Tech is amplifying local SMBs’ ability to onboard and keep customers

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For SMBs that have to compete with the department store giants and fast food franchises, the personal element is actually getting customers back in the door. Tech is making it easier than ever before for these businesses to gain a deeper understanding of their customers, and interact on a highly personalised level.

It’s been a game changer for small businesses, like Sugarloaf Espresso in Rose Bay. In a competitive environment where impatient and fickle customers can disengage from the business offerings, manager and owner Kim says URGE “solves bottlenecks”.

URGE is a basic text message interface that helps consumers contact businesses at any time of day, with rapid responses from the business guaranteed. It allows customers to book an appointment, order a coffee and ask pretty much any question, any time without even having to pick up the phone. For businesses, URGE enables them to have a closer more engaged relationship with their customers and offer a more personalised experience.

For a busy cafe, URGE “streamlines things, smoothes the ordering process out and makes things flow easier for us.” She says. For Kim, being able to keep up regular communications with her customers has been crucial to keeping business steady:

“I can communicate with customers when they’re not here. Some customers are like friends, we might send them a selfie and say ‘we miss you, why haven’t you been down to the cafe?’. The fact that you can communicate with your regular customers when they’re not here, it gets them back in door, we can URGE them to come in for breakfast.”

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Amid worrying industry trends that point towards the “extreme risk” of collapse for Australian retailers, URGE aims to breakdown communication barriers between businesses and consumers, giving them a real time, simple and personal platform to chat.

Dean Steingold, co-founder of URGE, said “People just don’t like telephoning anymore. Instant messaging is the newest way of communicating, but until now, this has been out of reach of your local business.”

“Considering the technology is available, it makes sense to give customers the most convenient way to contact their regular salon, or coffee shop, without the hassle of picking up the phone.”

And it’s doing something right. In less than a year, URGE is achieving a ten per cent week-on-week growth and it’s already being used by over 2500 consumers and 300 businesses, including Toy Mate with eight Sydney stores, Chargrill Charles with nine stores and and high-end local hair and beauty salons Joh Bailey.

With the momentum they’ve had so far, Steingold says they’re undergoing major changes aiming to totally reverse the uneven playing field for retail tech by giving consumers even more ways to connect with retailers. Urge has integrated a payment system into the app, allowing customers to also place orders and pay via its platform but unlike competitor apps like Hey You, Urge is much more than just ordering and payments, it’s about building relationships.

Benji Chagrin, Owner of FH Travel, said, “I’m useless with technology, but to have an app outside of Facebook that people can use to get in touch is great, it’s really easy, personal and convenient.” Benji also uses Whatsapp as an alternative method of keeping in touch with his personal clients.

“It just facilitates communication, It’s been particularly helpful for overseas clients. I’ve had people message me from San Francisco about date changes and upgrades. Or the other way around, I inform people via URGE on their upgrades and other travel details.”

“I actually had a client who requested for a Los Angeles, Sydney return flight on United Airways and he urgently needed to purchase an economy ticket in a specific redemption category class. He messaged me on URGE and we had it done in a matter of minutes.”

URGE’s success comes as messaging apps reach new levels of user penetration, with Facebook and WhatsApp each hitting the one million user mark. The business is riding a communications wave with consumers expecting to be able to text anyone, anytime – when dealing with businesses or in a personal capacity. Facebook is also leveraging this trend, making moves to help its users connect with local businesses.

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Chloe Potvin
Chloe Potvin is a contributing small business writer for Kochie's Business Builders.