The COVID-19 pandemic might have the whole world on alert, but there are a few groups of people who are actually benefitting from it.
Not everyone or business entity is toast.
The moment the government started issuing stay-at-home directives, business owners in Singapore started looking at the role that the digital economy and internet access plays in the wake of a crisis.
This pandemic didn’t just disrupt the economy – to some; it was a wake-up call on why they should cultivate an all-inclusive digital space.
Ecommerce platform and ICT tools, in general, turned out to be a vital lifeline for individuals to stay in touch with their loved ones, businesses to remain operational, and students to engage in e-learning.
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 didn’t exactly come to wipe out businesses, but to strengthen some – and one of the biggest beneficiaries of this pandemic is the ecommerce sector.
What are the differences between domestic and international marketing?
Domestic marketing identifies your target market as local, Singaporean and targets this local audience by localizing the marketing strategy and delivery.
When we refer to domestic marketing, this places your focus/ priorities on your native market as your consumer base, specifically with the end goal of reaching Singaporean businesses and consumers.
Around the world in most nations, domestic consumers do prefer local brands.
The main reasons for this include:
- In the local Singaporean context, there is a deeply rooted faith and trust in local products and legitimate, non-corrupt legal governance. People here generally share the intuition that the local government is clean and not corrupt or shady with remarkably high standards of integrity, honesty and non-kleptocracy. Civil servants found guilty of corruption such as granting political favours or contractual offers gained via bribery are routinely prosecuted for criminal offences.
- The ease of obtaining redress locally in the event of faulty products or service.
- Enterprises share the general instinct that for products targeting the local market, manufacturers, vendors, producers would have factored in local tastes in order to yield maximum consumer demand in the local market by catering to local tastes, norms, habits, trends, preferences.
Companies that adopt these 3 central tenets and principles and prioritize their execution and realization in business practice, tend to flourish and prosper in domestic marketing contexts.
The challenge that local businesses typically are confronted with is that most businesses are highly localized and lack clout, consumer demand on an international stage.
International marketing remains alien and untested territory, unfamiliar to most of them.
They do not realize that for many companies in various countries, these small and medium enterprises do flourish internationally, size notwithstanding, because they have carved out niche markets abroad.
Do not have the mistaken notion that Singapore-produced goods only work or sell in Singapore contexts. Singaporean services do command brand premiums in both local and international contexts.
However, the general observation is that much of the exports occur incidentally, by random discovery rather than proactive, purposeful marketing on an international scale.
While Singaporeans generally do not have issues with conducting most of our marketing in English, they need to understand that for the specific case of international marketing, successful outreach would involve catering universally to multiple, prolific native languages, cultural nuances, targeting audiences that we lack knowledge in or familiarity with. Also, native platforms such as Flipkart in India or Alibaba in China, or Shopee in Malaysia need to be engaged, understood.
International marketing inherently involves a higher level of risk, complexity, difficulty to confront and overcome.
Some of these include:
- Currency fluctuations
- Native competition
- Marketing, union and trade laws prejudiced towards locals
- Transport and logistics complications
Subsequently, most export-oriented Singaporean enterprises tend to engage middlemen or third-party mediators to perform marketing for them in international contexts.
The upside and benefit of this is resulting large scale market penetration rapidly.
However, the consensus without generalizing is that many Singapore small business marketers tend to miss out on potential market expansion internationally because we lack the sophistication to launch international marketing campaigns.
This owes itself to our tendency to exclude ourselves from participating in international marketing campaigns, learning from them, capitalizing from trial and error experiences to improve and streamline campaign strategies subsequently.
Hence, I would urge marketers to first understand the fundamental marketing basics and internalize these strategies by testing and perfecting their products and services locally before venturing overseas which potentially poses greater risks.
This ultimately proves itself the safer and more conservative option in place of making a series of expensive overseas forays which are unpredictable, riskier and could incur significant losses if random, fortuitous circumstances, situations prove unfavorable for profitable market penetration.
Some Examples of Localising Marketing
The appointment of a local ambassador Phua Chu Kang in Singapore marks yet another milestone for Shopee as it continues to carve out a hyper-localized approach, deepening its engagement with local audiences.
