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Ann Chong

Published on

April 8, 2020


Crisis Management, Facebook Live

When two-thirds of the world went into lock down, a distinct line between businesses that were online-ready and businesses that were not was drawn. In the face of what will soon become a new normal, many companies are being forced to examine their business operations from end-to-end, converting any traditional, in-person functions into digital ones.

During this time, we’ve stayed in touch with our clients, sharing our experiences of how to navigate through these trying times. But this includes going beyond the usual marketing advice – sharing our own best practices and experience operating digitally. In this article, we address some common questions and share know-how for businesses facing the online dilemma in Malaysia.

1.How do we respond to the decline or complete halt of face-to-face interactions?

In the world of online dealings, trust is the biggest barrier. Interactions – whether it is an email or handshake – helps build trust prior to a formal business exchange. But is sales really dependent on face-to-face interactions? Or is a consolidated marketing push what drives a purchase decision?

In the recent months, we’ve seen up to 17 different museums around the world offer virtual tours for free during lockdown. Exhibitions have also transformed into a virtual experience – exhibition booths and products can now be viewed virtually.

While some may argue that seeing is not believing, marketers must also remember that a buyer’s decision making is not solely based on sight. For example, when it comes to purchasing property, buyers also consider the credibility if the developer, the quality of the materials used in the home, lower down payments and incentives.

2. MCO has affected business operations either in part or completely. How do we deliver products at the promised delivery date?

We first need to understand that such restrictions on our business operations are for public safety. For example, the halting of construction helps prevent the spread amongst workers who are often working in large groups.  Other types of businesses also affected by physical work – F&B, hospitality, automotive workshops to name a few – must also find a new solution to the disruption in operations. Public relations and lobbying can help in some situations as it allows the community, business organisations and associations to provide solutions and table ideas for consideration by governments.

In doing so, the relevant authorities have greater awareness of the issues faced by businesses and can support ideas on how operations can be adapted. In the case of completing of construction, perhaps this can be done in phases or achieved through a staggered approach where workers are allowed on site on a rotation basis.

More often than not, many businesses face similar challenges. Why not come together as a large coordinated voice to garner public support and shape solutions to make a difference?

3. How can we adapt to changing consumer behaviour?

Looking on the bright side, many of us have become familiar with mobile and web services. In fact, consumers have become reliant on their mobiles whether it’s for placing food orders, hiring cleaners or working on the go. This results in an unprecedented amount of data generated and lots of interesting data points to observe and unravel.

We can’t stress how important it is to build up your own marketing technology stack to gain access and insight to data that can help your business. Tools like SimilarWeb, Meltwater, Foresight Factory and Google Trends are a good starting point – they provide valuable conversation-based and keyword search data to help you understand consumer profiles which in turn, help you formulate more accurate campaign strategies.

For example, we’ve seen an increase in conversations and shares for humorous content. Search for cooking recipes and meal prep have also exploded recently. Dalgona coffee recipes have gone viral on social media with many posting their own versions of the drink.

In short, data helps you look closely at the conversations consumers are having, the topics they are interested in and the channels they go-to. All of this will help you to alter your business or marketing in a way that’s relevant and valuable to them.

4.Banks will observe stricter loan policies, how do we cope?

While some banks offer some breathing room for businesses, what happens when all of this is over?

Even before COVID-19, we have seen companies and manufacturers start to bear their own credit risk. Some automotive brands for example offer instalment payments for selected car models without consumers need to apply for a hire purchase from banks. Property developers are also jumping on this trend, accepting down payment followed by monthly instalments from buyers instead of payment in full before handing over the key.

In the above examples, the idea is that the entities making the sale takes on the risk of repayment themselves, thereby lowering the criteria for would-be buyers. There is also a need for companies to look at targeting individuals of higher net worth, individuals with larger cash reserves that might be willing to hold onto their investments till a time when a better sale can be achieved. This goes back to customer profiling.

 5. For the travel and hospitality sector, it is business not as usual. Until the MCO is lifted, should marketing campaigns be put on hold?

Despite the restrictions for hotels, it is still possible to utilise the premises for special guest types. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, some hotels have started offering 14-day quarantine packages to accommodate travellers returning home from high-risk countries. These individuals need a different place to stay during this period as they want to prevent potentially spreading their virus to their immediate family members.

Other hotels have even developed 14-day activity calendars to keep guests entertained while being their rooms. Some have also gone to the extent to provide detailed protection guides, sanitisation guides and even offered lockdown packages for those who need a separate place away from home to work and so forth. In short, there seems to be no shortage of innovation and the effort seems to be working.

The same creativity should be applied to marketing. In our recent webinar, we were asked about marketing spend if it was wise to continue during the uncertainty. In short, it’s not about turning the tap off but rather, redirecting those resources to other buckets. Brands can take the opportunity to build in the areas of discoverability through search (SEO and SEM) or paid media, especially paid social media which doesn’t cost a lot.

Got a question for us? Join us for our live Q&A session where we answer more questions on business and marketing continuity in COVID-19.

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