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PLDT, Smart drive digital transformation, offer ‘lifeline’ to small biz

PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) forge ahead in extending services that enable Filipinos to thrive in the new normal, reinforcing the “backbone” of the economy.

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PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) forge ahead in extending services that enable Filipinos to thrive in the new normal, reinforcing the “backbone” of the economy.

“In the face of massive job losses in lower income sectors due to the shutdown of retail services and establishments, e-commerce platforms serve as a lifeline for minimum wage earners and small business owners. More than the bigger establishments’ digital adoption, our network services and solutions allow small players to go into online retailing and thrive in the new normal,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications President and CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer, at a recent online summit hosted by the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines.

The online summit series focused on reshaping the economy through inclusive business and highlighted the role of connectivity, e-commerce platforms and digital finance in the new normal, where customers have largely shifted from in-person transactions to online.

“An IBM research shows that in the space of 12 months, the pandemic has brought forward the transition from physical shopping to e-commerce by an estimated five years.  Banking has also gone digital. Payment and financial processing can be done in a click of a finger,” said Panlilio.

Workplace transformation

Panlilio added that, in addition to this shift, workplaces have also been transformed, alongside the entertainment needs of customers–both of which are empowered by connectivity and relevant services by PLDT and Smart.

“Analysts expect that in 2022 as much as 30% of the workforce will continue to work from home multiple days a week.  Meanwhile, as people stayed home for entertainment, broadband usage across the country rose exponentially,” he said, adding that these changes drove PLDT and Smart to rethink telco’s role as enabler of passions and utility on the internet, with a genuine focus on providing Filipinos with the tools and products to survive and thrive in the new normal.  

“The increased usage of data driven by work and study from home during the pandemic speaks of telco as a utility, while the increased use of data on a personal consumption level, such as video-streaming, online stories, e-games, etc., responding to the consumer’s need to be entertained and care for their overall wellbeing, describes telco as an enabler of people’s passion and purpose.  Both roles are equally important,” he stressed.

This is aligned with Smart’s “Live Smarter for a Better World” campaign, which highlights Smart’s role in enabling customers in their pursuit of passion and purpose and achieving “personal revolutions” that generate lasting positive impact to society through connectivity, long-running community partnership programs, and CSR initiatives.

To address these growing data needs, PLDT and Smart are continuously investing in their integrated fixed and wireless networks.

“Transitioning to the new digital reality requires internet speeds to increase, coverage to expand and reliability to improve,” he said, adding that the companies continue to invest in their network infrastructure, particularly in their 5G networks, subsea cables, and towers, in order to secure the future of our country in this increasingly digital world.

Currently, PLDT and Smart are ramping up the rollout of Smart’s 5G network nationwide, which now has over 2,600 sites–the most extensive 5G network in the Philippines.

“Our investment in fiber is also crucial and continuous, to support our increasingly connected societies.  This is broadly split into the fiber connecting our homes with high-speed internet, and the enterprise point-to-point fiber network servicing the growing data demands of government and enterprise clients,” he said.

PH as ‘hyperscaler hub’

In addition to ramping up their fiber installation and repair capabilities despite the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, Panlilio said PLDT is also building capacities to bring hyperscalers into the country. “Ultimately, our vision is to help make the Philippines a strategic hyperscaler hub in the region,” he said.

Alongside all these, Panlilio said that providing network services to support the country’s COVID-19 response remains a top priority.

“The fact that network services are a crucial component in our country’s COVID-19 response is something that we take to heart.  Working with our government to deliver fast and reliable connectivity that is easily accessible where they are needed, such as in COVID isolation facilities, hospitals, health centers, LGUs, etc., is top priority for us at PLDT and Smart,” he said. “For PLDT and Smart, and telco in general, two words stand out: service and connection.”

Underpinning these services is PLDT’s fiber network infrastructure, now over 429,000 kilometers, the country’s most extensive. This fiber also supports Smart’s mobile network, which covers 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.

These initiatives form a large part of PLDT’s capital expenditures, which totaled P460.7 billion in the last ten years. To address the growing data needs of their fixed and wireless customers, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021.

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Toxic workplaces increase risk of depression by 300%

Love thy employees; as evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression.

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Photo by Bethany Legg from Unsplash.com

A year-long Australian population study has found that full time workers employed by organisations that fail to prioritise their employees’ mental health have a threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

And while working long hours is a risk factor for dying from cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, poor management practices pose a greater risk for depression, the researchers found.

The University of South Australia study, published in the British Medical Journal today, is led by UniSA’s Psychosocial Safety Climate Observatory, the world’s first research platform exploring workplace psychological health and safety.

Psychosocial safety climate (PSC) is the term used to describe management practices and communication and participation systems that protect workers’ mental health and safety.

Lead author, Dr Amy Zadow, says that poor workplace mental health can be traced back to poor management practices, priorities and values, which then flows through to high job demands and low resources.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” says Dr Zadow.

