Rocky business 'not grasping' digital economy: IT specialist
AS FULL roll out of the NBN continues, faster, more reliable internet, smarter technology and collaborative cloud computing are upon us, but what does this mean for business in regional areas?
The digital economy is changing the way people buy, but a prominent I.T. specialist says Rockhampton businesses don't yet fully grasp the digital economy is not an addition to what they currently do; it's replacing it.
"The digital economy is fast replacing other forms of purchasing and Rockhampton businesses are simply not online," says Jason Spence, general manager at Rockhampton's Optus business centre.
"People want to buy online and shop local, but the market has changed.
"In order to be prepared, an online presence is critical."
Being online in the contemporary market place no longer means having an online store or even a website.
Mr Spence says the most powerful form of marketing is word-of-mouth, and that means social media.
"I'm often confronted by business owners who say they rely on word-of-mouth and don't need social media marketing...that's the usual thinking," he said.
"I challenge them to go onto Facebook and see what people are saying about them and their competitors.
"If they aren't listening to social media, then they aren't listening."
Mr Spence says consumer habits are changing quickly and the $2 shops that used to pop up everywhere have almost disappeared.
"It was all about the cheapest, but people are sick of buying rubbish and having to buy it over and over again," he said.
"Now we all have a mobile phone or tablet and instead of going out on Saturday mornings and browsing, we're doing our research in a digital environment.
"Customers are going on to Facebook and asking "where do I get?".
"They're asking for public opinion and testimonials are something more and more people use to gauge whether you are a good business or not.
"Google is the other area: typing what they want straight into Google.
"With location services turned on, local businesses come up in the top three or four and if prices are comparable, people will buy locally."
As the changes in consumer habits evolve, the NBN continues to roll out enabling people to do things easier and changing buying habits even further.
Mr Spence says the real challenge for business is to be available where the business is...and that means taking your business into the cloud and being highly visible.
He says the 'Buy Local' campaigns should be replaced with 'Australia buy from Rockhampton' programs.
"Business is aware there aren't enough people buying in Rockhampton, but the market isn't just local anymore," he said.
"Rockhampton businesses need to grasp that they are in an Australian, even global marketplace and each business needs to know where its marketplace is.
"People don't believe advertising, but they believe testimonials...we did a Facebook search last week for a business that told us they didn't need social media and they were astounded at how many times their business had been mentioned online.
"We can see what people are saying about us, we can see what people are thinking and we can make changes in our organisation to become what people really want - and there's nothing more powerful than your own clients recommending your business."