Backed against a grim outlook of cash flow and supply chain challenges, SMEs and retailers are struggling to weather the pandemic storm with Malaysian retail sales losses expecting to reach at least RM5.2 billion. Only a handful of brands have enough capital to sustain their business beyond April 2020.
During these challenging times, every single decision can either help you survive or delay your chances at recovery—and data intelligence is the secret weapon.
From my interactions with business owners and senior executives, brands are not aware of whom they should be “speaking to.” Merely spending on digital marketing without first “listening” to what consumers are saying, might just be a short-termism approach. What could brands be doing instead, particularly to #keepbusinessmoving? I’ve outlined some thoughts.
Deepen your customer insight
These are the facts: Consumer preferences are evolving quickly. Demand for non-essential purchases across various retail categories that previously dipped at the start of the Movement Control Order (MCO) is rapidly rebounding today. Preparedness in anticipation of this demand is critical to ensure business continuity after the MCO is lifted.
How well do you know your customers’ behaviours and buying habits since the MCO started? What new pain points have surfaced? What new markets are emerging for your brand? Do you have enough capacity to cater for pent up demand following the end of MCO?
These are questions that need to be answered first before placing your life savings into expensive digital marketing campaigns that may not give you the ROI you’re expecting. Insight into market intelligence, customer acquisition and digital brand sentiment can guide your business survival strategy to keep up with changing demand.
Bridge the digital gap
For brands without robust digital offerings, how quickly can you move in this direction? Many brick-and-mortar retailers have set up online, easy payment methods; some have transitioned online like myBurgerLab and Tealive to embrace digital transformation. Those without online stores are emailing customers to update them on new products in stock. Contactless deliveries or self-pickups are the new point of transfer.
By understanding the online marketplace, competitors, potential customers and other key factors, you would be armed with the right strategy before launching into a new market.
Adapt your offerings to your digital customers
Ensure that you are translating your value proposition to the digital world with fidelity. This means that the defining benefits of your business should come through.
Forward-thinking retailers are innovating their product offerings during these challenging times, prompting customers to make advance bookings/payments—for example, through Fave eCards—to be redeemed once the MCO period is over. This is where you’ll need in-depth insight into your brand sentiment to best position your price promotions, order customisation, and flexible payment modes.
Elevate your brand loyalty
Don’t wait for the MCO to be over—communicate with your customers now to stay on top of their minds.
How can you best engage with your customers who love your brand but can’t visit your stores? Think beyond the MCO and get creative with ways to keep the “brand love” going. With Malaysians increasing their screen time while at home, retailers are quickly leveraging on the trend by conducting fashion runway contests at home and fun DIY home-cooking workshops via Zoom.
Physical distancing (and not social distancing) has resulted in a huge spike in social media traffic. If that is where your customers are, that is where you want to be. Worried about coming across opportunistic if you engage with your customers during this difficult time? Good question.
If you’ve not communicated at all since the pandemic began (which begs the question, why not?), you might want to get some baseline engagement going. How? By providing value through helpful “how-to” content to address what’s changing for the brand vis-à-vis the environment you’re in and renew your core focus (we call it “utility-driven” initiatives) — it’s not about emphasising the vanity numbers (it’s not about the likes). Yes, there’s a strategy to this, and an explicit understanding of your target audience is key to being specific about what needs to be done.
The challenge is to engage with authenticity, and not just sell.
If you have a relationship with your customers, they will want to know what you are thinking and planning, what is happening with employees, and that you miss them. For retailers with a lot of “brand love,” this will be a reminder of those positive feelings. Don’t wait for the MCO to be over—communicate with your customers now to stay on top of their minds. The challenge is to engage with authenticity, and not just sell. After all, businesses do need to balance both short and long-term goals.
Focus on things that matter—like your customer experience
Seize the opportunity to not only survive these challenging times but emerge stronger beyond the MCO. While it’s still unclear when and how this crisis will end, you need to be ready to reopen your stores. How will Covid-19 change your customers’ habits for the long run and what are you doing to get ready for this shift? One thing we know already is that digital experiences are here to stay.
Don’t have the time to invest in market intelligence and brand sentiment? Leave it to the experts! Our team at Engage SEA will work hand in hand to support you in keeping your business moving. Chat with us today to track your brand health and listen to what your customers are saying in real-time.
Previously published by Suchithra Krishnan on LinkedIn Pulse.