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APAC SMEs adapting well to new realities of remote-first business environment – SAP

APAC SMEs are well positioned to adapt to a remote working environment by taking swift actions to implement and adjust remote work arrangements for employees in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 77% reported that they adjusted remote work arrangements for employees in response to COVID-19, as compared to respondents in Europe (75%) and the Americas (71%).

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SAP SE unveiled findings for the study Digital Resilient, and Experience-driven: How Small and Midsize Organisations Can Prepare for the New Economy. The study highlights how small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) in Asia-Pacific (APAC) are uniquely positioned to adapt and thrive in the dynamic and distributed post-COVID-19 business environment.

Conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the study also delved into the priorities, challenges, and digital maturity of SMEs in the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Of the total 2,000 respondents, 832 respondents were from the following APAC markets: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. A section detailing answers from 240 respondents on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was also added to the survey mid-fieldwork.

Adapting To The New World Of Work

According to the 240 that responded to the series of COVID-19 questions, APAC SMEs are well positioned to adapt to a remote working environment by taking swift actions to implement and adjust remote work arrangements for employees in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 77% reported that they adjusted remote work arrangements for employees in response to COVID-19, as compared to respondents in Europe (75%) and the Americas (71%).

Additionally, 61% of APAC SMEs surveyed created remote work set-ups for employees during this period, while 69% invested in IT and collaboration solutions to support remote access and/or online learning. Interestingly, 10% of APAC SMEs reported that the pandemic has no impact on their ability to accommodate remote work and maintain employee productivity.

On top of supporting business continuity during this period, many APAC SMEs are also actively exploring new channels to get their products and services to customers (66%, vs. 64% in the Americas and 59% in Europe) and developing new products and service offerings (46%, vs. 40% in the Americas and 49% in Europe). 

“SMEs across the region—like their counterparts around the world—have certain advantages over larger competitors in terms of agility and closeness to the customer,” said Edward Cone, Editorial Director of Thought Leadership and Technology Practice Lead at Oxford Economics. “Yet even before the pandemic, SMEs in APAC also faced meaningful challenges in keeping up the pace of digital transformation.”

Lastly, it was revealed that COVID-19 has significantly impacted APAC SMEs’ ability to compete with larger companies within the same industry, with 45% of APAC SMEs reporting that the pandemic has had a significant effect on their operations and strategies in this area. COVID-19 has also affected the ability to operate at full capacity (45%), the ability of the supply chains to keep up with demands (40%), and the ability to keep existing customers (40%). Some respondents reported that they had to completely restructure business strategy and operations in these areas to mitigate the impact of the pandemic

Anticipating The Road Ahead

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, SMEs in the region reported being optimistic about their long-term prospects. Many APAC SMEs expect that over the next three years, their market share (62%), budget/revenue (76%), number of full-time employees (59%), and profitability (78%) will increase somewhat or substantially.

61% of APAC SMEs surveyed created remote work set-ups for employees during this period, while 69% invested in IT and collaboration solutions to support remote access and/or online learning. Interestingly, 10% of APAC SMEs reported that the pandemic has no impact on their ability to accommodate remote work and maintain employee productivity.

Looking ahead to the next three years, APAC SMEs are prioritising improving the customer experience (40%), growth (38%) and attracting new customers (28%). APAC SMEs believe that the key to providing high-quality customer experience lies in high-quality products and/or services (70%), fast and convenient delivery (64%) and competitive pricing (62%), with the customer-service business function bearing the most responsibility for delivering those experiences (cited by 70% of APAC respondents). Upgrading analytics on customer data is viewed as a go-to strategy to improving customer experience:  28% already have done this across the organisation, and 52% have started to. 

Staying The Course On Digital Transformation

With technology set to play an increasingly critical role in helping APAC SMEs achieve business success in the new digital environment, the study also took a closer look at digital maturity levels of these businesses across the region. Many APAC SMEs say they have made moderate progress toward digital transformation (39%), and 21% have made substantial progress or completely transformed; within three years, 19% expect to have completely transformed. In terms of technological adoption, HR/Talent management software is furthest along (66%), followed by Governance and Cybersecurity software (63%) and Finance and Risk management software (59%). Respondents reported that these technologies are either in use in some applications/projects or are already in use at scale.

Mobile devices and mobile business process enablement, and business management solutions (ERP software) share the top spot in terms of pilot implementation, and APAC SMEs are actively considering emerging technologies, AI/ML and Internet of Things (IoT) as their main investment priority.