A household name amongst Singaporeans young and old, Phua Chu Kang’s ability to resonate with and appeal to, draw local communities aligns, matches with Shopee’s long-term vision of connecting with Singaporeans – making him a perfect ambassador for Shopee. In his role as local ambassador of Shopee, Phua Chu Kang will work with the e-commerce platform on a wide range of initiatives and campaigns as it heads into the year-end shopping season, aimed at engaging and uplifting users.
For those who are not from ‘Singapore, JB or some say Batam‘, the person is Phua Chu Kang, a fictional character played by actor and comedian Gurmit Singh in sitcom Phua Chu Kang Private Limited.
The show, which aired between 1997 and 2007, was popular in Singapore and maybe nearby Malaysia (which shared a very similar culture). (even Batam as we have met Batam tourists who gush over PCK). Gurmit Singh’s “Don’t play play” became a signature phrase to drop and even a dictionary worthy phrase for Singlish – the Singapore colloquial blend of English language- appealing to domestic Singapore audiences for the recent 9.9 shopping deal day- which truly connects with the average Singaporean with the use of colloquial Singlish. They thus leverage on Phua Chu Kang’s iconic trend setting, Singaporean, highly local status to connect with the average Singaporean.
For Singapore audiences, Nokia offers long battery life for urban workers who have long working hours and quadcore Snapdragon processors for users in Singapore who use Instagram frequently as they might be food bloggers or social media influencers like Jeanette Aw or Elvin Ng who need high resolution cameras to market products they pose with on Instagram like Jeanette Aw modelling Saint Laurent clothes, Loreal makeup or Elvin Ng posing with Mercedes cars, Elvin Ng posing with Vivo smartphone featuring face, thumbprint unlocking access, Benjamin Kheng jamming with Tag Hauer watch prominent on his wrist, Joseph Schooling modelling Hugo Boss clothes etc. Razer’s gaming laptops may be a local conception by Tan Ming Liang but has carved a niche for itself as a lifestyle brand for gamers in gaming, esports communities in Europe, China and the USA and has quarters in Irvine, California to tap gaming talent, ideas, expertise from the USA. Singapore confectionary brand Polar Puffs has also hired Tosh Zhang from Jack Neo’s Boyz2Men films as brand ambassador. Sonia Chew, radio DJ from 98.7fm is a brand ambassador for PUMA, Tag Hauer and most millennial Singaporeans will follow the trends she sets as she is a fashion/music icon.
International marketing, on the other hand, targets overseas markets and does not confine itself to one country, Singapore but goes beyond national borders to go global. For international marketing, marketing activities take place in more than one country. When compared to domestic marketing, international marketing has its own set of challenges. Marketers are generally unaware of the foreign culture, taste, norms, must research overseas markets and adapt their offerings and products to suit the overseas tastes, norms, desires.
Example of international marketing: when McDonalds entered the India market, they did extensive research before refining, fine-tuning the menu on offer for the Indian consumers. The entire menu was tailor made to suit Indian consumer tastes. The company stuck to 40% Pure Vegetarian offering unlike any other overseas market. McDonald’s also made sure to respect Indian culture by not serving beef or pork recipes which on the other hand were popular ingredients in other markets. McDonalds also made sure to create recipes with Indian spices to match the local taste. When MTV adapted to India MTV used Localized programming help to gain wider audience. Thus to enter overseas markets, you must tailor products to suit the overseas tastes, desires, norms of the respective market, like offering more vegetarian options on the menu for McDonalds in India, offering no beef, pork, localizing programming for MTV by using Hindi music, more Hindi, Hindu music. Likewise, McDonalds has offered the Shiok Shiok satay burger, the nasi lemak burger in Singapore to cater to Singaporean tastes, markets. MTV also captured Singapore markets by awarding Jasmine Sokko, a Singaporean singer and electronic music artist the Best Southeast Asia Act at the 2019 MTV EMAs. MTV thus wins Singapore markets by acknowledging Singapore musician Jasmine Sokko as worthy of recognition on an international level. Nokia adapted to Indian markets by providing a Dust resistant phone, anti slip grip and in built flash light for India rural consumer.
