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The SMB Industry Is Having Its ‘Moneyball‘ Moment

by Krishi Fagwani, Founder, Hashtag Loyalty December-2015

When I was in school, the happiest time of the day, for me, was when I stopped at my neighbourhood cafe on my way home. As soon as I walked into the cafe, I was greeted by a warm and welcoming "Hello Krishi, how was your day at school?" The staff personally knew me, my favourite sandwiches and even knew about my shellfish allergies. Nothing would put a smile on my face like when I found a complimentary pastry at the bottom of my carry out bag. I soon moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education and when I returned home 7 years later, I experienced a drastic change in the environment of my favorite cafe. There were no familiar faces, no greetings and no free pastries. This little anecdote from my early life has forced me to think, what it that has caused this changes and how can I get my childhood experience back.

Over the last 5-10 years, due to globalization, what we are experiencing is a rapid depersonalization in the way businesses work. There are thousands of businesses catering to crores of customers, but the businesses don’t know who these customers are. In this day and age where customers have multiple options available for their each need - viable business cannot afford to not know their customers. This is where the need for smart data arises for SMBs.
In mature markets like the U.S., CRM is very advanced. However, In India, companies are just realizing that if their customers suddenly stop coming, they wouldn’t know where to look for them. Today, even though organizations are growing and their sales are increasing, companies are in severe need of technologies and processes that manage their relationship with their customers. The importance of customer data cannot be stressed upon more. The faster the businesses adapt to the changing technology landscape and start leveraging data, the farther they will go to drive profitability in the future.

With more than 900 million mobile subscribers, India has an increasing desire for internet on mobile and the same should be expected for payments and commerce on mobile. Social Media, Cashless Payment and Digital Loyalty serve as a few channels that businesses today can leverage to collect swaths of customer data.

Even though Social Media is an effective channel for businesses to generate actionable data and to engage with customers, it doesn’t help them clearly identify who their customers are. There is no guarantee that a customer following you on Instagram has actually ever visited your business. This is where a need for an in-store solution comes in. Businesses need to know who is actually walking into their outlet and need an interface to directly engage with these people once they have left.

While mobile payments have been available in India since 2010, only a small segment of mobile users actually uses it. The mobile payments market in India has grown 15x in the last 3 years, however the payments are predominantly used for remote payments. The penetration of mobile proximity payments is negligible with less than 2 percent flowing into it. Lack of necessary infrastructure and the lack of readiness of various players to collaborate and adopt technology at scale are two major issues for low mobile payment acceptance. Companies are solving specific problems with limited geographical reach; none are set up for the mass market. While there are a lot of people betting big on mobile payments, the Indian customer is simply not ready for it yet.
Digital loyalty programs, on the other hand offer an easily adoptable and cost-effective solution to help businesses capture relevant information about their customers. Digital Loyalty programs can do a bunch of different things like engaging the customers, understanding their buying behaviour – likes and dislikes and at the same time capture customer demographics. Companies can deliver a quality product or offer a fair price to garner loyalty, but if they don’t know who their customers are, they can’t deliver efficient services. Digital Loyalty Solutions help businesses today tracks customer activity & conduct data-driven marketing and allows businesses to leverage the data collected to make smarter business decisions. Businesses can utilize the platform to stay connected with customers even after they leave their establishment and auto-engage with them if they do not return.

The SMB industry is having its ‘Moneyball’ moment. With mobile and cloud technology readily available, any business can collect, analyze and act on swaths data. Whether you have Oakland A’s or a New York Yankees budget, your business has the ability to cut costs, increase profits and increase customer engagement by leveraging data that was invisible until recently. Data hold the key to how SMB’s will adapt and change operations over the next few years. It will be interesting to see how technology helps transform these businesses.