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International texting app officially takes on Aussie small business sphere

By Bianca Dabu
06 August 2021 | 1 minute read
David Scheine and Eric Rea

Communication and payments platform Podium has now officially hit Australian shores, as it looks to up the ante in servicing local businesses.

Podium’s Australian arm is the latest international venture for the business, following the establishment of bases in the United States and Canada.

“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,” said co-founder and CEO Eric Rea.

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It’s already seen take-up in the Aussie proptech space, with Podium and Market Buy solidifying a technology partnership just last month.

Through an SMS-based platform, Podium helps local businesses receive reviews, collect payments, send SMS campaigns and centralise their communication on channels such as Google, Facebook, Instagram or TripAdvisor — whichever their customers prefer.

Mr Rea has shared the inspiration for the business, which sprouted from his father’s tire shop “having plenty of happy customers… but only a handful of unhappy ones leaving reviews”.

“So we built a product that made getting more reviews as easy as sending a text, but 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,” the CEO said.

“We’ve since built a multi-product platform that’s modernising the way local businesses work.”

Leading the Australian team is country manager David Scheine, who boasts over 15 years of experience in launching and scaling international teams and operations at global companies, including Google, Yelp and Vend.

“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.

Since 2014, Podium has grown its client base to more than 90,000 local businesses worldwide, with their Australian clientele alone almost quadrupling to 3,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Already, a message is sent every five seconds across Australia through Podium despite its official launch only taking place now.

“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,” he added.

He explained that “SMS text messages have a 98 per cent open rate and three in four consumers would prefer 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.

It’s Mr Scheine’s belief that businesses can achieve exponential growth by going digital.

“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,” he flagged.

“When running a business today, it’s so important to not only meet but exceed customer expectations, and COVID has created new consumer expectations. But it also offers new opportunities to win customers online.”

With more than 65 employees in Australia already, Podium has expressed an intention to double that headcount again within Australia over the next 12 months.

The business has also revealed plans to grow their market share by focusing on product innovation, developing deep partnerships in key verticals and diversifying into new sectors.

International texting app officially takes on Aussie small business sphere
Dave Scheine Eric Rea reb
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