For instance, Charles & Keith is a popular brand for footwear, especially women’s footwear with Singaporeans, but by altering styles, tailoring styles to align with international tastes, Charles and Keith has captured the interest of French luxury brand LVMH, behind Dior, Louis Vuitton to invest 20 % in the brand after Charles and Keith branched out into developing bags and accessories, with designs impressing LVMH sufficiently to invest in a 20 % stake in their company. Charles and Keith’s success lay in its design being of sufficient style to capture the interest of French investors, while OSIM captured a niche market- massage chairs for the busy working professional who desires a space to relax, wind down at home. Razer carved a niche for itself as a gaming lifestyle brand offering top-notch gaming laptops, phones and gaming gear of sufficient standards to win cult followings in certain gaming, esports communities.
Hence the key to international marketing in the case of Razer and Charles and Keith is creating products which are of international standards but adding a distinct twist which gives the local product an edge, for Razer it is capturing the hearts of gaming communities with high resolution, high performance gaming laptops and for Charles and Keith it is capturing the imagination of French luxury label LVMH through design and style of sufficient sophistication and flair to engage European markets.
Why domestic marketing is as important as international marketing
International marketing has a higher level of risk and difficulty. Difficulties include: Competition, Legal Restraints, Government Controls, Varied Consumer Behaviour, Ecological factors – Weather etc-.Controlling all the above factors to create a favourable market is next to impossible for the marketers as most of them are beyond their control. Therefore, marketers need to focus more on what they can control. The most controllable aspect is predicting consumer behaviour by researching trends, cultures, tastes in the overseas market and customizing to localize your brand accordingly.
When the Covid-19 emerged, the demands and protests for Protectionism and Nationalism raged, spreading like wildfire, and no government wanted to be perceived by voters as acting overly generous, lax, friendly, hospitable towards immigrants when their own voters were getting retrenched, their roles made redundant, experiencing massive restructuring effects on their rice bowls, and seeing sharp rises in food shortages.
Hence without a doubt, domestic marketing has been raised to dominance and prominence subsequently.
It is more cost effective and expedient to adapt, conform to a changing economic landscape and commercial environment which turns rapidly, overwhelmingly virtual and the turnaround and supply chain fulfilment is expedited by turning towards local transport and logistics networks.
Hence to most businesses, the domestic market represents rapid and instant cashflow to offset the significant losses incurred by the pandemic. It is a matter of mere survival and prolonging the tenure of business rather than reaping lavish profits we saw in recent, more prosperous times.
Unfortunately, unlike the large countries in the world, Singapore does not possess a large hinterland, with our small population.
The problem then becomes the low threshold, capacities for demand due to the limited market size. And this is exacerbated by the fact that many consumers are suffering from severe economic tragedies, pain, financial disaster and decimations due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The apparent large-scale consolidation of businesses and jobs does not trickle down to the small and medium enterprises and ordinary folk, with the winners seizing larger shares in a shrinking market pool. With the government reducing the JSS to 10% for most industries except the travel, hospitality, F&B sectors – that consolidation is likely to be accelerating in 4Q this year.
Domestic marketing is as important as international marketing because the chances of success in domestic marketing are much higher as domestic marketers typically understand the local market as they live, grew up in that specific Singaporean market. OSIM for instance is renowned for its healthy lifestyle products like massage chairs and blood pressure monitors but typically taps on local celebrities like Jack Neo as Liang Po Po to market its massage armchairs to connect with Singaporean audiences as they know Liang Po Po from Channel 8 variety shows. OSIM has found success in Asian markets as the OSIM massage chairs, massagers, and health monitors are popular with busy hardworking Asian families who desire a space to wind down and get a massage after hectic work at home rather than taking the trouble to visit a spa to get a massage.
How has the domestic marketing scene changed/pivoted due to Covid-19
Challenges arising from this outbreak are likely to accelerate the use of existing and new technologies and tools. Nielsen’s Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behaviour (March 2020) survey found that a new digital norm has emerged.
1 in 3 consumers in Singapore (37%) have increased their online shopping activities, and 3 in 4 (76%) indicated that they will not return to the same levels of online shopping before the outbreak.
