Despite the surge in digital adoption rate among Malaysian consumers since the first movement control order in March last year, small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are slow to catch up.
According to Virtualtech Frontier (VTF) founder Jason Low, a large portion of SMEs have yet to digitalise their business. As such, over 30,000 SMEs have closed in 2020 alone following the decline in business and the inability to cope with high overhead costs.
As more businesses are adopting digitalisation to ease the impact of the pandemic, those who are left out are finding it difficult to survive. The main challenges for SMEs in digitalisation are insufficient technology, skillset, and funding. Many SMEs owners also find that they do not know how and where to digitalise.
Low, who has worked as SME digital enablement specialist for 5 years said, “packaging digital enablement tools to SMEs requires a different pitch altogether.
“Typically SMEs are run by owners who believe and have been successful in using the traditional methods of reaching out to customers. Cloud computing, data analytics and internet-of-things (IoT) are big words which they may not understand.
“For these owners, adoption means having to spend time and resources that they may not have to learn new skills. There is also the worry that these technologies will be expensive to implement,” said Low.
To help simplify the process of digitalisation and remove barriers for SMEs, VTF will be organising a DATA Asia 2021 virtual exhibition between May 24-30, 2021. DATA Asia virtual tech exhibition was curated to help SME owners discover the right digitalisation tools for their business in an interactive virtual environment, instead of hearing pitches in silos.
“We have incorporated gamification technology, business matching tools etc to make the experience more immersive and easy to participate even for those with little [technical] knowledge,” Jason said, adding that DATA Asia aims to accelerate the process of SME digitalisation by bringing together digitalisation enablers and matching them to SME owners based on their digital needs.
Barriers like lack of understanding and lack of funds will be removed, he said, given that DATA Asia has customised the user interface and experience to make it simple for SME owners to use and connect with digital ecosystems such as cloud computing, e-commerce and payment solution providers.
“At the expo, these SME owners will be able to learn about ways to get their digital transformation journey funded. They will also get the chance to mingle with industry leaders through keynote speaker sessions,” he said.
According to one of the exhibition sponsors, Exabytes, e-commerce adoption among SMEs in their database had seen a 70% increase between March and December last year compared to the same period the year before.
Exabytes, which is one of the local digital enablers that qualifies SMEs for MDEC 50% matching grants for digital solutions costing up to RM10,000 now has over 160,000 SMEs in its database.
“The more popular packages that SMEs opted for were eCommerce Starter, an eCommerce website with the capacity of listing up to 1,000 products with 6 products pre-inserted during our setup. And for solutions, our Managed eCommerce Solution is the most sought-after. This solution includes the building of an eCommerce store, managing businesses' eCommerce operation plus marketing activities, digital advertising, data analysis and more.
“We believe that the demand surge for these packages were due to the shifts in shopping behaviour among customers. Covid-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the transition to a more digital environment and sparked shifts in the eCommerce industry that are likely to have long-term consequences. Following the pandemic, more than half of the survey’s respondents now shop online more frequently and rely on the internet more, so it is a huge plus to the online retail industry.
Ordering food, delivering things to others, buying clothes and even stocking up on wet groceries are made online because people want to stay at home. SMEs who are now online retailers are doing their very best to retain their customers by ensuring a more comprehensive online store setup and appropriate marketing” said Exabytes CEO Chan Kee Siak.