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The Importance of Digital Transformation during COVID-19

by Willy Tan        May 4, 2020

Across the globe, businesses of all nature have been affected in one way or another by the recent outbreak of the corona virus known as COVID-19. We have seen the economic repercussions of this outbreak on businesses. There are businesses that have already adapted to the online platforms long before this global health and economic crisis and there are some who are just realising they need to make a change to not only sustain, but to avoid another situation like this from happening to their business.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation, in simple terms, means adapting your current business model to an online platform to increase efficiency and provide the opportunity of a new revenue stream for your business. It can be as simple as having all your department processes digitized and moved away from manual processes and onto online cloud platforms, or it could be changing your brick and mortar ways to adapt to online eCommerce marketplaces. Digital Transformation can apply to all parts of your business from HR, Finance, Sales and Marketing. Integrating your business processes into a modern connected system can not only allow you to simplify your process and give you an overall holistic view of your business but can also give you the opportunity to focus on improving different areas of your business. What this translates to is that businesses are able to save money, time and increase revenue.

How does businesses digitally transform?

Well, there is no one cookie-cutter solution for digital transformation. It is not a formula that all businesses can just apply to solve all your business problems. Digital Transformation highly depends on each business model and what line of industry that business is in. For manufacturing businesses, there is a multitude of ways you could digitally transform your business. You would be able to assess your processes and optimize them with ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning) that can give you a holistic view of your whole supply chain from stock order to delivery. For logistics companies, you could adapt to having solutions that could help you track, manage and respond to orders and deliveries made by customers.

In short, there are 100s of ways for businesses to digitally transform themselves, but today we will focus on the sales and marketing digital transformations that businesses can adapt or practice to help them sustain or even survive the current economic crisis caused by the global pandemic.

Digital marketing in an uncertain market

Let us face it, with countries on lockdown in efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus from spreading, even more, businesses are forced to adapt to the market situation. With governments around the world giving mandatory requirements for a business to either close for weeks possibly extending to months, many businesses are struggling to stay afloat amid these orders. However, some countries like Malaysia have allowed certain non-essential businesses to remain operating such as eCommerce, logistics, restaurants, food supply chains, and grocery markets.

The first 2 weeks of the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) initiated on the 18th of March gave a lot of Malaysian business owners a glimpse into a nightmare situation where their businesses are put on a halt. The first two weeks can be seen as collective compliance to help reduce the spread of the virus. However, with the second extension announced towards the end of March, businesses have started to take matters into their own hands by thinking of creative ways to market their business to generate sales. Some businesses continue to operate by selling their services or products in advance just to ensure they have cash flow when the MCO is lifted.

How to market your business right now?

In most developed countries, businesses have already digitally adapted themselves from the start or for big multinational corporations, they have long ago undergone digital transformation. However, here in Malaysia, businesses are generally hesitant to make this move due to the complacency in the market for how they have been running their businesses for so long without a hitch. Well, this year, let’s just say this hitch has finally come calling. This is a huge eye-opener for businesses as they are forced to rethink how they have been marketing or conducting their businesses. For a quick refresher, you can read up on our article What is Digital Marketing and how it can help your business.

According to The Edge Markets, the retail industry has seen a contraction of 18.8% the first quarter of this year. To put that in perspective, the Malaysian retail market has not seen a drop like this since 1998. The second quarter of this year, which is April till June, will see an even jaw-dropping number as business has been on halt since 18th of March till this day of writing. With low – zero sales, retailers are looking at more digital ways to maintain their business. For some F&B businesses, they have turned to delivery as an alternative means of revenue. However, there are businesses that have purely relied of foot traffic and now they have been tossed into a situation where they need to learn how to market themselves online so that they are able to general some amount of sales to maintain their business. Businesses are now in the deep end of the pool and they either will sink or they have to learn to swim and stay afloat.

