SMEs told to strengthen online presence

SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) are encouraged to have online presence to ensure sustained growth of their business as thousands of new users continue to go online each month, according to an internet marketing expert.

Denise Gamo-Halagueña, Google Philippines’ head of ads marketing for large customers, said the online world is the new venue for small firms to drive business and revenue growth.

But it is not just a matter of staying online, but also about knowing your customers and how they act and behave digitally.

The SMEs play significant roles in the Philippines economy as these create jobs, provide opportunities for people who are economically vulnerable, tools in achieving sustainable economic growth and limit the ability of larger firms to monopolize and charge excessive prices. The SMEs are dynamic, innovative and adaptable to changing economic conditions.

The organizational climate and culture of an SME largely determine its success. Its climate reflects the feelings, attitude and behavioral tendencies that may be measured through the perceptions of its members.

Its culture reflects the values, norms, beliefs and assumptions embraced by members. Innovation in an enterprise can only take place in appropriate climate and culture influenced by the entrepreneurial spirit of the manager/owner.

Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad, Benguet, Philippines investigated the innovation potential among SMEs in the CAR.

Their study characterized certain groups of entrepreneurs and the impact of environment, enterprise and entrepreneur in the strategic behavior of the SME owners.

It determined the relationship between the above three elements and the firm’s performance, and determined other significant factors that contribute to the differentiation of SMEs.

To effectively use the internet, businesses must make sure they are relevant. Being relevant, Halagueña said, means that they must be useful based on what the customer needs.

This entails firms providing details that will lead to action, such as putting the address and business hours prominently, and including the telephone number of the physical shop online “so that people can just click on the button and call.”

Halagueña suggested using Google My Business, a free business tool that small companies can use to have a business profile that shows up on both Google Search and Google Maps.

She also shared other interesting outcomes from researches and studies done by the company. One of these is that “intent” – “the deep-seated interest that people act on” - is now a better indicator of consumer behavior than “identity,” as she pointed out that gender stereotypes are no longer effective in identifying buyers.

“If you just take a look at trends and behavior it already tells you a lot,” she added.

Meanwhile, on Philippine online users specifically, Halagueña noted company data showing how in the past five years Filipino internet users have more than doubled. Of the 106 million Filipinos, 76 million are now online, with 83 percent going online via their mobile phones.

Further data indicate that the connected Filipino spends more than 10 hours online, and not only to do social messaging.

The executive noted how 58 percent of the 10 hours spent online is done outside social messaging and involves activities ranging from doing job, education and product searches to video watching and staying connected with family and friends.

On another study tracking the path to purchase of Filipinos, Halagueña said 74 percent of online Filipinos do a search prior to purchase, 57 percent of them conducting the search on a smartphone, and making about six searches on average before actually making a decision or action.

Finally, Filipinos are “in the moment,” said Halagueña, with 92 percent searching online “on the day of” itself, especially when it comes to dining, accommodations, local attractions and shops, with 62 percent doing a search even at the point of sale when just about to pay.


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