Sramana Mitra: What percentage of your customers consists of IT or IT-enabled businesses?
Joe Langner: Depending on what you define as IT or IT enabled, across all of Sage mid-market customers, 16% to 19% fall into that category.
SM: What are we seeing in this segment as far as needs and behaviors?
JL: What we hear about from these customers as areas of high interest are, first, data-driven recommendations engines that encourage customers to increase their average purchases by adding accessory services or products to their orders and encourage customers to upgrade to higher-quality or higher-priced services and product versions.
Second, bringing the convenience of online shopping into the hands of their sales or service people by providing their teams with mobile apps that can improve the customer experience, increase order sizes, and streamline payments. Furthermore, for there most profitable customers, [they are interested in] data-driven loyalty programs that expand their relationship while avoiding giving discounts to unprofitable or less profitable customers.
SM: The reason I asked is because the conversation is going to be about mobile and social or big data. Small businesses outside IT or IT-enabled services don’t use these functionalities that often.
JL: I agree with you. There have been three areas where Sage has been involved and where your readers may be interested. One of them is mobile, one of them is the cloud, and one of them is related to big data. In the mobile phase, we have been recognized by industry analysts for our product strategy to leverage smartphones and tablets. Not to have customers completely change their system, but to augment what they already have and get more value out of it.
The trend has been that smartphones exploded, and right now tablets for business applications are exploding. Consumers have become much more educated about what is available to them, and they have started to set higher expectations as far as what software should do for them or what the value proposition of software is.
Today there are a lot of software companies that are very independent and disconnected. They don’t necessarily help you get the job done, and it is often just information [that they provide]. It is more of an advisory level of data than having an application that does something. Here at Sage we have been asking our customers, “What are the tasks that you feel people are doing?” If the application was available to get that job done on a phone or a tablet and have that action represented in the customers’ backup systems, it would leverage the technology they already have, but we would be giving them more value in helping them get their jobs done faster.
SM: In other words, [they want] to have a mobile front and mobile application content added to the CRM system, which people can use on their smartphones or tablets.
JL: Exactly. At our Sage summit we introduced new features. One was designed for service businesses. If I am a service company and I perform a service on site, I would be able to track my time, document the work done, capture a photo, issue an electronic invoice to the customer, accept credit cards, or issue an ACH transaction. Those actions would be automatically recorded in the ERP system. I wouldn’t have to come home and type it into a computer system. As I am on site with the customer doing my job, I am selecting, clicking, and verifying, and that gets written back onto the office system. Therefore, I work more efficiently.
There is another device – it was designed for a product sales company – that has a catalog that may represent solutions. Let’s say I am a granite manufacturer and I have people going out to home stores to show the countertops that are available. Then I have my virtual brochures, which are very common, but I would also have the inventory. The inventory is typically held in the ERP [software], but through the communication and leveraging of the web, you can now let the sales agent know that you actually have this in the warehouse and what the custom pricing is or the levels of approval that the product has.