Monthly Archives: February 2015

Better Access to Finance for European Enterprises

Although there has been substantial research on enterprises; information on their financing needs is quite limited. Small business entities are often viewed by financial institutions as relatively risky. In this light, the European Union (EU) continues to reaffirm its support for the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). As a matter of fact, the EU has drafted the ‘Small Business Act’ in 2008 and has refined it again in 2011. Another example of the EU’s commitment in this regard is conspicuous as it frequently calls for research and training schemes in the subject area of ‘SMEs’, where grants are issued under ‘Marie Curie’ and ‘Cordis FP7’ programmes.

Very often, small firms tend to find themselves in an equity gap, where it may prove quite hard to acquire capital. Although commercial banks are key providers of finance for many enterprises through the provision of loans; unsecured debt finance without collateral is very limited. Therefore, SMEs’ growth into viable investment opportunities may be severely restricted. Throughout the years, the EU has dedicated several funds to help these small (and micro) enterprises. Recently, the EU’s Enterprise and Industry Division has reiterated the importance of improving access to finance for SMEs. This interesting development has led to numerous funding schemes and to a new generation of financial instruments that support SMEs’ financing needs. Evidently, the EU has committed itself to boost its support for SMEs through various financing programmes, as illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1: EU measures that support SMEs

EU SMESource: EU (2015).

Europe is responding to the contentious issues facing SMEs by providing a mix of flexible, financial instruments under programmes, such as; the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Progress Microfinance, the Risk Sharing Instrument (FP7), EIB loans and Structural Funds. For instance, the EU (in 2013) allocated a budget of €2.3bn specifically to bolster the “Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises” (COSME) during the period between 2014 to 2020. This initiative has been designed to support European SMEs in four key areas:

  • Developing entrepreneurship;
  • Helping SMEs access finance;
  • Supporting SMEs who wish to internationalise their business, and
  • Reducing the legislative and regulatory burden on SMEs.

Almost 220,000 SMEs profited from the Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) programme (EU, 2013). CIP has proved to be a very successful programme over the past few years. Since 2007, there were many SMEs that had benefited from CIP Funding . In fact, CIP was able to stimulate more than €15 billion of financing for SMEs, so far (EU, 2013). With a budget of €1.1 billion (CIP) has helped to mobilise over €13 billion of loans and €2.3 billion of venture capital for SMEs across Europe. Under its SME guarantee facility, CIP has helped nearly 220,000 SMEs to access loans.

These loan guarantees are required by individual entrepreneurs or  small enterprises that do not possess sufficient collateral.  Every euro that is dedicated to guarantees will in turn stimulate 30 euros in bank loans (EU, 2013).

Sources:

EU (2015) Improving the financing environment in Europe. http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/finance/financing-environment/index_en.htm accessed on the 20th January 2015.

EU (2013) Improving access to finance for SMEs: key to economic recovery. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-387_en.htm?locale=FR accessed on the 20th January 2015.

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Using Big Data for Customer-Centric Marketing

Big data

The latest advances in information and communications technologies have brought significant improvements for the processing and storage of digital information. Nowadays, users can easily access multiple sources of data that is readily available through websites, social media networks as well as from mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. These developments have inevitably led to endless opportunities for marketers to leverage themselves by using big data analytics.

Big data has expanded in recent years. As a matter of fact, digital data has dwarfed analogue content and continues to grow at an exponential rate. This data is being collected and stored in massive amounts by search engines and eCommerce conglomerates. In addition, more information is being gathered through social media networks. In fact, all individuals leave a digital trail of data as they move about in the virtual and physical worlds. This phenomenon is called, “data exhaust”. Initially, this term was used to describe how Amazon.com used predictive analytics in order to suggest items for customers. Hence, predictive analytics anticipates human behaviours that have not happened yet. Evidently, it is based on large amounts of current and past indicative data that has been collected from multiple sources. Yet, at the moment, such analytics cannot determine when and why individuals may change their preferences for certain brands. Another new addition to big data is called preventative analytics. This latter one is aimed at reducing the likelihood of contingent situations, risk and uncertainty. It may be particularly relevant in the fields of healthcare, public services and law enforcement.

Data is the new currency for connecting people, ideas and products. Today, digital information is being gathered in innovative, new ways that have dramatically changed and improved consumers’ experience. For instance, online businesses are commonly utilising browser cookies to track websites that are visited by internet users. Once individual users leave these sites, some of the products or services they had viewed; will be shown to them again and again in native advertisements, across different websites. Therefore, businesses are using browsing session data, combined with the consumers’ purchase history to deliver “suitable” items for consumers. Many brands are becoming quite proficient in personalising their offerings – as they collect, classify and use large data volumes on consumers’ behaviours.

This year, more brands shall be using mobile devices and networks to acquire sensory data. As more customers are increasingly carrying smartphones with them, they are (or may be) getting used to receiving compelling offers that instantaneously pop up on their mobile devices. This type of geo-based marketing message is delivered at the right time and the right place. Of course, firms will need more than transaction history and loyalty schemes to be effective at this. They will inevitably require socio-demographic and geo-data that other businesses are not capturing. Moreover, anonymous cookieless data-capture methods are connecting consumer data with matching geo-location-based data. It may appear that these methods are empowering marketers to hyper-target consumers with real-time mobile ad campaigns before, during and after in-store activity. Geo-location capabilities are not only enabling advertisers to capitalise on leads, in real time; but they can also offer valuable insights on shopping habits and consumer behaviours. This information is valuable to brands as they seek to acquire relevant information on their consumers’ digital behaviours and physical movements.

Notwithstanding, businesses have become even more interactive through the proliferation of near-field communication (NFC). Basically, NFCs are embedded chips situated inside smart devices. These chips exchange data with retailers’ items possessing NFC tags. It is envisaged that mobile wallet transactions using this NFC technology are expected to reach $110 billion by 2017 (CNBC, 2013). The latest Android and Microsoft smartphones already include these NFC capabilities. Indeed, these technological developments can enable businesses to provide a deeper personalisation of content as well as bespoken offers to individuals. Consumers use apps that may involuntarily indicate their geo-location to third parties. As a result, data collection has greatly benefited from geo-data services like satellites, near-field communication and global positioning systems. These systems track users’ movements that measure traffic and other real-time phenomena. Arguably, the emergence of such data-driven, digital technologies are adding value to customer-centric marketing endeavours. Unsurprisingly, sensor analytics, geo-location and social data-capture were some of the big trends that were recently announced during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.

Big data is fundamentally shifting how marketers collect, analyse and utilise data to reach out to customers. It is helping companies to get new insights into how consumers behave. The challenge for marketers is not to become dependent on big data and analytics to drive business strategies, but rather to recognise its value as a tool for customer satisfaction. Therefore, big data should inform, not consume marketing efforts. Perhaps, new marketing decision-making ought to harness big data for increased targeting and re-targeting of individuals and online communities. Lately, on-demand, real-time marketing has become more personalised. Every customer contact with a brand is a moment of truth, in real-time. Businesses who are not responding with seamless externally-facing solutions will risk losing their loyal customers to rivals.

This contribution suggests that a strategic approach to data management can generate leads and conversions. It also maintains that an evolving digital ecosystem will lead to superior levels of customer service, engagement and repeat business.

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