Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Tyrone Wilson | Digital entrepreneurship provides borderless opportunities

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2020 | 3:31 PMTyrone Wilson and Stacy Kirk/Guest Columnists

ALBERT EINSTEIN said, “In the midst of crisis is opportunity;” no truer is this than the current COVID-19 global pandemic. It has accelerated the pace at which the world has gone digital, transforming the working environment, the way we carry out our daily activities, even how we worship, and has prompted many entrepreneurs to pivot and re-examine their business models in order to thrive. This period, which is defined as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has resulted in the explosion of all things digital; as such, digital entrepreneurs will play a critical role in rebuilding, especially smaller economies like Jamaica.

Digital entrepreneurship is broadly defined, by the European Commission, as creating new ventures and transforming existing businesses by developing novel, digital technologies and/or novel usage of such technologies.

It is against this background that the recent Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture brought into sharp focus, opportunities which abound for entrepreneurs to take advantage of in doing business in the digital, global space. With digital entrepreneurship set to create boundless opportunities for local businesses, here are some highlights from the recent lecture that can provide a foundation for fellow entrepreneurs, and budding entreps, to navigate the digital space.

A key component to digital entrepreneurship is understanding the digital customer journey, so that entrepreneurs can understand how customers interact with the various digital commercial platforms. This journey involves the path customers take from initial contact to conversion, and plays a major role in whether or not they make that final decision, resulting in a sale.

The five stages of the digital customer journey involves browsing, comparing, contemplating, purchasing and returning as a customer. The first stage, ‘browsing’, is similar to customer interactions in a brick-and-mortar store, where customers make initial contact and consider if they want to do business with a company or buy a product. The digital space, however, makes it easier for customers to compare your products and services to your competitors’ with just a few clicks, examining customers’ reviews, price and other variables. As a digital entrepreneur, you can further guide customers to contemplate your offerings by using digital marketing tools such as your website chat features, email marketing, content marketing, to name a few, all in a bid to have that customer bag that purchase, using your online commerce channel. The journey does not stop there, however, as you want customers to return to either purchase new products/services or repeat their order.

The digital marketplace, in contrast to the traditional store, offers the digital entrepreneur the opportunity to execute their marketing strategy in a more targeted way by immersing and using data to develop the ‘buyer persona’ which is harnessed from the customer’s digital footprint. This data can contribute to businesses success, as it enables businesses to create such rich buyer persona data, including demographics such as age, gender, general interests, preferences and motivations. This client digital footprint further allows for customisation of offerings to better suit customers’ needs and, in turn, drive revenue and sales, as well as build customer loyalty. The customer journey is essential for all businesses, from a microbusiness to larger global corporation. As such, businesses can utilise the many channels to launch themselves into the digital landscape and reach customers, inclusive of mobile, online marketplace, video, display ads and email, thereby taking advantage of the opportunities that this digital space provides.

BUSINESSES ARE SUCCEEDING

Although there has been a fall-off in economic activity and there is increased unemployment, businesses have also been succeeding, despite the pandemic, by taking advantage of opportunities to pivot and fully operate in the digital space. So, whether you are a budding entrepreneur, solo entrepreneur, or a corporate entrepreneur, this is a great time to come up with a new plan and strategy.

A critical component ahead of starting your business or pivoting your business, however, is doing the necessary research and putting the idea forward in a structured way. The days of having those 30-page business plans are over, however, as entrepreneurs who spend too much time developing a business plan risks losing the opportunity to take advantage of immediate client and business needs of today.

Alternately, entrepreneurs can use the concept of the ‘Lean Canvas’ -- a one-page business plan which has a concise and effective means through which entrepreneurs can document their ideas. This consists of segments including strategic partners, key activities, customer segments, and cost and revenue streams; for example, subscription, sale of products and services. Additionally, two important aspects of the plan are the value proposition, where entrepreneurs identify their solution to the customers’ needs, and the ‘unfair advantage’, where entrepreneurs note the uniqueness of their service or product.

With the structure and preliminary research in the bag, the road to developing a great product is not over, as rigorous and repeated testing of services and products to retain quality is needed. Of course, entrepreneurs can take advantage of the digital platforms and training available to assist them in building their online presence and reaching their customer base in a meaningful way. The testing and validation process to building a great product involves proving the concept can work by simply examining the feasibility of the product/service; then the development of a prototype, in order to get the customer prospective -- real feedback, not just thoughts of your immediate circle; and last, building a MVP -- a minimum viable product, to take to market.

Strategic partnerships are a valuable add-on that will enable entrepreneurs to work smarter -- not harder -- in addition to accelerating business growth and overcoming challenges, some of which are endemic to one’s environment; as in the case of Jamaica, which currently has limitations with digital payment options. Partnerships may help to resolve this challenge, especially for smaller businesses.

Now is the time for budding and traditional entrepreneurs to be bold and fearless, and see the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘perfect storm’ that has the ability to transform the way in which they do business and seek out opportunities.

Tyrone Wilson, founder, president and CEO of iCreate; and Stacy Kirk, CEO, Quality Works Consulting Group, California, USA, shared these lessons on digital entrepreneurship as co-presenters at the 7th annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture. Email: tyrone@joinemedia.com and info@qualityworkscg.com