COVID-19 has left many businesses in a downward spiral. However, as hope seems bleak, many have gone in search of new business strategies to keep themselves afloat.
As is the growing trend, many brick and mortar outlets have now moved to more digital means of marketing, some with help from trusted digital marketing agencies. Franchises that previously relied on classic methods of promotion are now actively connecting with their target audience via social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, mostly due to the crunch of Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions.
Those most diligently digital are F&B companies and outlets. Due to a drastic drop in dine-in customers after the COVID-19 wave, most restaurants in Malaysia have ported to food delivery platforms like Foodpanda, GrabFood, or partnered with delivery services like Lalamove.
Although such steps to digitalization have been long advocated by the Malaysian government, most businesses have only explored this option after the implementation of the MCO.
Let’s take a look at how SME’s have fared in the recent and sudden digitalization of their operations.
Covid-19 Lockdowns Have Posed a Serious Challenge to SMEs in Malaysia
According to a report by an authoritative Malaysian newspaper, a survey conducted by an online home services platform has found that a worrying 70% of SMEs have faced a 50% or more of drop in business within the first week of the MCO implementation. To some extent, even conglomerate giants are beginning to feel the heat, as their consumers and target markets begin grappling to budget, drastically cutting down their dispensable income to spend on non-essentials. But that’s not the only challenge that’s arose. Here are a few more.
Uprise of The “Work From Home” Culture
On the whole, lots of general businesses have been impacted, from F&B companies to aviation giants to tech enterprises. A huge fraction of people were laid off in a bid to restrain their budgets in order to stay above water for longer. The remaining few employed are now working from home indefinitely. And with the virus still out there, uncertain and unforgiving, many have predicted that this work from home culture being a permanent part of our lives and of course, the eventual digitalization of all businesses.
This poses a few obstacles to employers, who are finding project management and task distribution becoming a bit of a fickle task. Additionally, human resource management also becomes a bit haywire in terms of managing time off, ultimately leading to lethargy among the workforce. And of course communication will take a toll, since entire teams are fully reliant on communication apps and workplace management softwares.
Businesses Moving Online
Another effect of COVID-19 is the sudden boom of Internet marketing and retail. Most businesses dealing in tangible products have now resorted to creating online stores with some of the household-famous online selling platforms like Lazada, PrestoMall, Shopee, and more. As for bigger companies that have already established an online presence, marketing and sales efforts were more than doubled with the benefits of marketing on social media, with the main focus on further growing their digital sales numbers by offering exclusive online-only deals. Some examples include Watsons, Guardian, McDonald’s, and a few other bigshots in the same league.
But, that doesn’t mean that it’s all a bed of roses for them. Companies have to fork out quite a bit and invest a lot of time and effort into building their online presence. Not to mention investing a chunk more into online marketing activities to further their reach and get to more potential customers.Additionally, some businesses will face the problem of their product or service not being online-friendly, where they will need to innovate and find creative ways around it.
Schooling and lectures are taking a more digital form is also the result of MCO’s impediments. Although initially schools were slated to open once the COVID-19 numbers began to drop, the sudden spike in the second wave made everyone go back to their digital learning channels, which seems to be here for the better. Schools, mostly private institutions, and higher learning institutes are also greatly affected by the virus as well as the MCO guidelines, namely in terms of teaching quality, student attendance, and also severe lack of revenue.
The Spark of Digital Marketing in Malaysia
Although going digital is something that has been endorsed by the government itself, the message wasn’t heeded until after COVID-19 struck and businesses were forced to comply with MCO rules for the greater good. That has tipped the balance in favor of companies offering digital marketing services in Malaysia as well as online marketing and performance marketing specialists.
At this point, it really seems as if internet marketing is the undeniable face of the future. Almost every business and service has turned to the Internet to market and sell their goods and solutions. From creating online shops, either on their own or through a third-party online shopping platform, to using multiple digital channels to market their products and make their presence known, it doesn’t seem like this digital shift is going anywhere at the moment.
Leveraging the Power of Internet Marketing to Stay Afloat
As a business owner reading this, you may be wondering how exactly these businesses managed to make it, despite having to displace their entire business and move it to a completely new environment. It seems like a gargantuan feat to move operational and marketing strategies from a retail model to a digital model. But, that’s not quite the case. These are a handful of simple tactics that SMEs out there turned to to help them go digital.
Sales & Marketing on the Internet
Maybe starting off with an example would make things easier to digest. Take your local “mamak” for instance. As a restaurant, their main source of income is from dine-in customers. However, due to restrictions, in-house dining is almost impossible. As a result, they had taken the digital way out by going on food delivery apps such as Foodpanda, GrabEats, RunningMan, DeliverEats, and more. Additionally, they’ve moved to more social methods of marketing, via Facebook, Instagram, and some even on Twitter or TikTok.