“The convenience and accessibility to products online, especially during COVID-19, have not only increased existing online shoppers’ spend but also converted many offline shoppers to online. This trend is unlikely to return to pre-COVID status,” observes Garick Kea, Executive Director of Consumer Insights at Nielsen.
COVID-19 drove higher penetration of online shopping for FMCG products (personal care, home care, beverages, packaged food) as 7 in 10 consumers are shopping online to stock their pantry, and this behaviour is likely to continue even when the pandemic ends.
The penetration of users venturing into e-commerce will continue to rise. Nielsen’s COVID-19 dipstick in March 2020 found that 69% of people surveyed who bought household goods online for the first time during COVID-19 will do so again in the next 12 months.
Among non-FMCG products, the electronic durables category had the highest increase (+6%) in online purchases after the outbreak. On the other hand, 8 in 10 consumers purchased school and office supplies offline.
Understandably, there has been a significant reduction in non-FMCG purchases online compared to FMCG products, as consumers prioritize more essential products.
More consumers bought packaged and mineral water (27%) and functional drinks (24%) to keep healthy. Across the different food products, consumers purchased frozen (24%) and instant foods (26%) most often. Conversely, people bought raw food (12%) the least often during COVID-19 as consumers prefer foods that can be kept for a longer time, instead of perishables.
Current Consumer Trends to Take Advantage of
It’s a rough patch for entrepreneurs already. Many of them are struggling to stay afloat while a few have already thrown in the towel, with no idea of what to do next.
While the condition isn’t conducive for business, a few opportunities still exist to not only tide you through this crisis but to make you stronger.
It bears repeating that ecommerce consumption is experiencing a boom, and that’s the first opportunity that you wouldn’t want to ignore.
More Consumption Trends Have Emerged after Covid-19
Statista recently conducted a survey that went on to show how online grocery and non-grocery purchases have significantly gone up. Confirming this are companies such as Mothercare Singapore and Luiga, both of whom agree online sales have spiked up.
Luiga even goes a step further to suggest their online sales have been sufficient enough to offset their brick and mortar losses.
With many Singaporeans now at home, it’s only natural that groceries and health food products such as vitamins will be among the best performing product items. Also performing are home care products, as well as products that help people to work better at home (products such as webcams, monitors, and home office furniture).
The more people spend time at home, the more they would want to bring in more home activities that they didn’t normally do at home. A typical example is fitness and sports, with ecommerce retailers for gym equipment, such as Gymsportz.sg, seeing significant increases in demand. They have even been forced so many times to put some orders on hold and clear an existing backlog first.
Categories with enormous potential to also see an increase in demand include hobbies and toys, with many families now turning to board games or craftwork as pass-time or to bond with one another.
Backing this up is a recent report on Google search interest this year. According to the report, the interest people have in board games has spiked twice since the Covid-19 outbreak.
- The first one was in February when the government (Singapore’s government) raised the DORSCON (the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) level to orange.
- The second one was in April after the government announced the Circuit Breaker.
Will Online Sales Surpass General Merchandise Sales?
The global Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a nose-dive in market indices, worldwide recession, and widespread bankruptcies.
Yet, the same destruction has created opportunities for innovative players.
This begs the question, what businesses have been destroyed, and which ones have emerged even stronger?
While industries such as Tourism and airlines are hard to forecast, some of these industries, including the ecommerce industry, are a snap to predict.
Ever since the internet was invented, ecommerce has been consistently nibbling the market share of the brick and mortar industry.
For the first time in the US, online sales managed to beat general merchandise sales in February 2019.
According to eMarketer, ecommerce sales managed to hit $700 billion in 2020, a significant improvement from the $600 billion sales made in 2019. That’s 14.5% of the total retail sales made in the US.
If the trend continues, then it’s projected that ecommerce shares will be accounting for 15.5% of the total retail sales made in 2022.
It’s no surprise that Amazon’s stock price soared instead of plummeting (at 66%). It’s the same case with eBay, which managed to rise by 55% since the year started.