In Malaysia, the government has tried in some ways to ease the burden that MCO has on businesses, but government handouts can only last so long. For those businesses who are looking to survive this market situation, they have to come up with inventive and creative online marketing strategies to generate awareness of their brand and or service. So what marketing strategies should you have in place for this kind of market? We have listed what we at Kode Digital believe to be the most effective ways of digitally marketing yourself right now?


Social Media Presence

Without a doubt, you will need to have your business and brand on social media platforms. Yes, they are used to connect friends and families but they have also been turned into a tool to tap into a wide network of audience. If you have already branded yourself digitally, then you may need to think of which platforms you need to be on. Read up on our Strategy for your social media marketing article to get better insights into how you can strategize.

A lot of people would argue that “I’ve been active on social media, but I don’t see any difference in my sales”. First, of all, you can be active but if you don’t have a strategy or goal in place, you won’t be able to generate the results you want. Let’s say you have a business account already, but you’ve been inactive because everyone is working from home or you’re too busy to think about keeping it active cause you’re worrying about what you can do to get sales right now. Marketing, at it’s most basic form, essentially is a funnelling effect. What you’re doing now will not always directly translate to sales right this moment. Keeping active on your social media can keep your brand on top of your audience’s mind so that WHEN the MCO is lifted, the first thing they want to do is patronize your business. For businesses who have neglected their social media presence, they’ll likely see this outcome when the MCO is lifted as they fight for attention against businesses who have been keeping active.


Influencer Marketing

What is influencer marketing? Businesses these days need to adapt to their target audience. Majority of the spending market is within the age of 25- 55. Modern millennials and Gen Y audiences are, unfortunately, glued to their phone. They follow celebrities and influential KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) on Instagram and aspire to have the lifestyle as the influencers do. This is a strategy that has been adopted by most major brands. If they are doing it, doesn’t it mean that it is effective for them?

The simple answer is YES! It is effective because marketing through influencers give you a higher organic reach compared to social media advertising right now. I’m sure you have seen multiple advertisements while being stuck at home on Facebook or Instagram and you’ve probably overlooked them because you know they’re desperate for your attention. However, when someone you respect on social media has bought a certain product from a certain brand, you tend to notice it and think “Hey, maybe I’ll buy that too!” or “Hmm, that looks delicious, maybe I should order some to try!”

This is the power of organic marketing and sometimes, most people don’t even know they’ve been marketed to because influencers post organic content that they craft themselves. So when you read their content or see their images, you don’t assume it’s been created by a marketing team from the brand they’re showing on their feed.


Creative and Innovative Marketing Ideas

Okay, so you’ve gone with what you know works. Social Media advertising, but let us face it, everyone is doing this right now, how can you stand out or be any different? What can you do to generate money now to be used for later?

One great example of this we would like to share is an Ad by Jobbie. With the struggles that they have, they’ve come up with a unique idea to tap into the emotional hearts of their long time customers and/or even new customers across Malaysia by sharing their truthful experience. In their copywriting, they’ve humanized themselves by sharing their real stories. Their workers are like us, everyday working people and because of this pandemic they are on the edge of bankruptcy, so they’ve shared their story hoping for people to show their support and guess what, Malaysia did. They showed their support and helped the company to generate cash flow to sustain themselves through the MCO. For some, there may be controversy to their post but let us acknowledge that it did generate the results they wanted and now they are able to stay afloat and keep their business running.

What happens if you don’t digitally transform?

This pandemic is going to be around for a while whether we like it or not. Just because lockdown orders are lifted doesn’t mean that business will return as usual. The general mindset of people for the year of 2020 is to practice social distancing, staying home and staying healthy. As an individual, these are not bad traits by any part, but for business this will create a huge problem because this will affect market buying and spending behaviour. 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, businesses or individuals alike. We cannot change what has happened, we can only prepare for the worst and being prepared will help you stay on top of your competitors.

Has this article been helpful to you? If so, share this article with people you think might benefit from a read to help them generate ideas or adapt their current strategies. If all this is overwhelming information for you, feel free to get in touch with us for a free consultation to see if there are anything we could help with.

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