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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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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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Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels.com

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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Photo by Blake Wisz from Unsplash.com

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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