Coming back home, ecommerce sales for six largest markets in Southeast Asia (with a total population of 570 million people) surpassed the $100 billion-mark last year – according to economy Southeast Asia’s report of 2019.
The internet economy of most Southeast Asian countries has been growing at a steady rate of 20 to 30%, save for Vietnam and Indonesia that have been growing at over 40% per year.
Online shopping didn’t just soar in Singapore, but worldwide following lockdowns and the fact that it was no longer possible for people to carry on their usual brick and mortar shopping.
In Singapore, this Covid-19 crisis triggered a shift in consumers’ behaviour, thus spurring the country’s digital economy by an additional US500 million, with some businesses experiencing three times their normal growth.
Social and Personalised Shopping Experiences
Another common shopping trend in 2020 is the customers’ preference for more social and personalised shopping experiences. For this, Shopee has been working on offering an all-rounded shopping experience through innovative features, exciting campaigns, and interactive engagement.
Their feed plays a crucial role in their attempt to integrate social elements into their online shopping experiences. Through this feature, shoppers can share their listing or content on what they’re buying or selling to their friends and families or with other community members, and even ask for real-time reviews from previous customers, as well as updates from brands and sellers.
They would also go on to launch a series of shop-from-home campaigns, with which they hoped will help users leverage the convenience of doing their shopping from home.
Lastly, they also managed to implement additional support measures that they have been using to manage supply and demand and to make sure essential items remain accessible to all.
How Covid-19 Is Impacting the Ecommerce Sector in Singapore
To sum up everything, the Covid-19 pandemic turbocharged what was already the fastest-growing ecommerce market in the Asia-Pacific region. At its current rate of growth, the ecommerce sales in Singapore are expected to increase to a staggering $10 billion in 2020.
One would also expect the traditional retail sector to experience a downward spiral. But, as it turns out, the retail sector has experienced a 56% growth rate in sales for hypermarkets and supermarkets and a 9% spike for minimarts and convenience stores.
This crisis has also seen to it that the shares of the third-largest supermarket chain, Sheng Siong, rise by a good 39%, as RedMart (an online grocery service owned by Lazada) registers 11 times more unique visitors per day.
Hypermarkets and grocery stores aren’t the only thriving sectors in the country’s post-COVID retail landscape.
In May alone, the ecommerce sector registered a blistering growth rate of 125%. It also went on to account for a record high of 25% of the total $1.8 billion retail sales made within the month.
Challenges domestic marketing scene is facing amidst a pandemic
The Singapore economy contracted by 13.2 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter.
Earlier news reported that Singapore downgraded its annual growth forecasts as the economy faces the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ministry of Trade and Industry estimated an annual gross domestic product (GDP) to between -7% and -5%, down from its initial growth projections of 0.5% to 2.5% (forecasted in 2019)
We foresee that many traditional domestic marketing avenues will be adversely affected, these include newspaper, outdoor, bus posters and bus shelter advertisements as at least half the population continue to Work from Home and divert their attentions to a very wide range of media that matches their personal interests.
These media distribute, foreground, embed digital advertising serviced by Google, Facebook, TikTok, and channel programmed internet algorithms and a whole host of online, virtual channels.
Thus, traditional sales channels in the business have ceased to be relevant or viable. For example, you cannot call the main line asking for the decision maker anymore, because in the past the receptionist might pass the call along but now that decision maker may be working from home, this is no longer a viable option.
- Trade shows are effectively cancelled for the year so that publicity is essentially decimated, eliminated overwhelmingly.
- Physical door-to-door visits have ceased relevance. The stringent SafeEntry and fear of receiving infected guests has effectively eliminated this avenue.
- Mailers are not eliminated but incredibly difficult to execute. It had been tedious, labor intensive and of low impact or barely profitable prior to Covid-19 but we think it has been vanquished because people hardly check their postal mail. The only justification for businesses to check mail is to receive cheques but we observe most transactions have already shifted to online platforms, virtual repositories.
Hence, we do surmise that most advertising and business networking have moved online – permanently in fact, following Covid-19.
