Equipping platforms to help SMBs survive and thrive

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are the world’s most powerful growth engine – representing approximately 90 percent of all global companies and over half of the world’s employment. But now, COVID-19 has shaken local economies around the world to the core, and SMBs are at the epicenter.

Platform companies have a vital role to play. They can help SMBs address the immediate challenges they face now as well as position themselves as partners to help smaller companies with what comes next. As they move to do so, key priorities are:

1. Now:

  • Create virtual and digital services to help SMBs maintain operations during physical shutdowns.

2. Next:

  • Redefine marketing and products for specific SMB sectors with unique needs.
  • Deploy applied intelligence (AI) to capture key behaviors and inform ongoing relationship and service development.

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There’s no time to lose. If they take the right actions, platforms can both help SMBs through the current crisis and, longer term, accelerate SMBs’ evolution into platform-powered businesses.

How to help SMBs now?

In an extremely tough economic situation, SMBs have tried to make the best use of their digital capabilities to preserve cashflow and retain their customer base. With customers no longer able to go to them, finding the best routes to reach the customer has become an imperative.

Platform companies can rapidly make a short-term impact for SMBs by supporting virtual services to help SMBs keep trading during physical shutdowns, redefining marketing and products for SMB sectors with unique needs, and using AI to inform ongoing relationship and service development. Key areas for support include:

Supply chain optimization to drive faster delivery and increase satisfaction, while reducing cost to serve. E.g. Customer support, tracking for product shipping.

Experience enhancement by making targeted, swift investments to help SMBs connect with customers. E.g. Website development, online storefront, email signup.

Enabling next-generation collaboration across wider ecosystems of companies to drive innovation and expand SMEs’ reach. E.g. Live-streaming capabilities for information sharing, blog communications.

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What can platform companies do to help SMBs next?

Going forward, platform companies can help SMB customers develop more digital capabilities to survive through the current crisis and help protect against future disruption.

How can they do that? By analyzing their customer base and taking actions specific to each customer’s needs. To create impactful strategies, platforms should:

Image representing what platform companies should do next: Segment using a multifactorial analysis, Develop customized marketing strategies and Redefine the platform-SMB-customer sales model.

Segment using a multifactorial analysis

Where SMBs are concerned, there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach to service.

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Identify and support emerging needs by resegmenting prospects and customers using an SMB COVID-19 lens to develop hyper-targeted, customer-centric capabilities.

Develop customized marketing strategies

Part of the power of a platform is the ability to customize and quickly launch products and offerings to users.

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Resegmenting the customer base is a first step in evaluating how different businesses are responding to COVID-19 and identifying the most promising prospects, tailored treatments and personalized outreaches. For example, a customized SMB “Jump-Start” kit is a simple way to onboard SMB customers with the basic capabilities they need.

Redefine the platform-SMB-customer sales model

More now than ever, SMBs should successfully engage with and sell to their target SMB customers.

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Many SMBs will be running their business by day and digitizing by night. So easy-to-use, seamless self-service experiences are essential to driving sales in a virtual environment. Customers need to quickly understand how to find answers on the platform. Platform sales channels should also extend support to SMBs when they’re unwilling or unable to utilize self-service functions.

Unlocking insights into SMBs

With a foundation for supporting virtual sales in place, platform businesses should find new ways to engage SMB customers. They should:

  • Plug AI and chatbot technology into the free product to help enable faster onboarding and create a stickier platform experience.
  • Include performance metrics to help SMBs measure success and effectiveness.
  • Put “skin in the game” and offer creative models beyond free trial licenses.

Supporting SMBs now and next

By supporting SMBs, platform companies can help reboot the economy. But to be effective in both short- and long-term timeframes, platforms should go beyond offerings like freemium services and enable SMBs to change at lightning speed.

The rewards? Platform companies that help SMBs adapt quickly to digital customer channels will be seen as trusted community supporters, drive exponential use, and create ongoing adoption and loyalty.

Disclaimer: This document is intended for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, and may not reflect the most current developments. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this presentation and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit, or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professionals.

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