The first step to help small businesses go digital during COVID-19

Introducing a framework for assessing the digital maturity of MSMEs

Mohammed Ishaqe accepts digital payments at his five clothing stores in the busy market area of Khurda.

From buying and selling online to managing bank accounts to communicating digitally, access to digital tools has never been as essential for economic resilience as it is right now. An estimated 42 percent of the world’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are at risk of failure in the next six months due to the global pandemic. However, businesses that have transitioned their sales, delivery, and operations online are less likely to experience economic hardships and are better able to weather the economic and financial strains of the crisis. Despite potential gains, many businesses are not digitizing.

Support from trusted financial providers can help these vulnerable businesses seize digital opportunities so they can stay operational through the pandemic. As financial service providers (FSPs) consider adding new digital offerings for their clients, they must consider how to ensure that clients will use them effectively. Leveraging Accion’s global experience and understanding of what influences small business owners to adopt digital products, we developed the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Digital Maturity Assessment.

Institutions can use this diagnostic tool to survey their customers about their ownership of digital tools and comfort using them for their businesses and use that data to segment their customers. Customer-centric segmentation has several benefits beyond ensuring that products meet a customer’s needs:

  • Building a business case: There is a clear advantage to segmentation, as gaining a deeper understanding of customers’ digital maturity can help institutions better estimate the market for a new digital product or service. Once launched, segmentation data can guide direct marketing and sales resources towards the right customers for a product or service.
  • Product innovation and optimization: With a deeper understanding of customer segmentation, FSPs can better support their customers’ journeys towards new channels like mobile and internet banking. By understanding the differences between their customer segments, institutions can also identify key design principles that will work best for customers based on their digital maturity.
  • Customer experience and impact measurement: Understanding digital maturity can lead FSPs to improve the overall customer experience by identifying friction points in the customer journey. Institutions and funders can measure improvements in customers’ digital maturity over time to determine the impact of their efforts. A customer-centric approach to segmentation — based on capabilities, beliefs, and behaviors — helps institutions stay focused on their customers instead of products.

We hope institutions will consider embedding this assessment within their own product development process to ensure that resources invested in new products are focused on what is most appropriate for customers so we can support more struggling MSMEs during a difficult time.

If you’re interested in understanding your customers’ digital maturity, contact us to learn more.

See how we used the assessment to gain valuable insights for customer segmentation in India.

Sign up to receive emails