On a side note, we do observe that even though most businesses are highly aware of the points I made earlier, they are slashing advertising budgets overall. It looks like many apart from the healthcare and FMCG sectors are taking an extremely cautious approach, playing a wait-and-see game, spending more as the markets gradually open because of the need for cash preservation. We cannot really blame them because even though governments are publicly conjecturing that mass vaccinations will be available mid-2021 to early-2022, a lot of things may happen before the vaccine launch; and survival is the name of the game. It is no longer about reaping significant profits but a matter of mere survival for private enterprises in this barren, brutal economic fallout.
According to the ministry, among the sectors that are likely to receive the most impact include manufacturing, wholesale and retail, tourism, transportation, accommodation, and food and beverage industries.
Following its remarkable performance in 2019, the accommodation and food service sector are presumed to slow-down amidst the sharp turn in tourism and the imposing of travel restrictions in the city.
Change in Consumer Behaviours
The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted consumer behaviour. According to a recent study conducted by Nielsen, the challenges arising from the Covid-19 outbreak accelerated the use of both new and existing ecommerce tools.
This study went on to prove how the Covid-19 outbreak was setting a new digital norm.
According to the study, about 37% of consumers in Singapore have increased the rate at which they were shopping online, with 76% indicating that they won’t go back to their traditional shopping ways after the outbreak.
With this, we can conclusively say online shopping is becoming the new normal.
The convenience and accessibility of online shopping during this crisis has not only increased the number of online shoppers but also converted a good chunk of offline shoppers to online shoppers.
So, will the trend return to normal after COVID?
At the time of writing this, about 76% of shoppers that made the switch have already confirmed they plan to continue with their new online trends.
This pandemic also increased the online penetration rate for FMCG products (beverages, home care, packaged food, and personal care). 7 out of 10 consumers now rely on online shopping to stock their pantry, a behaviour that’s thought to continue even after this pandemic ends.
The number of users that shop online is also expected to continue rising. According to Nielsen’s post-COVID-19 dipstick, 69% of the people that purchase products online for the first time promised to do that again.
Among the non-FMCG products that people bought online, electronics recorded the highest increase in the number of online purchases made after the Covid-19 outbreak. Office and school supplies, on the other hand, had the lowest increase, with 8 in every 10 consumers opting for offline purchases.
Understanding, non-FMCG products recorded a significant reduction in online purchases compared to FMCG products. That’s because consumers prioritise essential products.
About 27% of the consumers bought mineral and packaged water, whereas 24% opted for functional drinks.
As for food products, 24% of the customers purchased frozen food, and 26% bought instant foods most often.
Raw food was purchased the least (at 12%) since consumers prefer foods that they can store for longer, not perishable foods.
Consumers still flock to physical stores to stock their pantries. Consequently, hypermarkets and FMCG retailers are advised to come up with omnichannel strategies that reduce out-of-stock incidences, both offline and online.
How Covid-19 Has Impacted the Retail Landscape
One of the leading ecommerce platforms Shopee also experienced a change in consumers’ shopping behaviour. Their shopping experience became more social and personalised.
In another data report as published by Sea Group, there was a 40% screen-time increase in the number of users that clocked the app after Covid-19 erupted. That would also see to it that the transaction volume also increases during the circuit breaker.
As one would expect, surgical masks became one of the bestselling commodities at the time. There was also a surge in demand for non-perishable food, essential household items, and beverage products.
More and more customers also started flocking these stores for furniture items and computer peripherals. Pretty obviously, these purchases were a direct result of people setting up their home offices.
Suffice it to say this pandemic has supercharged ecommerce adoption in Singapore.
Shopee is one of the ecommerce stores that saw the opportunity in this crisis. So, instead of just waiting for customers to come and find them, they decided to make it their mission to reel them in.
They started by introducing in-app entertainment, where they try to make things a little bit fun for their customers to get them to engage with them. Players are rewarded with coins that they can exchange for cashback or use to get price reductions on their orders.
Their suite of in-app games is designed to capture attention and boost engagement. For example, those playing Shopee Farm water their plant, as well as their friends’ plants, and in the process get to accumulate points that they can afterward redeem for cashback and price deductions, as we mentioned.
