Viewpoints

Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints

PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Jul 31, 2013

A Conversation With Visa on Global Travel Trends

The latest version of Visa’s Global Travel Intentions Study reveals positive news for the Travel and Tourism industry.

BBC Fast Track presenter, Carmen Roberts, speaks to Visa’s Elizabeth Buse, Ross Jackson and James Lim on the Study’s findings, revealing the latest insights into today’s global traveler – where they are going, what they are doing, and how much they are spending.

 

 

Responses from the 12,631 travelers from the 25 countries surveyed are split by region and include destination choice, spending habits, budgets, transport preferences and future intentions, all of which reveal a thriving and rapidly evolving travel landscape.

To download a copy of the report, please click here

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Posted by: Jag Mistry, Corporate Relations, Visa Inc. on July 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Jul 31, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Shama Kabani (Video)

 

We’ve now seen Donna’s four interviews with entrepreneurs on Customer Service and we hope you’ve enjoyed them and have found them useful. This month, Donna has chosen to give you a behind-the-scenes scoop with successful entrepreneur, Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group.

 

~Enjoy!

Janet @Jzablock

 

Secrets of Small Business Success

By Donna Fenn

Shama Kabani, the CEO of Marketing Zen Group, is a pioneer in the realm of social media.  She recently was featured on Inc. Magazine’s highly prestigious 30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs. Here, she shares some best social media practices for small business owners.

 

 

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

 

 

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 31, 2013 at 11:26 am

Jul 30, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: July Part IV

 

Last week, Donna chatted with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, provider of email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Janine shared her views on how to wisely manage and leverage customer databases. This week, Donna speaks with top CEOs from companies like Mavens & Moguls, ONEHOPE Wine, Modcloth, and BrandYourself on how they navigated research and development waters. Donna also shares tips on who the first person you should turn to in order to get feedback on your product or service.

 

~Enjoy!
Janet – @jzablock

 

 

Free R & D for Your Business is Only a Customer Away

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Expert

 

Smart startup entrepreneurs know that it’s unwise to strive for perfection when you’re launching a new product or service. It’s far better to get that messy early version out into the marketplace and let customer feedback help you iterate and perfect. In fact, all companies – no matter what their stage of growth – should turn to their customers for guidance because it’s very easy to assume that what you want to sell is what they want to buy, which is not always the case.

 

Be Aware of Changing Economic Tides. When the recession began in late 2008, Paige Arnof-Fenn, the CEO of the strategic marketing consulting firm, Mavens & Moguls, went on what she calls a “listening tour” among her customers and prospects.  “I heard that budgets had been scaled back, so I created smaller bite-sized ways to work with companies that accommodated the new reality,” she says. She also discovered that clients were confused about social media, so she developed a series of workshops and training sessions to help educate them.  By finding a way to accommodate customers when times were tough, Arnof-Fenn made sure that her company was top of mind when the economy improved.

 

Monitor Customer Perception. Jake Kloberdanz’s ONEHOPE Wine is a social enterprise whose product sales benefit charitable causes such as breast cancer prevention, forest preservation, and Autism research.  “Our original labels really hit you over the head with the cause,” recalls Kloberdanz. Customers liked the company’s mission but kept asking “is the wine any good?”  So Kloberdanz redesigned the label, making the cause element more subtle and using the back label to highlight the quality of the wine. The result: distributors, buyers and consumers responded positively and the customer-driven change in packaging helped increase distribution from 10,000 cases to 50,000 cases.

Give Customers a Voice. At online clothing retailer, Modcloth, customers are encouraged to be “virtual members” of the company’s buying team through its Be the Buyer program.  Customers vote on styles they’d like to see on the site. Modcloth can then order the items with the most votes and notify customers when their picks are available online. The program not only helps drive customer engagement, but also enables Modcloth to make smarter buying and inventory decisions.

 

Focus on What Customers Really Want. When it launched, BrandYourself, an online reputation management company, offered customers a variety of services, including tracking twitter followers and recommending blog posts.  “What we learned from customers is that they didn’t want any of those features,” says CEO Patrick Ambron. “They just wanted functionality that helped them look better on Google.”  So the company re-launched with a simplified product, got rid of the irrelevant features, and beefed up tools to help users optimize their appearance on Google.  The bottom line: a ten-fold increase in BrandYourself’s user base and quadrupled revenue.

