In the early days of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March, my wife and I had to strategize on how to secure our groceries. We had to decide on who should go out, and where and when to. We spent hours falling in line while ensuring to observe all the safety protocols being enforced by the government. We knew back then that we had to find a new way of doing groceries and other activities because we were spending so much time potentially exposing ourselves to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In the Philippines’ not-so-distant past, buying items online was considered inconvenient and risky, something only people with access to credit cards can do. Even those with credit cards were hesitant to transact online because of security concerns. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, 75 percent of internet users in the country, aged 16 to 64, have already purchased something online. This surge can be attributed not only to the availability of various payment options, such as online banking, electronic wallets and cash on delivery, but also to the lockdowns the government imposed on the country. It can be said the options electronic commerce (e-commerce) offers have evolved to suit the needs of consumers.
With the pandemic most customers to stay at home and stores to operate at a limited capacity, many retailers and establishments were forced to alter their business models to fit the current situation. Covid-19 especially hit small and medium enterprises, as their owners had to find new ways to attract customers. These adjustments propelled e-commerce and remote services reached new heights. This presents business owners with new opportunities to take advantage of.
The question is: How should a business reassess its current business model? What are the considerations?
Attracting customers in a volatile market
With e-commerce ultimately becoming a necessity for retailers, it allows small businesses to expand the reach of their brick-and-mortar establishments by conferring with customers from different parts of the country, or even the world. Although this presents an exciting opportunity, competition becomes a challenge, since the online market reduced the entry barrier.
How can an online business stand out? Introducing deals and discounts can set your business apart. Think about who will shoulder the costs of delivery. Would this be offered at no additional cost to the buyer? Partnerships with other businesses can also be considered, as being associated with a better-known brand, or “piggybacking” on its logistical muscle, can help boost the presence and reach of your products.
Social media can also be used to increase brand awareness and build trust between the brand and customer. This can be done by creating eye-catching content that is relatable to the brand’s target audience.
The need for digital transformation
In the new normal, focusing on the digital customer experience is now necessary for any business. Innovating the buying experience for customers can help a business gain a significant market share. Part of this innovation is redefining the client experience when he or she accesses your business through different portals. These questions can help business owners figure out the client experience: How will my target market know our products and services? And How can we improve our customers’ online experience?
As business owners go through this process, they need to keep in mind that digital transformation should not be made at the expense of the client experience. It should be a tool to support a business’ growth, which includes the client experience, and not just a tool to ensure a smoother transaction.
Maximizing on available technologies
There are many free tools and strategies out there to help professional service companies manage their customer relations. These include Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts, which can be used to meet clients and keep in touch with them. Furthermore, presence on both traditional and online platforms should need to go hand-in-hand to ensure a wider audience reach.
Taking advantage of the situation
The pandemic has forced businesses to rethink and innovate the products and services they offer. This is the perfect opportunity to make necessary and overdue changes to create a new path moving forward. If you are a business owner, research well, consult with your business advisor and consider adding modern technologies to significantly stretch your current offerings and expand the distribution of your products or services.
Two months after the ECQ was implemented, my wife discovered new ways of getting our groceries. Enterprising Filipinos started offering services to ensure that we would meet our daily food requirements without us having to leave the house. I don’t think I need to ask her, but this is probably how we would continue to buy food, even after the pandemic ends.
Anton Ng is a partner of the Audit and Assurance Division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines with 24 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH; “like” us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton; and email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.grantthornton.com.ph.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 07 October 2020