Shopee took a different approach to its reward system. Instead of offering a one-time reward, they focused on rewarding their users for their long-term effort. Since the year started, their games have been played 1.6 billion times in Indonesia and over 60 million times in Singapore.
Examples of brands which did well in their domestic marketing
Leading the list is Southeast Asian e-commerce platform Qoo10, and its competitor Shopee also fares well in the top ten. Personal care brands are also popular among COVID-19 worriers, such as Dettol and L’Oreal; as are packaged food brands like Nissin and Enfragrow. COVID-19 worriers are also much more likely to buy from big QSR brands like McDonald’s and KFC. The list is completed with Singaporean video-on-demand service MEWATCH and delivery service Ninja Van.
The brand that has had the biggest uptake in its Current Customer score since the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore however has been disinfectant brand Dettol. On the date of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Singapore, Dettol’s Current Customer score stood at +27.3, but within a month (on 27 February 2020), it had peaked at +44.0 – indicating a jump of 16.7 points.
Though Dettol has been popular with Singaporeans as a whole recently, data shows that it is most popular amongst older Singaporeans in particular. While only a third (33%) of the Singaporean population is over the age of 55, they make up two in five (40%) Dettol customers. A similar trend ia also been with those aged 45 to 54 (19% vs. 23%).
Ervin Ha, Head of Data Products for YouGov APAC commented: “As many companies begin to struggle due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, some brands are able to grow their businesses in this difficult time. Brands that are able to provide services in line with global guidelines on how to contain the virus, such as practicing good hygiene, or simply keeping people entertained and fed at home, are the ones who stand out in these trying times.”
The future of domestic marketing post Covid-19
With events and gatherings being cancelled, the increasing barriers on in-person meetings, businesses across all industries bearing the brunt of COVID-19, and no sign when we can start up again, digital marketing is going to be the clear winner here.
A key to resilience is the development of ongoing contingencies to prevent this loss and in this situation, it most likely means moving into social media marketing, content marketing, SEO and SEM campaigns. The same holds true for businesses who have been slow to adapt to digital marketing.
If it is standard in your business to go out and meet potential customers, adapting could mean opening new channels over social media or hosting virtual events where introductions can be made, and relationships established. It could be your most feasible option in times when your prospects are less open to the idea of meeting with you and shaking your hands.
Most people prefer to stay at home and purchase their goods online. After all, online shopping is safer than shopping in person. Thanks to the increasing number of online shoppers in Singapore, e-commerce remains to be one of the most successful forms of transactions currently.
This could be a particularly important turning point for Singapore businesses.
While previously digital marketing was seen by many as catering towards the younger consumers, the tech savvy and the mobile, with the pandemic, it is now seen as something necessary, something critical.
We are seeing a whole new level of interest in digital marketing as even traditional ones start to experiment and invest in it. They are hiring digital marketers, practicing, experimenting and fiddling with the different aspects of digital marketing, after observing it may provide good sustainable returns before investing more funds for potential returns.
Hence, the good news is that post-Covid we are likely to see Singaporean businesses more attuned to digital marketing and channeling their knowledge, products, sales targeting towards the broader international markets.
We think that this will likely internationalize the Singapore business and make us better equipped for our government touted open trade, borderless economy.
And that leads to economic gains, sustainable profits for our small island-state in the long run.
It may be harsh, brutal, horrific, deadly. It resembles overhauling the existing economic infrastructure to incubate a new, more equitable, sustainable economic model. But perhaps that might be the only light at the end of the ghoulish, deadly pandemic tunnel and the concomitant economic fallout and restructuring it initiates and makes necessary.
Government Initiatives to ease COVID fallout for businesses
SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Resilience (STEER) Programme
This programme will support funds with the aim of helping businesses tide over the challenges arising from COVID-19, and to push on with transformation efforts in preparation for the economic recovery.
Supportable uses of the fund include grants for business sustenance, business growth, and capability upgrading.
Valid from 3 March 2020 to 2 March 2021.