 

Are you spending at least as much time listening to your customers as you are trying to sell them something? If not, you’re missing out on a whole lot of free R&D!

 

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

 

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Jul 23, 2013

Talking Mobile Wallets at Fortune Brainstorm TECH #fortunetech

Fortune Brainstorm TECH brings together the tech world’s top media thinkers, entrepreneurs, and influencers. The issues being debated this year range from the role of technology in the global economy to the impact of mobile devices on society.

 

One important topic covered in detail today was mobile wallet technology and what the future holds for this rapidly evolving sector of the electronics payments industry. Participants included Jim McCarthy, Global Head of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships from Visa, top executives from Bank of America, Stripe, American Express and Cardspring with moderation by Fortune’s Miguel Helft.

 

Miguel kicked off by asking the group why despite all the hype, there wasn’t more widespread adoption of mobile payments. Among other reasons, Jim noted that replacing POS terminals was a huge cost for merchants without big upside – one reason why Visa is focused on helping eCommerce merchants to drive greater acceptance for V.me, Visa’s digital wallet service. He also discussed how there will be no “winner takes all” in mobile payments which is why Visa adopted an open approach, allowing consumers to load their wallets with the payments cards they are already carrying.

 

Bank of America’s Aditya Bhasin noted that he already has a mobile payment device, holding up his Bank of America Visa card. Cardspring’s CEO, Eckhardt Walther opined that the mobile opportunity is to add greater context around the payment, whether it’s real-time discounting associated with that card or allowing the merchant to have a closer relationship with their customer.

 

All in all, the panelists presented multiple viewpoints but were in agreement that mobile payments is indeed still in its infancy and that consumers will decide how and when they want to use mobile devices as payment tools.

 

We’re following the rest of #fortunetech highlights and mobile wallet developments @VisaNews. See you there.

 

By Ryan Donovan (@rdono)

Visa

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Posted by: Ryan Donovan, Corporate Relations on July 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Category: Innovation, Mobile

Jul 23, 2013

Put Your Customer Database to Work

We hope you are enjoying our weekly posts with Donna Fenn. Last week, Donna chatted with successful entrepreneurs on how they find and reward their best customers. This week, Donna had the chance to speak with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, provider of email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Janine shares her views on how to wisely manage and leverage customer databases.

~Enjoy!
Janet – @jzablock

 

 

Your customers are your company’s lifeblood, so you need to nurture them as you would any other precious asset. Like a well-tended garden or a finely tuned luxury car, customers who feel cared for will typically return the favor. That’s why it’s so important to manage and leverage your customer database wisely. For some sage advice on the subject, we chatted with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, which provides email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Here are her five tips for making the most of your customer database.

Consolidate your data. Where do you keep your customer data? Popick asked her own customers that question and found that a “scary number of people” managed their customers right on the VerticalResponse site. That’s not the best idea, she says. These days, there are plenty of companies with CRM (customer relationship management) software that caters to small companies. Some of her favorites: ACT!, Salesforce, Highrise, and Zoho. “Every time you get a sale or a lead from an event, it should always go into a central repository,” says Popick.

Put your customer in the driver’s seat. Make note of where your customers and prospects prefer to communicate. Have they contacted you on LinkedIn or liked your Facebook page? Engage with them there instead of via email unless they offer that up as a means of communication. It’s fine to email the folks whose business cards you collect at events and conferences, but make sure you allow them to opt in to your subscriber list. “It’s more work,” says Popick, “but you’ll have happier subscribers.”

Segment your list. “It’s really important for business to look at what’s going on with customers and target messages accordingly,” says Popick. Keep track of those who have purchased within the last six months. They should receive a different message (“we appreciate your business”) than those who you’re trying to win back (“we miss you”). Target your message even more narrowly – say, a special offer to customers who like a particular brand – and you’ll get far better responses. . Remember that every email you send should inspire action, whether it’s printing a coupon, clicking on a link to great content, or responding to a special offer.