Internationally renowned expert on workplace mental health, ARC Laureate Professor Maureen Dollard, says the study found that while enthusiastic and committed workers are valued, working long hours can lead to depression. Men are also more likely to become depressed if their workplace pays scant attention to their psychological health.

Due to the global burden of depression, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and shows no sign of abating despite available treatments, more attention is now being paid to poorly functioning work environments which could contribute to the problem.

High levels of burnout and workplace bullying are also linked to corporations’ failure to support workers’ mental health.

A second paper co-authored by Professor Dollard and published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology earlier this month, found that low PSC was an important predictor of bullying and emotional exhaustion.

“Lack of consultation with employees and unions over workplace health and safety issues, and little support for stress prevention, is linked to low PSC in companies.

“We also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the perpetrator and team members who witness that behaviour. It is not uncommon for everyone in the same unit to experience burnout as a result.

“In this study we investigated bullying in a group context and why it occurs. Sometimes stress is a trigger for bullying and in the worst cases it can set an ‘acceptable’ level of behaviour for other members of the team. But above all bullying can be predicted from a company’s commitment to mental health, so it can be prevented,” Prof Dollard says.

The global costs of workplace bullying and worker burnout are significant, manifested in absenteeism, poor work engagement, stress leave and low productivity.

The extent of the problem was recognised in 2019 with the International Labour Organization (ILO) implementing a Global Commission on the Future of Work and calling for “a human-centred approach, putting people and the work they do at the centre of economic and social policy and business practice”.

“The practical implications of this research are far reaching. High levels of worker burnout are extremely costly to organisations and it’s clear that top-level organisational change is needed to address the issue,” Prof Dollard says.

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Is there a good reason online retailers should invest in physical stores?

By directing new customers to purchase a “deep product in-store” as their first purchase from a new retailer, they are more likely to: 1) buy deep products in the future online, indicating that they generalize trust across channels; and 2) buy adjacent categories online, indicating that they generalize trust across categories.

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Photo by Clay Banks from Unsplash.com

Researchers from Colorado State University, Amazon, and Dartmouth College published a paper that examines the role of physical stores for selling “deep” products.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “How Physical Stores Enhance Customer Value: The Importance of Product Inspection Depth” and is authored by Jonathan Zhang, Chunwei Chang, and Scott Neslin.

While some traditional offline retailers are struggling and are closing stores (e.g., Macy’s, Walgreens), online retailers are opening them (e.g. Amazon, Warby Parker). This conflicting trend raises the question, what is the physical store’s role in today’s multichannel environment?

The research team posits that products differ in the inspection depth – “deep” or “shallow” – customers require to purchase them. Deep products require ample inspection in order for the customer to make an informed decision. We propose that physical stores provide the physical engagement opportunity customers need to purchase deep products.

To test this thesis, the researchers conducted three studies. The first used transaction data from a national multichannel outdoor-product retailer. Two lab experiments demonstrated the same effect.

The large-scale transactional data involving 50,000 customers show that by using a “deep products in-store” promotional strategy to migrate new customers from a “low-value state” to a “high-value state,” average spending per trip increases by 40%, long-term sales increases by 20%, and profitability increases by 22%.

The lab experiments show that:

  • By onboarding new customers to purchase a “deep product in-store” as their first purchase from a new retailer, their re-patronage intention for this retailer increases by 12% compared to all other product/channel combinations.
  • By directing new customers to purchase a “deep product in-store” as their first purchase from a new retailer, they are more likely to: 1) buy deep products in the future online, indicating that they generalize trust across channels; and 2) buy adjacent categories online, indicating that they generalize trust across categories.

The last decade has witnessed a marked increase in the opening of physical stores by online retailers, despite myriad changes in the retailing environment. This attests that these findings are not ephemeral. Zhang says “The general lesson of our research is for retailers to create a concrete, tangible, and multi-sensory experience for customers buying products that require this physical engagement. This sets the stage for favorable experiential learning and increased customer value.” Retailers can do this in numerous ways:

First, when retailers find that a customer is buying deep products online but their spending is decreasing in value, they can provide a promotion for deep products in-store. This can increase customer value.

Second, retailers need to enhance physical engagement for deep products through merchandising and training sales personnel to walk customers through the engagement – e.g., by helping customers try and use deep products in-store.

Third, retailers cannot infer product inspection depth solely from predefined product categories because there is much variation in inspection depth within a particular category. Rather, management should infer inspection depth using the proposed measures, or expert, independent judges.

Fourth, retailers should use a deep/offline onboarding strategy for new customers. That is, they should use acquisition channels that encourage the first purchase to be deep/offline.

Zhang adds that “We also discuss related issues such as using stores versus showrooms; fielding full or limited staff; selling private label goods; designing loyalty and buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) programs; and leveraging technology to create physical engagement in online settings.”

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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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