The main challenge of designing a holistic solution for the small business (SMB) community is that it’s a diverse segment, making it particularly hard to create one-size-fits-all solutions. The term “small business,” Mastercard EVP of Core Products Amnah Ajmal told PYMNTS in a recent conversation, can refer to all kinds of firms — from gig workers to individual proprietorships online, to firms with a few hundred (or even a few thousand) employees.
It’s a challenge, she noted, but not an insurmountable one. However, it made a top priority of designing and determining the new features that Mastercard announced for its Business and World Elite cards earlier this week, which took much searching for common ground.
“What we found was that there [were] some needs that kept showing up, no matter how we cut the segment,” she said.
For example, security and protecting against identity theft are top of mind for SMB owners, almost regardless of size or vertical. Yet, she noted, the data showed that 74 percent had absolutely no form of cybersecurity or identity theft protection coverage. Most said they would like to automate more, but 60 percent relied on manual processes to submit receipts.
“Though one entrepreneur is working as a gig worker or running a small corporation, they are both going to have to file their taxes,” she added.
Once the company saw those recurring needs in focus, Ajmal told PYMNTS, the next focus was to create a value proposition that spoke broadly to the segment — one that easily complemented its issuer partners’ rewards propositions. Rewards, she noted, though they tend to get more attention on the consumer side, are important to small business owners as well, but only when the rewards are relevant and easily accessible.
The New Offerings
The new suite of offerings exists, according Ajmal, as a toolbox for SMB cardholders that hits all of those recurring need categories. Via a partnership with Intuit, cardholders will receive up to 50 percent off a 12-month subscription with QuickBooks Online (Simple Start, Essentials, Plus or Advanced) or QuickBooks Self-Employed — as a $20 savings offer on TurboTax products.
To counter how much they have on their plates, cardholders will have access to a business assistant 24/7. To look after their cybersecurity, there’s Mastercard ID Theft Protection to monitor their personal and business information, and offer ’round-the-clock customer support in case of an incident. To protect their cell phones, there’s phone insurance to boost automation, and receipt management via a partnership with Itemize.
These are all things that Mastercard has heard about through merchants and issuer partners that are necessary in the SMB world — and widely desired, but lacking in many cases. Take security, for example. Ajmal noted that cybersecurity and identity protection never fail as a topic of high interest for business owners. The overwhelming majority of those who lack protection services isn’t because SMB owners don’t want them — they just often find those services hard to access.
“Often what we see is they do not have the means to go out and get access to it. The coverage in this area is so fragmented that it is difficult to get all the services one needs placed under a single umbrella,” she said.
The power of the new offerings, she noted, is in the bundling — and in creating an access point for all these services that is intuitive to locate, and comprehensive in terms of what it offers.
Making these kinds of offerings work is a story of strategic partnerships — and their power to build experiences that are complicated on the back end, but seamless and automatic for the customer holding the card on the front end.
“Our strategy is really grounded in forming those strategic partnerships, so it is really that holistic approach that comes from partnering with merchants, partnering with our issuers and partnering with FinTech partners, and really leveraging the entire ecosystem,” Ajmal said.
While the substance of what is rolled out matters to Mastercard’s customers, it is equally important to offer an easy access point. Small business owners are busy people, and rewards that require them to keep track of points, track down rebates or work hard in any way to use them are not actually rewards. It’s just another job.
The experience Mastercard is mostly focused on designing is one where the access just happens. No sign-ups, no calculating — the offer is straightforward, and capturing the benefits happen almost automatically.
“What is really resonating with our customer is how easy Mastercard has made it to enjoy that benefit or experience. That is a true differentiator,” Ajmal explained.
The new benefits with Intuit have already begun rolling out as of this week, and the early feedback, she noted, has been positive. The whole suite of new services will be online in July of this year.