5 digital skills SMEs and startups have to master

As the huge growth in the number of start-ups internationally testifies, the new ‘entrepreneur era’ is in full swing across the globe. According to GoDaddy’s latest research, two-thirds (68%) of Hong Kong people are planning to either start a new business or be self-employed within the next 10 years. This compares favourably to the global average of just 36% of professionals planning to do the same thing. To maximise publicity, digital technologies are now crucial for business success, it is therefore vital that any aspiring entrepreneur embraces them.

The survey also addresses the reality that entrepreneurship is in the ‘DNA’ of Hong Kong people – something that can be traced back to the SAR’s early days.

Straddling the generational divide, many Hong Kong people at different life stages are looking to start their own business ventures, regardless of whether they are a Baby-Boomer (87%), Generation Xers (68%) or a Millennial (56%). While the desire to start a business is there, just how do Hong Kongers successfully maximise the opportunities available to them? Utilising technology appears to be the answer, with the survey also revealing that 84% of people said using technology would make starting a business easier.

Despite Hong Kong being known for its advanced ICT infrastructure, surprisingly the city still lags behind on the human digital skills front.

According to a SMB survey by Google, just 9% of companies in Hong Kong surveyed said that their staff were well versed in online marketing techniques. In fact Hong Kong business owners also lag behind in their digital skillsets according to the GoDaddy survey, with just 30% of them opting to ‘do it themselves’ when it comes to managing their online businesses, compared to a global average of 56%.

In the age of entrepreneurship, here are five tips that are vital for entrepreneurs and small business owners to help them stay ahead of the competition when going digital:

1. Keep your digital skills up-to-date: Building websites and using social media has never been easier. With the help of various tools, such as GoDaddy’s Website Builder, you can create a tailor-made website from scratch. Additionally with the plethora of social media tools available, you can easily promote your products and services to potential customers.

2. Set up an official website for the business: Half of Hong Kong respondents want to own a business that can globally reach customers and audiences. Having an official website can provide a secure and credible platform to help own the content, create brand awareness and drive sales. Social media promotion of products and engagement with customers can then be driven back to the business website.

3. Find a reliable host and service provider: Getting a head start on your digital skillset is essential, but once your business is ready to expand, small and medium-sized business owners will have to source a reliable provider for cloud, hosting and security services to help support and grow their business. Look for a provider that has products and services you need today and ones that you might need as the business grows. You’ll also want to check out their customer support and when it's available, to help you along with the way.

4. Stay close to online-to-offline mobile trends: There is nothing new about the fact that mobile technology plays such a big part in Hongkongers' lives – there is a 79% mobile penetration rate in Hong Kong after all. Interestingly, however, compared to other markets, Hong Kongers still prefer a brick and mortar shopping experience with only 64% of purchases going through mobile websites or apps, comparing to emerging markets such as India (87%), Thailand (86%) and the Philippines (85%). It is now time for businesses to incorporate store locators into their websites to help drive in-store foot-traffic to help take advantage of this reality.

5. Embrace how new technologies have had a positive impact on your professional life: While 38% of Hong Kong respondents feel that new technologies have negatively impacted their lives, 84% feel that new technologies have helped them start businesses easier. Now is the time to rethink and reposition the status of technology in the workplace and in your customer’s lives. We need to embrace how technology enhances productivity at work, and figure out ways to include it as a part of helping to manage your own business and appeal to your customers.

As technology becomes ever more prevalent in our lives and we become increasingly more comfortable using it, it is empowering business owners to utilise the likes of the cloud, social media and ever more advanced mobile technology, to help advance their entrepreneurial ambitions. Indeed 80% of small business owners expect their business to grow by at least 25% in the next three to five years. All in all, a good sign for those looking to start a new company in Hong Kong.

Written by Roger Chen, vice president of GoDaddy in Asia.