Jobs Support Scheme
Under the JSS, the Government co-funds between 25% to 75% of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages1 paid to each local employee in a 10-month period (up to Aug 2020) and 10% to 50% of the same in the subsequent 7-month period (Sep 2020 to Mar 2021)
Employers will receive five Updated main JSS payouts in Apr 2020, Jul 2020, Oct 2020, Mar 2021, and Jun 2021, with an additional special payout in May 2020.
While the subsidies are based on a percentage of employees’ monthly wages, employers have the flexibility to allocate the subsidies for their businesses, as necessary.
Read more about government grants here.
Challenges faced by Singapore Businesses
For Singapore SMEs, growth can be challenging if limited to the domestic market. “With relative proximity to, and the considerable potential market size of countries such as China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, overseas expansion is seen as a logical next step for SMEs – particularly those who have already accomplished sustainable scale in their home market,” Andrew Hare, Managing Director – Asia, Aon Inpoint explains.
Aon Inpoint’s 2019 SME Insurance Survey shows that around half of the polled firms are considering expanding overseas. Over 60 percent of companies with less than $7.4 million (S$10 million) turnover already have an international footprint, while only a quarter of companies with sub-million-dollar turnover operate beyond Singapore.
However, international expansion is difficult for many SMEs. “To achieve sustainable growth on a regional and global scale, SMEs in Singapore need to mitigate new risks in new territories through risk transfer such as insurance and explore financing options to boost their expansion plans,” says Hare.
“But it is difficult for business owners to find time to consider and implement new ideas beyond managing the challenges of day-to-day business, let alone ways to increase capital to further business operations offshore,” he adds.
Creative financing and safeguarding capital
Cash flow and liquidity is another concern identified by SMEs in Singapore, indicating that more can be done. A lack of capital is a major challenge for SMEs to adapt and innovate, with Aon’s study finding that more than 60 percent of SMEs are seeking external financing via bank loans to help with cash flow financing and power their growth plans.
Lending data shows that the relaxation of restrictions by the Monetary Authority of Singapore has led to several SME financing companies, including Grab – which has recently made a foray into the lending business, setting up business in Singapore to help these enterprises with cash flow financing.
As with most areas of business, there are risks related to cash flow and liquidity that should be mitigated for optimal business operations. This can be done with the help of credit solutions such as trade credit insurance.
Another challenge is the decline of retail with brick and mortar stores facing demise in the face of safe distancing measures and erratic public transport such as train breakdowns. F& B outlets face similar challenges. Digitization of businesses, turning to ecommerce, food delivery is the likely solution, as department stores like Metro, BHG, Isetan go online and restaurants like Crystal Jade, Soup restaurant, Domino’s Pizza, Mos Burgers, Pizza Hut, Jack’s Place go on grab food, Deliveroo, food panda.
What Can Shopping Malls Do to Stay in Business?
In a study conducted by Euromonitor, 47% of digital commerce sales in the Asia Pacific region were made via marketplaces in 2018. Shopping Malls are the physical versions of online marketplaces, considering there’ll be multiple vendors selling from a single location.
Taking this into account, the only way shopping malls can stay relevant during this crisis would be to move their businesses online. They can set up a digital marketplace where they can invite all their vendors and have an online extension of their business.
Pursuing an offline to online digital strategy will not only add a new distribution channel for mall vendors; it’s also a great way to cushion sales losses.
You can start by targeting consumers who are regular and loyal to your shopping mall. Their products will be delivered right where they are, saving them the trouble of mingling with a crowd and risking to catch the virus.
It’s been said, “life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
Any retailer or shopping mall vendor or owner that does not want to embrace online commerce will soon be left behind or be kicked out of business. Their only option is to step up and disrupt or watch as their business gets disrupted.
The Covid-19 crisis has led to the loss of human lives, destroyed jobs, and ruined so many businesses and people’s livelihoods, but it’s not without a silver lining.
The creative destruction has spurred innovations, with innovative technology replacing existing technology, thus helping to ensure resources are reallocated more efficiently.
The COVID–19 pandemic has caused loss of human lives and destroyed jobs, but there is a silver lining to the crisis.
The ensuing creative destruction will likely spur innovation, as innovative technologies will replace existing technologies and thus resources will be more efficiently reallocated by the market.
MediaOne was interviewed by Money FM 89.3
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