Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are the economic engines of the Asia-Pacific region (as seen in our previous article). For these SMBs to stand out in a crowded marketplace, they must take a leadership approach to digital technology. Specifically, at a time where customers expect personalization in their interaction with brands, SMBs need to embrace AI as a pathway to digital engagement.
Digital has become a part of our everyday lives. In Asia, this is even more pronounced, as more than half of world's 3.6 billion Internet users will reside in the Asia-Pacific region.
They expect a different relationship with the brands they interact with than previous generations. According to Salesforce's State of the Connected Customer study, 53 per cent of customers now expect the offers they receive to always be personalized, and 62 per cent expect companies to anticipate their needs. For SMBs marketers, personalization is "job no.1", if they want to be able to report big results across the customer journey.
AI is a pathway to that personalization. At its core, AI is a technology that takes the data created by customers and collected by the organization, and then turns that into actionable insights – insights that the AI will often action on itself. AI can boost an organization's efforts towards personalization in three critical ways:
1) AI helps analyze critical customer variables. AI gives you access to a deeper pool of data fields on your customers, including things such as real-time location, context, behavior and values. These data sets offer a far deeper understanding of the customer than the typical basic data collected, such as spend, gender, age and location, and that more granular level of detail allows you to come up with far more personalized communications.
2) It helps encourage action on the data. Some organizations endlessly collect data, assuming that they've never got enough, or, alternatively, that it's never current enough. This creates a sort of "paralysis" effect that prevents them from capitalizing on the data, much less offering a personalized service to the customer. AI, with its ability to continually collect data, grow, and evolve, can encourage businesses to start acting on the safe, secure in the knowledge that it's supported by machine learning for continual refinement.
3) Keep profiles on every customer. There is no way humans could keep individual profiles of each customer up to date and relevant, but a properly tuned AI can do that.
SMBs, being resource-constrained, are still expected to offer customers a similar level of service to what enterprises can, and while they have the same capacity and opportunity to collect and store customer data, it's in the actioning on that data that many struggle with from day-to-day.
The right customer relationship management solution (CRM) can be the bridge to help SMBs develop that system, collect customer data, and then provide a path to building a closer relationship with customers. If a SMB is still not sure if a CRM will really help tie all these elements together, Salesforce states there's a few simple questions they can ask themselves; most critically, does the business have customer and order information in more than one location? If the answer is "yes," then it is critical that the business have a robust and well-designed CRM.
If a SMB has customer details spread across multiple unlinked spreadsheets (or, worse, kept on sticky notes taped to a sales person's computer), their sales team – and everyone else who interacts with your customers – is at a disadvantage, and won't be able to leverage AI to drive the kind of personalization experience the SMB will want for their customers.
This is where a CRM system will bring together all your customer data – from sales, service and marketing – so you can access, track, sort, analyze and take action on it instantly, from anywhere. A CRM underpinned by AI like Salesforce Einstein, will help SMBs to work smarter by automatically surfacing customer insights, predicting outcomes so business decisions can be made with confidence, recommending the next best action, and in some cases, even automating routine tasks.
SMBs must adopt a digital-first mindset by upholding standards, with a CRM solution. Find out how this can be achieved with Salesforce now.
This article is part of a wider series, read more on our first story here: 'Industry 4.0 reshaping customer expectations for SMBs in Asia'.