Be mobile friendly. According to Pew Internet, 91%[1] of Americans now have cell phones and 50% are using them to check email. So your emails should have fewer images and include text that’s short, to the point, and bulleted. Your goal should be to get them off the email and on to your website (which had also better be mobile friendly!). And make sure your subject lines and their first five lines of your email capture attention.

Be consistent. Popick says that VerticalResponse’s most successful clients email their customers on a regular basis. “Lots of them email every two weeks,” she says. Again, if your emails consistently offer value, your customers are far less likely to hit the delete button. Your goal: to get a good 40% of them in the habit of opening and clicking – maybe even with a smile.

Above all, says Popick, never “spray and pray.” Emails sent to the masses with no clear objective or value proposition are about as appealing as a robocall. Be strategic, targeted, and as personal as possible, and your efforts will pay off.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

Brenner, Joanna. Pew Internet Commentary: Mobile. Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 6, 2013,

[1] http://pewinternet.org/Commentary/2012/February/Pew-Internet-Mobile.aspx

accessed on July 21

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 23, 2013 at 9:27 am

Jul 22, 2013

Expanding Access to Electronic Payments in India

It is well-known now that mobile technology has changed the face of electronic payments in emerging markets. For the past decade, mobile phones have been instrumental in providing unbanked and under-banked consumers with secure, reliable and convenient ways to pay and be paid. Although a lot of progress has been made, here in India, more than 40 percent of the urban population is still unbanked and nearly 90 percent of commerce is still cash-based.

Visa and its clients in India are making great strides to change this reality. Recent stats from the Reserve Bank of India prove that progress: there are now 350 million payment cards activated in the country, many of these in rural areas, and penetration of electronic payments is rising. Through our joint venture with Monitise – Movida – we are enabling financial institutions in India to offer consumers to make payments via mobile phone. In fact, earlier today, Movida announced a new agreement with ICICI Bank to offer mobile payments to its customers in India. Everyday transactions like buying tickets, paying a bill or recharging a wireless account can now be made with any mobile phone, not just smartphones.

Because the service is designed to operate across all mobile networks using any payment card – both Visa and non-Visa – we expect that Indian consumers will be able to wave goodbye to long queues while visiting the post office or paying their bills at automated tellers. These transactions, along with insurance premium and other recurring payments, are now available securely and conveniently to clients of ICICI Bank directly via their mobile phones.

As India continues to expand and upgrade its telecommunications infrastructure to rural areas, more Indian consumers will have access to secure and reliable electronic payments and financial services via a mobile phone– a critical step in the migration from cash to more convenient, secure forms of payment.   

In the long run, electronic payments will help to drive financial inclusion and fuel economic development and growth in our country. It is an exciting time and at Visa, we are proud to play a role in the transformation of India.

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Posted by: Uttam Nayak, Group Country Manager, Visa Inc. on July 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Jul 18, 2013

Innovation in Development Disbursements: Visa Innovation Grant Recipients Announced

 

Today we’re proud to recognize the recipients of the Visa Innovation Grants Program. In partnership with NetHope, a consortium of more than 40 humanitarian organizations, and an Expert Advisory Committee of distinguished public and private sector leaders, five leading development organizations were selected to receive funding for projects that will modernize the distribution of agriculture, health and emergency relief payments to those living below the poverty line.

The Visa Innovation Grants Program is one component of Visa’s ongoing dedication to advancing financial inclusion around the world.  Every year, billions of dollars in cash payments are distributed to people in need through emergency relief efforts, benefit stipends, conditional cash transfers, microfinance programs, and other development initiatives.  Digitizing these payments through mobile phones or other electronic methods not only improves the distribution of aid, but can also help recipients gain access to broader financial services, including savings and electronic payments tools.

The group of five grantee organizations includes: Agribusiness Systems International (ASI), Freedom from Hunger, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy Corps, and Pathfinder International.

Each organization has been awarded $100,000 to support innovation in and adoption of electronic payments. The projects are focused on a wide variety of sectors, yet all are seeking better ways to distribute aid to the people who need it most.

