In a crowded marketplace dominated by giants like WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, it was no surprise that the Japanese chat app Line failed to expand beyond a few core regions in Asia. What was unexpected, though, is that the firm has raised upwards of $1.3 billion, and that that sum won't be spent on features like stickers and in-app polling.
Instead, Line is diving into financial services with Line Pay, which lets users send one another money and pay offline in stores. In just its second quarter, the company's transaction volume has increased by 83 percent, to more than $1.7 billion.
Line is an excellent example of the evolving demand for technology-driven multipurpose services, the emphasis being on multipurpose.
Instead of discrete vendors, B2B customers are looking for one-stop shops, and partners that can deliver improved quality, efficiency and experience. Today, staying relevant as a company requires expanding your offerings to include complementary services. The message here is that companies can find synergistic opportunities for expansion by keeping an eye on data continuity, expertise and process efficiencies.
Three steps to take to prepare for growth
According to Bain Capital, the biggest barriers to growth for 85 percent of companies come from inside their own organization. That number increases to 94 percent for the largest companies. Those barriers result in large part from inefficiencies due to a history of poor growth management.
If you hope to achieve maximum business growth, keep your business processes organized and efficient. Digital platforms can help drive collaboration, increase visibility and improve continuity, organization and efficiency, while manual processes are far more prone to error and may actually prevent a company from scaling.
Establishing automation in back-office departments such as finance, legal and human resources will help keep your organization from drowning in administrative tasks; and automated customer care processes may reduce costs while providing the best customer experience possible. With digital platforms, you can benefit from seamless handoffs, integrated dashboards and real-time analytics that can help you make smarter, more informed decisions about where to go next.
Before you set out to expand your offerings and find new avenues for growth, however, prepare. Get your organization ready by following these three steps:
1. Organize your data.
If you’re going to properly take advantage of automation and analytics, your data must first be organized. Data collection practices and accessibility tools must be modernized to be useful, and key information must be extracted so that business rules can be applied.
In today’s world, these tasks have been greatly simplified due to the emergence of intelligent technologies. For example, machine vision enables the extraction, summarization and interpretation of complex data from unstructured data streams and documents. Using this tool, your analog and “dirty” data can be digitized and organized, as well as your entire inbound and outbound communications system. This not only enhances the speed and quality of your communications, but also greatly improves your customer experience, as well as the productivity of your workforce.
It is also important to utilize an information-management platform to make data more easily accessible. A central platform enables you to combine data from many sources in order to connect a visualization layer to the data analytics function and keep disparate but related data collected and systematized. Once this platform is in front of you, in a digestible format, you can trigger actions based upon available insights, such as targeted marketing, smart incentives and risk flagging.
Finally, break down the silos. According to McKinsey's The Age of Analytics report, the majority of companies capture only a fraction of the potential value from their data -- due in large part to organizational silos. When leaders don't have access to relevant information, they can't properly assess and solve problems. The solution is to consolidate data sets to set up a single source of organizational truth.
2. Make sure your systems can be integrated.
A task that goes hand in hand with organizing data is integrating systems. This might seem like a pain up-front, but putting it off only makes a bad issue worse. According to a MuleSoft survey, almost 90 percent of respondents found systems integration to be a recurring sales hurdle.
It’s easy for companies of any size to drown in an excess of platforms and disparate systems, but the problem is exacerbated at scale. Focus on "plug and play" solutions if possible so that you can avoid the potential disruptions and increased risk of "rip and replace."
Remain proactive as you go, and always consider the larger ramifications of these conversions to anticipate impacts on dependent systems. An early and sustained focus on integration will help you avoid greater expenditures of time and money down the line, as well as the associated headaches.
If you find yourself in what seems like an intractable situation, with disjointed systems, robotic process automation may be the solution you are looking for. Intelligent robotic process automation (RPA) often provides the most efficient and cost-effective approach to handling the heavy lifting involved with integrating data silos. Use RPA to build a bridge between your scattered data and the centralized, unified information management solution you ultimately need.
3. Focus on current users.
Expanding your user base is important, but, first, start your push for growth by driving as much value as possible for your current users. Launch new service lines that add value to existing processes or merge intelligence from the current process to add value to an adjacent process.
As a case in point, Airbnb launched its “Airbnb Experiences” program, which offers an entirely new value proposition to its existing customers. In addition to finding a desirable and affordable place to stay, users can also get exposure to one-of-a-kind activities in the area they are visiting, curated and even designed and hosted by knowledgeable locals.
This new opportunity for immersive experiences offers a compelling addition to the Airbnb service platform and generates actionable supplementary data in the process. Assuming Airbnb will have organized and utilized this data in the ways described above, it will have provided an admirable example of an effective growth strategy at work -- evidenced by the company's 2,500 percent year-over-year bookings growth since launch.
If your own organization isn't digital and data-driven, then you’re working in the past, and you’re not ready to expand. On the other hand, if your organization is able to harness and consolidate your data, integrate your systems and focus on a value-added approach to expanded offerings, then you are poised to grow rapidly.
To learn more, please visit Entrepreneur.com.
This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com November 8, 2018