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LSA15: Automation and the SMB Back-Office

A new generation of platforms and tools are providing “back-office” and marketing automation to small businesses. Panelists featuring Raj Mukherjee of GoDaddy, Peter Curzon of Yelp and Samuel Sattath of Camilyo discussed how these tools offer the promise of greater efficiency, productivity and customer engagement.

Online commerce solutions have incredible potential to improve the consumer experience and improve business efficiency.  Imagine booking a wine tasting at a winery.  It is notoriously difficult to get someone to pick up the phone at small businesses with limited staff during business hours.

Online booking can help either capture business that might otherwise be lost because of unavailability when a valuable lead calls in or save time by freeing up the need to man the phone.  Not to mention that many people, especially millennials, increasingly view talking to a person on the phone as distasteful.

The next step in front end consumer facing technologies is to incorporate and connect the information collected with back end business support.  For example, reminders can be sent automatically through emails or texts for appointments made with a dentist.  Not only does this save cost and time of manually sending reminders, but it improves business performance.  Empty time slots at a spa or dentist is lost money.  There is empirical evidence that reminders significantly reduces missed appointments.

Yelp Now is an example of a new automation service that supports businesses using both the front end information from consumers and back end information from SMB’s.  Yelp Now integrates back end provided information and the ability to search over inventory in real time.  For example, search results can be limited by availability.  A search for Thai food can be filtered to just see results of those that have a table at 7pm on Thursday. Or results may be limited to restaurants that deliver to a specific area or address.

Searches like these are high conversion leads or “shots on goal” and the merchant does not need to be present to capture those opportunities.

Yet the rate of adoption of these types of automation tools is very low (an estimated 5% of restaurants) despite clearly documented benefits, especially for particular verticals such as restaurants and spa/fitness clubs.  But the more consumers use and rely on these convenience services the more consumers will start to demand businesses utilize them.

Consumers may even get addicted to the technology at which point adoption will not be optional.  For example, once consumers expect or rely on text reminders and start not showing up for appointments without one, businesses will quickly switch over.

We’ll keep an eye out for not just how quickly businesses start adopting these automation tools, but what other verticals find ways to take advantage of them.

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