business world, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. So avoid common pitfalls of remote teams and use the four tips below to ensure more success and profit:

Use the Right Apps

Since you can’t just go up and talk to your employees and coworkers, communications apps are critical to managing a deskless workforce, and can help you tackle communication issues for deskbound workforces as well. Without them, you risk falling out of touch your team. Apps allow you to communicate the right objectives, at the right time, to the right members. You can also share a large variety of files, from videos, to text, to links, to cloud documents. So don’t try to cut corners when choosing the right apps for you. Analyze the pros and cons and pick the one that suits your needs the best.

Substitute In Person Meetings for Video Calls

Long gone are the days where you have to assemble everyone in one small conference room for a meeting. Not only is this costly, but is is inefficient. Luckily, if you don’t have a physical office, then you don’t have the pressure to do this. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch meetings altogether, face-to-face interactions still hold value. Schedule weekly, if not daily, video meetings to make sure everyone is clear on your objectives and allow them to raise issues.

Leverage Instant Chat

One of the biggest miracles of modern communication apps is the ability to be in instant communication with anyone else at the tap of a button. Whether your lead programmer is in Boston or Bali, you can send them messages or respond in seconds, and it has different connotations to email. Instant messages imply something closer to a verbal conversation that needs more urgency. Don’t overlook this vital feature, or the delay time could eat away at your project expenses.

Measure Results, Not “Time in Chair”

Great managers know how to manage their team. And in this new business world, that means focusing on the results. Simply looking at time sheets doesn’t give you the full picture of how productive someone is being. Numbers don’t lie, but do make sure you’re looking at the numbers that matter, as it can give you some insights on how your employees work.

When it comes to work in the modern age, you are on the cutting edge if you have already ditched desks and gone remote. However, that does not mean you are in the clear just yet. You still need to use the right tools and techniques to make sure projects get done on time in the most profitable manner possible – that also means recruiting some other businesses to help with other tasks (such as web design or marketing). So implement the tips above and have peace of mind that you’re on the right track.

The importance of generating a profit is something all small business owners can relate to. However, a large number of small businesses are lucky to break even, while others continue losing money until they’re unable to keep their doors open. To stay afloat, each aspect of your business must receive careful attention, so you can maximize your profits while minimizing your losses. Here are five ways your company may be losing money.

1. Poor Accounting

Razor thin profit margins make it necessary to track each penny that comes and goes from your business. Failing to log transactions or relying on inaccurate and/or time-consuming expense sheets can deceive you into thinking you’re doing better than you actually are. This can lead to overspending, which could ultimately result in negative cash flow.

It’s important to record all transactions accurately. Mixing numbers up or recording them in the wrong places seem like minor errors, but they can have devastating consequences to your bottom line. Conducting internal audits and reconciling your books regularly can help you spot these irregularities before they create more significant problems. You should also consider hiring a professional accountant to maintain your records.

2. Poor Pricing

If you price your products or services too low, you risk not making enough per transaction. For all you know, those customers might have been willing to pay more. If you set your prices too high, your customers will seek out cheaper alternatives.

Pricing can be tricky, but it’s far from impossible. A market analysis can help you learn more about the customers you serve and their potential needs. You can also look into what your competitors are charging for their products. Ask your customers what they think is a fair price for what you have to offer and how much would be too much.

3. Outdated Technology

With so many technological advancements, there’s no excuse to continue relying on obsolete technology. Modern systems, such as point-of-sale (P.O.S.) systems are designed to be scalable, allowing you to meet changing customer demands with ease. Transactions in today’s world take place at lightning speed, and if the tools of your trade can’t keep up, they could hurt your bottom line. You can also keep better information on how your business manages its budget and expenses with new technology that can cut the time and money that you spend. There’s plenty of software and systems that can be beneficial to your business.

Additionally, ignoring the power of marketing and branding could be making you miss out on some great opportunities. Many businesses don’t consider their brand an important aspect, but making even a small investment in it could make a difference. Same goes with social media and an online presence. Try to maximize the areas of your business that you know will help you get some profit. If you want to check out more, make sure to read up on our available services.

4. Combined Accounts

No matter how small your company is, it’s crucial to separate your business and personal accounts. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, combining the two can create an accounting nightmare. At some point, those funds are likely to get mixed up.

Suppose you have a family emergency that costs you several thousand dollars. Some of the money in your account belongs to your business, and that situation makes it far too easy to withdraw more money than is yours to spend. Money from your business can easily be lost this way, and it can be hard to figure out how much if you continue to run your company this way.

5. Too Much Office Space

Another thing to consider is whether you need as much office space as you’re using. While you might indeed need some type of storefront, there’s no sense in spending money on the excess square footage. Modern technology has made telecommuting more popular and practical than ever before. If your business is in a position where you can embrace this technology, you’d only need as much space as would be necessary for those employees that have to work on site.

There are many different ways a business can lose money. What’s important to remember is that money doesn’t vanish. It has to be spent somewhere, and it’s your job to figure out where that is.

Resources:

What’s it really costing you to submit expense reports manually? | Divvy

7 Ways to Stop Throwing Money Down the Drain | Inc.

Are Your Prices Too Low? It’s Time to Rethink Your Pricing Strategy | allBusiness

5 Ways Telecommuting Saves Employers Money | Entrepreneur