Obstacles To Overcome

The road to success does, however, bring challenges. Today, APAC SMEs consider the upskilling/reskilling of the current workforce (30%), lack of coordination between different departments (29%), and inability to gain insights from data (28%) as key internal challenges. In terms of external challenges, APAC SMEs cite changing customer wants and needs (40%), competition from larger organisations (39%), and adapting to a rapidly changing marketplace (27%) as obstacles to their business success.

“Today’s new normal requires businesses to pivot and adapt with speed. SMEs in the region seem to understand that the sense of urgency to digitally transform their businesses will give them an advantage through the pandemic and beyond,” said Claus Andresen, SVP & Head of General Business (SME) and Emerging Markets Growth, Asia Pacific & Japan. “With the adoption of an intelligent enterprise strategy, SMEs can establish a digital core that will power the entire organisation, embedding data-driven insights and decision-making processes across the business. This is crucial in enabling business agility, further strengthening the ability of SMEs to adapt to dynamic market conditions.”

“I am confident SMEs in the region will be able to emerge stronger, having forged closer bonds with customers and employees while developing innovative services and products that will put them on a strong growth trajectory as the world economy recovers,” concluded Andresen.

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Xendit launches payment gateway services to individual business owners

When individual sellers integrate their business with Xendit, their customers can make direct payments via direct debit through Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and UnionBank of the Philippines (UBP), e-wallets such as GCash, GrabPay, and PayMaya, or Over-the-Counter via 7-Eleven and Cebuana Lhuillier. Meanwhile, sole proprietors, corporations, and partnerships can also process credit card payments.

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The ongoing pandemic has brought out the creative side of many Filipinos, who have found ways to supplement their incomes by selling various products or services on social media. Xendit is making it easier for individual business owners to settle payments with access to a world-class platform that makes billings simple, secure, and easy.

“The pandemic has seen a rise in individual sellers who utilize social media to sell their goods and services. The digital nature of transactions means payment methods need to adapt. We want to empower these rising contributors to the Philippine economy with a platform that handles payments for them while they focus on their business,” says Alyzza Acacio, Philippine SME Task Force Lead of Xendit Philippines.

When individual sellers integrate their business with Xendit, their customers can make direct payments via direct debit through Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and UnionBank of the Philippines (UBP), e-wallets such as GCash, GrabPay, and PayMaya, or Over-the-Counter via 7-Eleven and Cebuana Lhuillier. Meanwhile, sole proprietors, corporations, and partnerships can also process credit card payments.

Since Xendit handles payments on the individual seller’s behalf, entrepreneurs can focus on fulfilling orders and growing their business. They no longer need to coordinate with each customer for payments because transaction statuses are updated in real-time on the Xendit dashboard. 

Xendit’s mission is to make payments simple, so that even entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) unfamiliar who are not as technically savvy can integrate with the platform easily. Xendit is available in platforms such as Wix, Shopify, or WooCommerce. Those who rely solely on social media for business can generate payment links that customers can access. Sellers also have access to their transaction history on a centralized dashboard to monitor sales and payments.

“We need to continue to support the Filipino micro-entrepreneurs and small business owners to embrace the digital age; they have experienced the ease that online selling and marketing and smartphones have brought them closer to their customers. The next step is to help them grow their business by helping them manage day-to-day tasks in their enterprise and improve their financial literacy as they experience and use fintech products and platforms more and more,” says Ana Mijares, Senior Trainer for the Go Digital ASEAN initiative.

To welcome SMEs, Xendit is offering up to P1.6 million worth of waived transaction fees for new sign-ups. The platform is also waiving P1 million in fees for individual sellers.

Opening its platform to individual sellers is just one of Xendit’s many ways to empower SMEs using technology. Its Level Up accelerator program supports entrepreneurs through masterclasses and challenges that give them the tools and know-how to scale their businesses. The program also includes giving P3.5 million in free transactions for 1,000 startups for one year through its video challenge

Xendit is the simplest and most trusted name in digital transactions in the region. It powers SMEs as well as the Philippines’ largest enterprises. Xendit is committed to building a solid payment infrastructure for the country and the rest of Southeast Asia.

“We launched an SME task force at the beginning of the year to help create solutions for Filipino businesses that may have been affected by the pandemic. We hope to continue our support for Filipino MSMEs so they can grow their business and help the Philippine economy,” says Yang Yang Zhang, Managing Director of Xendit Philippines.

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Gender bias is real for women in family-owned businesses

A study examining gender bias and family-owned businesses found daughters were rarely encouraged nor received support to pursue entrepreneurship education while sons mostly did.

