Communication and payments platform Podium has continued its international expansion, announcing its launch in Australia.
Through an SMS-based platform, Podium aims to help local businesses receive more reviews, collect payments, send SMS campaigns, and centralise their communications.
Podium’s centralised platform can combine communications from channels such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and TripAdvisor.
The Australian team is being led by country manager Dave Scheine, who has more than 15 years of experience launching and scaling international teams at global companies such as Google, Yelp, and Vend.
Podium has employed 65 Australians and has revealed plans to almost double that over the coming 12 months.
“We’ve already had an incredible response from local Australian businesses, and I’m excited and humbled to lead the launch of a platform that holds so much potential for them,” Mr Scheine said.
“These businesses – the glue that holds communities together – have faced a lot recently, and now more than ever need Podium to communicate with customers on the platforms they prefer.
“So many of us live and work via our smartphones today, which presents significant opportunities for local businesses.”
Mr Scheine said SMS text messages have a 98 per cent open rate, with three in every four consumers preferring to interact with a business via text.
“What this demonstrates is that mobile communications is more than a ‘nice to have’ today – it’s essential,” he said.
“Consumers also rely heavily on online reviews to discover businesses, so it’s not an exaggeration to say that businesses who rely solely on foot traffic and physical location are in danger of being left behind. When running a business today, it’s so important to not only meet, but exceed customer expectations.
“COVID-19 has created new consumer expectations, but also new opportunities to win customers online. Through Podium, we’re helping Australian businesses create the online presence they need and deserve.”
Since March 2020, when the first lockdown began, Australian businesses have sent nearly six million messages and received nearly 200,000 reviews through Podium.
To grow its market share, Podium is focused on both payments and communications, providing local businesses with the holistic platform not available through current market incumbents.
Podium aims to focus on product innovation by expanding the platform with new tools and operational areas.
The goal is to deliver a comprehensive operating system for businesses to run their front office with Podium.
Podium Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Eric Rea said they also want to focus on developing deep partnerships and alliances in key verticals, as well as diversifying into new sectors.
“From the US, Australia has always felt like a significant market for Podium,” Mr Rea said.
“Local Australian businesses have been reaching out to Podium proactively since 2016, so establishing a presence in such a rich, vibrant small business market has always felt like an incredibly important step for us.
“I started the business following a phone call from my father, who had plenty of happy customers at his tyre shop, but only a handful of unhappy ones were leaving reviews. So we built a product that made getting more reviews as easy as sending a text.
“As we set out to solve the same problem for local businesses everywhere, we realised that messaging with customers wasn’t just the better way to get reviews – it’s the better way to do business. We’ve since built a multi-product platform that’s modernising the way local businesses work.”
Mr Rea compared Australia to the US, explaining both nations were renowned for the strength of the small business community.
Ekera Dental Group Marketing Director Greg Knappstein said Podium had boosted the business.
“We place an enormous focus on generating leads and Podium has increased our conversion rates substantially,” Mr Knappstein said.
“Our patients love the ability to talk to us directly and get the information they require instantaneously. What’s more, it has given us an opportunity to observe what questions our patients are asking, and provide invaluable consumer insights.
“Podium’s direct marketing capabilities are also outstanding. With open rates above 99 per cent, we have said goodbye to email campaigns. The most exciting part is the platform is continually evolving, which helps keep us ahead of our competitors.”