Consider the following high-growth industries – payment service providers ($3T revenue by 2022 – McKinsey), food delivery platforms ($200B today – Forbes), e-commerce marketplace platforms ($6T by 2022 – Statista). Global trends in digitization, and the fast-evolving preferences of digital-first consumers are laying the ground for rapid expansion, catapulting players in these industries to become some of the most exciting – and highest valued –companies across geographies. But other significant other thread tying these industries together is the unique – and centrally important – role played by merchant acquisition and management processes. Success in these growth markets depends – in large measure – to how well such platform companies can manage and nurture the massive, distributed, and chaotic merchant-partner ecosystem.
Let us first look at merchant onboarding. There are 2 opposing forces at play here:
- Velocity (how fast can I onboard clients?): in markets where pitched battles are being waged between the top players, an hour of delay in onboarding could mean a lost merchant. Ensuring rapid onboarding with as friction-less a sign-up process as possible – thus reducing time-to-value for merchants – is a critical competitive requirement for platform players.
- Compliance (am I adhering fully to regulatory/anti-fraud requirements?): each geography has its specific KYC and regulatory requirements that platforms must comply with. Additionally, platforms need to take adequate verification measures to reduce fraud risk, which is a problem more acute in some developing markets.
Enter the digital onboarding-solution provider. To ensure speed plus compliance, platforms are rolling out digital merchant onboarding systems. e-KYC workflows are an integral part of digital onboarding, which requires document parsing and verification (and storage, and management), and digital signatures. Given the intensely competitive nature of these platform industries, digital onboarding has moved from being a nice-to-have efficiency solution to an absolute must-have. There is a growing set of solution providers in the digital onboarding/e-KYC space, with different strengths.
But onboarding is just one piece of the merchant management puzzle. Merchants need to be optimally sourced (lead generation), sourced lead-merchants need to be allotted to the right sales reps (lead allocation), they need to be onboarded (e-KYC), and the relationship with this large list of merchants has to be nurtured over time (merchant relationship management – think promotions, banner adverts). Enterprises typically have a suite of solutions to handle these pieces – for instance a CRM solution to handle leads and relationships, that ties up with an onboarding solution.
Quite apart from the fact that having 2 or more disparate systems in the merchant lifecycle will lead to the inevitable integration inefficiencies, the question to be asked is whether standard CRMs – even the best of the lot (you know which ones) – are suited to the specific lead- and partner-management requirements of these platform industries.
Take for instance a food delivery platform’s landscape in a country like India – tens of thousands of restaurants of all sizes (from the small street-side snack vendor all the way up) dotting up cities and towns, being chased down by large and distributed field-sales teams. In such a scenario, mobility takes primacy – the ability to intelligently identify and manage leads/partners on-the-go. Traditional CRMs do not fit the bill – their vast and sophisticated product-feature sets are not quite relevant to sales reps (and sales managers) dealing with merchants on the field – these CRMs tend to be heavy and desktop-based.
One-Stop Shop for Merchants
What these platform providers are looking for is a merchant management solution tailored to their needs. A single solution that hits these 5 must-have requirements:
- Intelligent Lead Gen: Automatic lead generation based on geolocation; ability to bulk-upload leads and then auto-allocate them to sales reps based on parameters such as location and prior track record
- Frictionless Onboarding: rapid onboarding – self-serve as well as rep-driven; e-KYC with digital document upload and verification, photo capture, liveness checks.
- Data-driven Engagement Guidance: Activity reminders and triggers; intelligent nudges to sales reps and managers to drive engagement and activate laggard merchants.
- Visibility & Analytics: Complete visibility of the portfolio of merchants to the sales managers and leaders – merchant performance metrics and trends, segmentation, promotions and associated success rates, etc.
- Truly Mobile-First: User-friendly, light mobile experience that reps can access and use on-the-go, plugged in to the various back-end systems.
In other words, a productivity solution that fits the end-to-end merchant-management requirements like a glove. For enterprises in the SME-aggregation space, the time for a comprehensive streamlining of their merchant lifecycle process is NOW.