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A study examining gender bias and family-owned businesses found daughters were rarely encouraged nor received support to pursue entrepreneurship education while sons mostly did.

Professors James Combs, Peter Jaskiewicz, and Sabine Raul from the Telfer School of Management uncovered new insights about how gender bias – the preference of a gender over the other – affects the succession strategy in multi-generational family firms. Their findings are published in the Journal of Small Business Management.

When nurturing the next generation, entrepreneurial families often prepare their daughters and sons differently for their careers. The researchers noticed a common pattern in the stories shared by the next generation: Sons are often nurtured to become entrepreneurial, whether they are expected to take over the firm one day or to start a venture elsewhere. Daughters, however, receive little to no incentive to develop the leadership skills and entrepreneurial passion required to contribute to the family firm or start their own business.

In conversations with 26 children who were raised in 13 multi-generational family firms – some being centuries old – but not expected to work in the firm, the researchers found that:

  • Seven of the nine sons (78%), pursued entrepreneurial careers;
  • Only one among the 15 daughters (7%) gained an entrepreneurial education and engaged in entrepreneurship (7%);
  • Women were not encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship education, gain business experience, start a new venture;
  • Men rather than women received financial resources from the family to start their own business

“Even when these female non-successors have opportunities to acquire relevant knowledge and work to start a business, becoming entrepreneurial was still a challenging uphill battle,” says Jaskiewicz, who believes the data reveals women do not pursue entrepreneurship outside of the family because they lacked sufficient emotional and financial support from the family.

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Do customer loyalty programs really help sellers make money?

A non-tiered customer loyalty program’s reduction in attrition accounts for more than 80% of the program’s total lift or success. On the other hand, increased frequency accounts for less than 20% of the program’s lift or effectiveness.

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Customer loyalty programs have been around for decades and are used to help businesses, marketers and sellers build a sustainable relationship with their customers. But do they work? A recent study sought to find out and researchers learned that while yes, customer loyalty programs do work, perhaps not in ways most may assume.

There are two basic types of customer loyalty programs, tiered and non-tiered. Airlines and hotels often use tiered customer loyalty programs that increase rewards as program members reach higher thresholds of spending over time. Retailers and service industry businesses are more likely to offer non-tiered customer loyalty programs, in which members are rewarded with frequent, but not increasing rewards, such as “buy 10 get one free.”

This research investigated if those non-tiered customer loyalty programs actually do what they are designed to do.

The study to be published in the June issue of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, “Can Non-tiered Customer Loyalty Programs Be Profitable?”, is authored by Arun Gopalakrishnan of Rice University, Zhenling Jiang of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and Yulia Nevskaya and Raphael Thomadsen of the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

The authors found that non-tiered customer loyalty programs increase customer value by almost 30% over a five-year time period. They discovered that the program’s effectiveness is not so much through increased spending per transaction or frequency of purchasing but rather through the reduction of attrition. In other words, the chief benefit is that the customer loyalty program reduces customer fall-off and turnover.

“We found that a non-tiered customer loyalty program’s reduction in attrition accounts for more than 80% of the program’s total lift or success,” said Thomadsen. “On the other hand, increased frequency accounts for less than 20% of the program’s lift or effectiveness.”

Jiang added, “One of the more interesting findings was that the impact of the loyalty program does not necessarily contribute to increased spending per transaction or increased frequency of transactions. Rather, the benefit to the business is creating more sustainable and lasting relationships with customers.”

To conduct their research, the authors worked with a company to collect data of more than 5,500 new customers who first started purchasing from that company in the same three-month period. This helped to ensure that the customers were comparable in terms of the amount of time they had to become acquainted with the selling firm. For the next 30 months, the researchers collected all subsequent transaction data from those consumers. During that period, a non-tiered customer loyalty program was introduced.

In the process, some of these new customers were automatically enrolled into the loyalty program. This helped researchers better gauge pre-program visit frequency and spending and then compare it to post-enrollment visit frequency and spending. “We were able to analyze the behaviors of consumers absent a customer loyalty program, and then after the rollout of the program,” said Nevskaya. “We evaluated frequency and actual spending amounts, and whether customers come back for repeat transactions.”

Gopalakrishnan summarized, “In the end, the primary value of a non-tiered customer loyalty program is not a means to increase frequency or spending. It’s a way to nurture a long-term and lasting relationship with the customer to reduce the defection of loyal customers over time. Non-tiered loyalty programs may provide psychological benefits that help cultivate such loyalty.”

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