Engaging SEO & SEM For a Business Boost
Those who deal with consumer products are also ramping up their online presence by pushing their social presence up a notch as well as revamping their websites. Key tasks like search engine optimization (SEO), Google Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and content population have been on full-speed for these businesses, whilst on social media, they’ve been getting help from gurus in regards to their Facebook page management, proper use of Instagram for business, even shopifying both social platforms, to reap the maximum benefit of their online bearing.
Getting Help From The Experts!
Many SMEs have sought help from digital marketing consultants in Malaysia, guys just like us at One Search Pro. Most were focused on rebranding and reaching out to their customers, letting their target audience know that they’ve finally seen the light and have moved their businesses and services online. A lot of others, who already have an online presence, focused more on marketing via social media. Interestingly, some businesses even saw this as an opportunity to breach into more global markets, some bravely listing on eBay, Amazon, TaoBao, Alibaba, or Etsy and receiving healthy responses from a more diverse group of customers.
Harnessing Social Media
Zooming into the sales aspect, many businesses now rely heavily on social networking apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook, especially if they’re a budding business venture or are a home-based enterprise. These guys maximize and harness the power of swift communication to keep in touch with their customer base and maintain a steady stream of product orders, completely cutting out the need to complete a trade in person. Some of these small businesses have also resorted to performance marketing, namely on Facebook and Instagram, to help boost their sales.
One such example is that of famous satay operator Satay Kajang Haji Samuri. Well-known for their delicious flame grilled meat skewers, the original business model here was dependent on walk-in customers. In the light of MCO however, innovation kicked in and the business is now accepting orders via their Facebook page and Whatsapp channel. They’ve also switched to selling frozen alternatives of their product, which they market heavily on their main social media pages.
On the downside, not every business was successful in its attempts to break into the world of online marketing and sales. Lots of non-tech businesses have folded due to the inability to catch up to the norms of digital sales and Internet marketing techniques. Additionally, their business may not have been versatile enough to be able to take on an online existence. The fact that government aids were heavily directed to new and recently online businesses did not fall on their side of the fence either.
But Has Truly Everyone Gone Digital?
It is debatable at this point, but there are several businesses that are still relying on the classic methods of sales and marketing, in this harsh economy. The main reason being the cost, effort, and time required to formulate and execute a plan for their digital presence. But in Malaysia, lots of business owners are yet to be aware of the power that internet marketing holds in terms of actively driving sales. Many are in the dark about the market potential that these channels present. Again, a fraction more are skeptical about spending money on things like SEO and performance marketing, especially if they’re aged businesses that make a profit just to get by.
As an example, let’s take a look at typical Chinese grocers and medicine shops. They have been on a classic business model for ages, selling necessities and herbal remedies. A sudden change can drastically affect their enterprise due to heavy reliance on walk-in customers. But, with some simple market research and use of the right social channels, they will be able to reconnect with their customer base in no time and be able to jumpstart their business. However, this is only in theory as the lack of awareness of such options still lingers among the non-tech-savvy generation of business people in Malaysia.
The thing with online marketing is its flexibility. As a new and budding trade owner, you can choose to have your business completely online or maintain a physical presence in addition to your digital one. Having the option for a dual-business model not only increases the reach of your brand but also rakes in much higher sales than simply having a store that caters for the local population.
Will digital options continue after MCO?
A profitable opportunity like digitalization will be likely to be maintained in most businesses. Plus, having their business online gives them a huge leverage over competitors who have yet to get a digital upgrade. The F&B niches display the highest likelihood of keeping their digital options even way after the MCO and this epidemic bout.
Why? Simply because they are now reaching way more people compared to having a simple, physical store. Digitalization has brought about innovation, allowing these businesses to be able to provide more for their customers in creative ways, all through the medium of the Internet. Similarly with other businesses dealing directly with consumers. Speaking of innovation, classrooms now also have a new face. With the latest digital teaching tools and online methods, learning spaces are now more interactive and promote efficient and effective learning. In light of this, digitalization in the education sector is expected to stay.
With all that said, internet marketing is definitely the future of business itself. Sooner or later, the Internet will be a bustling trade ground for almost everything and anything.
That said, it’s best that you hop onto that wagon right now, either to jumpstart or expand your business horizons. Wait any longer, and you will find it more and more difficult to build your online presence for your business with the high competition.
Not sure where or how to start? One Search Pro Marketing’s customized programs provide unique online marketing solutions to those who want to take that digital leap and navigate through the new normal successfully.
For more on how One Search Pro Marketing can guide your journey through digitalization, Contact us now!