Here is an introduction to the projects selected for funding, which we will cover in depth in future posts:

  • Agribusiness Systems International (ASI)

ASI will use the Visa Innovation Grant to bring formal financial services to rice farmers in Ghana. The program will extend branchless banking in rural areas by integrating mobile finance into the rice value chain. Mobile finance will reduce the risk of theft, connect farmers and other actors with financial services, and ensure timely payments to farmers. Founded in 1993 as an affiliate of ACDI/VOCA, ASI is a nonprofit consulting organization that helps smallholder farmers become competitive in the agribusiness sector.

  • Freedom from Hunger

Freedom from Hunger will use the Visa Innovation Grant to improve access to health services in rural Ecuador by integrating electronic payments for health services through local microfinance institutions that provide health savings and credit accounts. The program combines payment services with improved access to health services and education. Freedom from Hunger has more than six decades of experience fighting global poverty and hunger, as well as developing and testing flexible and sustainable approaches that provide group-based financial services, education and access to additional products and services to poor women and youth.

  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

IFRC, along with its partner American Red Cross, will use the Visa Innovation Grant to design and test a rapidly implementable and scalable electronic cash transfer system(s) with Red Cross National Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Electronic payments improve security and transparency of aid payments, enable families to begin their recovery in the shortest time possible and create a pathway to more formal financial services. The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, acting before, during and after disasters and crises to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.

  • Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps will use the Visa Innovation Grant to provide smallholder farmers in Indonesia with access to mobile money, improving their productivity and increasing incomes. The program’s scalable and replicable model connects banks, mobile network operators and a full range of stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, while also helping farmers gain the knowledge and tools they need for success. Mercy Corps is an international development organization that helps people around the world survive and thrive after conflict, crisis and natural disaster.

  • Pathfinder International

Pathfinder International will use the Visa Innovation Grant to introduce a mobile money-based payroll system for its community health workers in Kenya. The pay-for-performance incentive model will be combined with access to real-time field data, improving transparency and the quality of services delivered. Pathfinder International is a nonprofit organization with a focus on access to contraception; maternal and newborn health; and HIV and AIDS services. The organization has implemented projects in more than 100 countries worldwide, and is recognized for its innovative and responsive approaches to meeting health needs at the community level.

There were many impressive ideas submitted by all applicants, and we believe these projects have particular promise for scaling electronic payments across diverse sectors. We look forward to supporting these projects and seeing how each will spur new ideas and models for the future of aid and development payments around the globe.

[Photo above: Elizabeth Mueni (right), a community health worker in Kenya trained by Pathfinder International, uses a mobile phone to collect data and track the health needs of her clients. Photo by Sala Lewis.]

 Check back for more updates about the Visa Innovation Grants Program and the group of recipients highlighted above.

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Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on July 18, 2013 at 6:13 am

Jul 16, 2013

Your Best Customers: Know Who They Are and What They Want

 

Last week, Donna interviewed founder and CEO of an award-winning company, Marketing Zen Group, Shama Kabani, on how small business owners should communicate with customers via social media. This week, Donna chatted with successful entrepreneurs on how they find and reward their best customers.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

All customers are not created equal. A handful of them are exponentially more valuable to your business than the rest. So it’s to your advantage to know who those customers are and to reward them accordingly. But it’s not as simple as just tallying up who spends how much and then writing a nice note, although that’s not a bad idea. You need to do some deep thinking about the definition of “best,” and the most effective reward for the customers on that love list. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to loyalty programs, but here are a few thoughts from successful entrepreneurs to get you started:

Reward frequency. Brian Adams, CEO of Rumber Materials in Muenster, TX, sells lumber products made from recycled rubber and plastic to some of the largest companies in the world. But he values frequency far more than volume. “We’re constantly in touch with our top ten customers,” he says. He sends them pecan pies from Goode Company in boxes with Rumber’s logo. But even more important than a sweet surprise, he visits them annually. “We go to their offices, sit down and listen to them, take them out to lunch or dinner and a ball game,” he says. Last year, he made twenty visits, many of them to small manufacturers. “For every dollar I spend, I get back ten in additional business,” he says.

