SMEs: Going digital, online is advantageous

NEW OPPORTUNITIES. As small and medium enterprises go online, they observed that this is a cost-effective measure to promote and sell their products. They also noted that customers are happy as it brings the products right at their doorsteps. (Stock photo)
NEW OPPORTUNITIES. As small and medium enterprises go online, they observed that this is a cost-effective measure to promote and sell their products. They also noted that customers are happy as it brings the products right at their doorsteps. (Stock photo)

SEVERAL small and medium enterprises (SMEs) found going digital and online practical and advantageous in their business operations.

Hamida Demuna-Sibayan, owner of the spice and condiment business Spichef, said operating online is more convenient to her and her customers.

She recently went fully online in buying ingredients, in taking orders, in the delivery of their products, and in accepting payments from customers since the health crisis prevented the mounting of trade fairs and selling in their physical stores.

A member of the small businesses consolidator Dabawenyo Capsicum (DabCap), she and her fellow business owners have also amped up their marketing on Facebook and offered lower delivery fees to entice more customers.

“Ang ing-ani na set up para sa akoa ok siya kaayo kay dili na mahagu ang mga clients namo ug adto sa store para makapalit sa ilahang gusto paliton na mga condiments and spices. Ganahan sila sa serbisyo nga mag abot nalang sa ilahang mga doorsteps ang ilahang ginapamalit sa amoa via Facebook page (This setup benefitted our clients because their orders are delivered directly on their doorsteps),” she said.

“Sa technology ug digital platforms ang advantage kay dali ra mi maka promote sa amoang mga products. Ang online operations ang pinaka cost efficient sa pag promote sa amoang mga products kay dili kaayo namo kinahanglan mag spend og kwarta. Time and effort lang kinahanglan (We were also able to promote online and it is cost-effective for us),” she added.

Antoniette Renata Marcellita, owner of Pedas Gila, said on top of the promotion being done by DabCap, she has hired people to maintain her social media accounts and found it worth investing in these times.

“Sinisweldohan ko ang staff na nagmamanage ng social media. I considered it as investment para mas efficient din ang work ko (I pay my social media manager and I consider it as investment),” she said.

It also allowed her and the group to save on utilities like electricity, water, and other operational expenses they usually incur in running their physical store.

“For me, this new normal is an avenue for more opportunity. We were able to organize and develop a better system in our organization such as in ordering our products. We were also able to reach new customers na daghan diay interested but inconvenient for them before to visit the store kay sa bazaar lang sila usually muadto,” she said.

She admitted, however, that migrating online also means learning technical skills.

“I think we need more assistance sa paggawa ng basic lang na marketing layout and photography para makagawa ng attractive na picture (We still need to learn the basics of layout and photography to produce enticing photos of our products),” Marcellita said.

Sesotunawa, a T’boli-owned social enterprise selling brass accessories, experienced a spike in their sales when they started to become fully active online.

Sesotunawa co-founder Karl Lozano said the enterprise has already been online since they began but the situation brought the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) allowed them to focus on intensifying their social media presence and work on their brand awareness.

He said they have launched several campaigns like RICE UP fundraiser as a response to the need of the T’boli artists to access food and the price transparency campaign.

“We are doing an online campaign via our socmed channels and website to sell T’boli products so we can ensure business continuity and at the same time provide immediate relief to our partner artists in the community. Website is now our main sales channel and we market through Instagram and Facebook,” he said.

He said it has been less than a month since they started working on their digital marketing strategy but their sales already spiked 30 to 50 percent compared to their sales in pop-up stores and bazaars and 200 percent to their online sales before the pandemic.

“Our sales online are much better now. Pre-covid, we really had a hard time with online marketing and sales. I think because we also have not firmed up our branding persona. Mas naka focus mi always preparing for pop-ups (We were focused on our pop-up stores),” he said, noting that their online performance is organic or the posts are not paid to reach more customers.

“The ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) allowed us volunteers to work on our online branding persona and marketing strategy,” he added.

With the enterprise’s online presence a little bit ahead of others, Lozano stressed the importance of branding and marketing strategy apart from having social media accounts for the business.

“I think enterprises must really invest in their branding. While setting up an online shop in social media is fast and relatively easy, you also find yourself in space where there are other competitive brands. It is ideal to find that “industry void”. Understand what is lacking and shape your branding and marketing strategy towards it,” he said.

Meanwhile, an online and offline marketing expert observed that businesses have gradually begun to seek digital marketing services.

Tom Secuya, founder of the marketing consultation agency CARVE said business owners have been asking them how to do things online more than enticing customers to go to their store.

“For the longest time, people were holding out, people were stopping themselves from even engaging or inquiring because they are holding back on the cash and making sure you have reserves for the drought that’s going to happen,” he said.

“But ngayon midway and towards the end of the lockdown series, people are starting to get back, starting to engage again, and contact again. But the approach definitely has changed. It’s no longer for foot traffic or it’s no longer for in store promotions. It is more again like transition and move online,” he added.

Secuya said among the things people ask from them are ways to do better digital marketing, app development, website setup, or choosing the right online platform for their businesses.

“Now, businesses are the ones initiating and starting to ask us. They are already actively looking for a resource,” he said.

“We’re feeling that people are more ready and more open to it because now businesses have to be isolation-appropriate and remote-transaction ready,” he added.

He said although the internet infrastructure in the country remained a challenge, it has also significantly improved that online deliveries and other e-commerce became possible.

“All the businesses should now change their mindset that they are now content-generating businesses and then they are now a digital business. That’s the paradigm shift. And if you shift that, you have to consider what kind of content can be putting up talking to your audience,” Secuya said.


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