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SMEs: 6 Digital Innovations to Leverage for Success

Big corporations sometimes hog the headlines but small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of economies around the world. SMEs can be anything from a mom-and-pop corner store to your accountant, all your favorite neighborhood restaurants, or manufacturers of furniture, apparel, and electronics . They account for 90 percent of businesses, provide over 70 percent of employment, and contribute 50 percent to global GDP. And SMEs play an especially important role in developing countries.

To manage shocks and transitions, digitalize.

For SMEs to survive and thrive, they must digitalize just as big corporations do. According to the OECD Global Survey, “SME Digitalization in 2024,” digital tools are crucial in helping SMEs manage shocks and transitions. Perceived benefits from respondents include:

  • Enhanced profitability, particularly through increased domestic sales (47%)
  • Extended customer outreach (41%)
  • Improved productivity via automation (40%)

Other perceived benefits include lower inventory and supply chain costs, better customer insights, and new revenue opportunities.

“Digital tools strengthen the resilience of SMEs,” says the report, warning that too many small and medium-size companies have yet to go digital. Which puts them at risk of “being left further behind.”

The Six Must-Have Tech Innovations

1. Analytics to stay competitive

Data insights are critical for effective and strategic decision-making to gain an edge over competitors. According to OECD’s Global Survey, 72% of businesses use data to help them understand market trends, consumer behavior, and operational efficiency.

Analytics tools can vary greatly, so it’s important to choose one well suited to the needs of your business. For example, Tencent’s Smart Retail Solution is a one-stop technological solution for companies looking to enter or operate in China’s retail market. In addition to harnessing the Weixin ecosystem for anything from payments to CRM, it offers comprehensive analytics services.

A good analytics tool will help you determine which campaigns and approaches are working, if you’re reaching the target audience, how interaction is going, what’s resonating, and how many people are converting.

2. ArtificiaI Intelligent to foster customer loyalty

Artificial intelligence (AI), and more specifically generative AI, is fundamentally revolutionizing how we interact and engage in the digital world. This unlocks a wealth of new opportunities and avenues for SMEs. Generative AI-enabled technological solutions, such as digital humans, are fast emerging as new, innovative, customer engagement options. Tencent’s AI digital human solution, with 3D modelling, speech recognition and large language model capabilities, can now create and personalize lifelike avatars with just one minute of real-life oral video footage.

There is exciting potential for virtual news anchors, interpreters, and customer service agents. Leveraging generative AI, SMEs can now also create newsletters, run social media, develop apps, answer customer queries, personalize experiences, crunch numbers, forecast growth, and much more.

3. Omnichannel strategies mean as many consumer touchpoints as possible

Modern-day consumers are looking for seamless shopping experiences, and they want to communicate with companies on the same channels they use with friends and family. Omnichannel strategies allow customers to interact with your business via their channel of choice, whether that’s email, social media, chat, or phone. Customers want the option to order online and get support asynchronously or in real time.

Tencent’s Weixin ecosystem, with tools like Mini Programs, Moments, and Weixin Pay, is an ideal platform for omnichannel strategies. Its ease of use and ability for brands to communicate in a number of ways with consumers is a key advantage. Benefits of omnichannel strategies include:

  • Happier customers
  • Improved engagement and retention
  • Better understanding of the consumer journey
  • Increased sales due to lower barriers to commerce
  • Operational efficiency and cost savings through an integrated platform

4. Digital payments bring in new customers

Digital payments are becoming the norm globally, with SMEs in sectors like travel, retail, transport, food and beverage, and entertainment benefiting. Technologies such as QR codes, mobile terminals, and digital wallets make transactions easier and faster, opening up new opportunities for customer acquisition.

5. Influencer marketing leads to conversions

Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for connecting with customers and driving sales, especially among Gen Z consumers. According to Statista, the global influencer market is expected to reach at least US$24 billion in 2024, up from $6.5 billion in 2019. Video, livestreaming, and social media are the preferred mediums, all of which are available through the Weixin ecosystem and Smart Retail Solution.

The Weixin ecosystem, including Official Accounts, Mini Programs, Channels, Weixin Pay, and Wecom, has created millions of jobs and income opportunities for influencers and entrepreneurs. In addition, it allows other businesses to work with them to engage with customers authentically and dynamically. The platforms facilitate collaboration to create compelling content, reach targeted audiences, and convert engagement into sales.

6. Smart logistics underpin modern manufacturing

Tencent Cloud-native Suite is transforming the manufacturing and logistics sectors by boosting productivity and efficiency for SMEs. Backed by advanced algorithms, the seamless coordination of systems and processes reduces errors and improves overall workflow. Such a streamlined approach results in energy savings and improved workplace occupational health and safety.

Tencent Cloud’s technologies in big data, AI, digital twins, and cloud computing have been instrumental in driving digital transformations and innovations across entire industry chains. They provide robust tools for SMEs to enhance their operational capabilities and maintain competitive advantage.

Solutions for a Digital Age

No matter the sector, digital tools can significantly enhance the efficiency, reach, and profitability of SMEs. Fundamentals such as good data, generative AI, and digital payments help businesses navigate short-term challenges, enhance long-term resilience, and seize growth opportunities. Tencent’s suite of digital solutions offers comprehensive support for SMEs looking to thrive in the digital age.