Measure Satisfaction. For Brian Scudamore, the CEO of three Vancouver-based companies, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, WOW 1 DAY! Painting, and You Move Me, the best customer is one who will recommend his business to others. “With all of our brands, the most important question we can ask is ‘would you refer us to friends?’” he says. So every customer is contacted within three days asking, on a scale of one to 10, how willing he or she is to recommend the company. People who answer 9 or 10 are “promoters” and frequently receive discount cards. 

Offer a Loyalty Card.  Armadillo Willy’s, a chain of eight barbeque restaurants in Northern California, offers customers a loyalty card with a non-traditional spin. The company partners with FiveStars, a platform that ties a restaurant’s loyalty card into its POS system and enables it to track spending and reward customers accordingly. “Customers get rewarded according to how much they spend,” says Armadillo Willy’s CEO Bob Deagen.  “They can then redeem points for free food.” The platform also offers social media tools and allows the restaurant to segment customer data in order to target VIP customers via email campaigns. Armadillo Willy’s loyalty program members have spent more than $850K since the program began a year ago. That’s the kind of data you won’t get with a punch card.

Do you have a successful loyalty program at your company? Tell us about it.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice.  When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 16, 2013 at 9:47 am

Jul 9, 2013

Introducing “Secrets of Small Business Success” Series with small business expert, Donna Fenn

Every business has had “growing pains” throughout the beginning part of their business. And there are a lot of “lessons learned” along the way – both in managing the business, and growing as a small business owner professionally. We’ve asked author and respected small business industry expert, Donna Fenn, to scour her band of successful entrepreneurs and share their stories, and her expertise, in a new series called the “Secrets of Small Business Success.”

Every Tuesday through October 30th, we’ll bring you a new post sharing small business wisdom. Kicking us off, Donna spoke with founder and CEO of award-winning Marketing Zen Group, Shama Kabani, on how small business owners should communicate with customers via social media.

Learn more about Visa’s suite of small business products and services at www.visa.com/business. And follow us at @VisaSmallBiz on Twitter.

~Enjoy! And check back every Tuesday for your Tuesday Tune-up!
Janet (@Jzablock)

Get a Customer Service Edge with Social Media

Every small business with an online presence– whether it’s a fast-paced Internet start-up or a local appliance store – should be using social media to connect with and better serve customers. But what does that mean, exactly? Sure, you have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but are you using them to your best advantage? We spoke with Shama Kabani, CEO of Dallas-based Marketing Zen Group, an award-winning brand marketing and digital PR firm, to get some insider advice on how entrepreneurs should best engage with their customers online.

1. Set up alerts. Whenever your company’s name is mentioned online, you need a little virtual tap on the shoulder. Set up Google alerts, but also do a Twitter search to get a heads up on when people are talking about your company without your hashtag. You can (and should) interact with those customers. “It’s a great way to delight your customers because they’re not expecting to hear from you,” says Kabani. Platforms like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite can also help you monitor your social media streams.

2. Amplify the positive. Don’t wait until there’s a complaint or a question to interact with customers. If someone gives you an online shout out, seize the opportunity for a positive interaction by simply saying “we appreciate your business; let us know how we can better serve you.” With customer service, says Kabani, it’s all about the ratio of positive vs. negative comments. Build up the positive to counteract any potential negative interactions that may come your way. She also suggests that you post your offline endorsements – a letter of appreciation, or that picture of you with the Little League team you sponsored. Use Instagram to capture and post those offline props to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

3. Respond to all constructive criticism. Don’t panic if a customer says negative things. Accept that it’s going to happen and, says Kabani, that “you will be judged more by your response to a situation than the situation itself. You can turn a bad situation around by getting in front of it and being humble and gracious.”

4. Manage your social media presence. The worst thing you can do is give customers the impression that you’re present on social media and then fail to interact with them promptly. Ever tweeted your cable company or mobile carrier to complain about service, only to be completely ignored? Don’t be that guy. If you can’t monitor your accounts on your own, pass along the responsibility to a trusted colleague.

Lastly, says Kabani, remember that customer service is no longer about waiting for people to come to you; it’s about preempting that need. “If you have a customer-centric business, you don’t need customer service,” she says.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 9, 2013 at 10:22 am