Adriana Iordan, head of product at Avangate, explores how e-commerce software can help startups to remain competitive and grow.
2016 created some holes in the UK technology industry as some of its brightest stars were acquired across the tech spectrum. ARM, the chip maker and power behind most of our smartphones, was bought by Japanese conglomerate Softbank for £25bn. At the startup end, travel comparison website Skyscanner flew into the hands of China’s Ctrip for £1.4bn. These acquisitions have raised alarm bells in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cambridge over the future of UK technology.
Indeed, it could be the decline in the value of sterling that has made UK innovation a more attractive proposition for foreign investors. Local UK tech startups should see this as an opportunity. The good news is the UK hasn’t run out of useful ideas. It’s seeing the rapid rise of challenger banks, as the FinTech sector grows, plus the UK still attracts 30% of all VC investment in Europe. It’s all to play for.
Scaling to fill a void
Historically, a nation of shopkeepers, the UK is strong at starting businesses but needs help in scaling them. According to The Economist, only 11,000 out of 5.5 million small or medium-sized enterprises can call themselves high growth companies (HGCs) growing revenue by at least 20% over the last three years. The challenge to scale stems partly from the lack of marketing resources available to focus on building customer journeys to capture and convert across global markets. The good news is technology can help.
It’s important to note the UK is not a one trick pony when it comes to tech innovation. The development of software is an area that the Brits lead in – with high consumer demand for smart IT, security, utilities and services applications in the UK.
Thanks to low set up and deployment costs, the software sector is ‘careerproof’, lucrative and will likely produce the next great UK tech success. However, launching a software company is one thing, but scaling it up to sell and service customers worldwide is another. Luckily, selling online helps. Competition is fierce in software but there is room for rising stars. E-commerce tools and technology that can help smart scaling are readily available, off-the-shelf, more often than not with zero upfront investments for startups.
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Scaling smart means being able to grow and add sophistication as and when needed, without the hardship of redoing work or re-implementing on upgraded platforms. It also means being able to take care of essential client requirements in terms of personalisation, localisation, consistent interaction across channels, and more, along the client lifetime value.
Consumers today crave the power to make quick decisions and receive consistent shopping experiences across all devices and channels, expecting world-class service from companies like Netflix, Amazon and Uber. Customers constantly assess the quality of services they receive online and they are harsh critics.
Customer lifetime value (CLTV) and monthly recurring revenue (MRR) are key metrics in assessing sustainable growth for a subscription-based software company, be it downloadable software or software as a service (SaaS). To overtake the competition, startups must scale customer relationships by offering customisation options, putting customers firmly in control from initial acquisition and subsequent recurring purchases.
Shoppers’ profiles vary on an individual basis and businesses need to deliver a better branded experience. Experimenting with bespoke experiences and interactions with specific triggers gives customers freedom through self-service.
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Customisation includes the ability to segment and target customers by creating specific campaigns, based on country, domain, browser, in-app, language, payment options and more. Payment options are important because customers like to be in control over how they pay. For businesses, payments usually incur taxes, and technology helps to automate highly-competitive administrative tasks when selling to a wide range of countries.
Another problem for online businesses is cart abandonment. The customer is poised to buy but fall at the final hurdle. To fix this, software providers can delve into behavioural analytics in order to deliver a seamless localised checkout experience. Technology tools are developed based on best practices and years of online selling experience. This is made available to startups, who can chose tried and tested default templates, or customise customer acquisition journeys. When renewing subscriptions, other tools and services are readily available to help startups reduce churn and improve CLTV.
It’s often a Catch-22 situation for startups who balance the desire for global growth with availability of resources. Startups do not normally generate the human and financial capital required fast enough to scale. In his Autumn Statement, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond announced he would give £400m to venture capital funds specifically to invest in scaling up startups.
The ambition for the UK to step up in the tech industry is there, but money will only go to businesses who prove they can play bigger. The good news for software and SaaS is this struggle to scale doesn’t have to include selling on the global market. UK scaleups have been using e-commerce technology to help them grow globally and manage the complexities of payments and optimising the digital commerce lifecycle successfully. With smart use of technology, entrepreneurs and their teams have more time to focus on what they love – their product and their customers.