Since the middle of March, the Philippines has been on strict lockdown measures. A quarter of the year has flown by, but the watchword has not changed: adapt to survive. One of the biggest trends in business to come out of this pandemic is the need to use digital tools to adapt to the lockdown reality.
While ports were closed and transportation was at a standstill, many businesses have scrambled to adjust to remote workers and skeleton crews. Many have either shut down operations, or struggled to put measures in place to allow for continued work.
If you’re lucky, your business has embraced the digital age prior to the start of the crisis, and you’ve weathered the COVID-19 storm, if not well, at least without significant losses. Congratulations--you’re poised to make the most of this challenging time, and if you continue to play your cards right, you can look forward to a leaping forward post-pandemic.
If not, don’t fret. It’s never too late to start harnessing the tools of the digital world to make sure your losses are minimized. Taking steps now to integrate online and automated tools will arrest your declining revenue and even help you accelerate your growth once the economy improves.
Here are a few ways you can use digital tools to adapt to the lockdown reality.
#1: Bring Your Business Online
Over the course of the last few months, it may be a given to provide your products or services online. For many products, sales are easily moved online through the use of digital tools like:
- Dedicated online stores through tools like WordPress and WooCommerce or Shopify
- Online marketplaces like Shopee, Lazada, or Carousell
- Facebook Pages with Messenger chatbots
Service industries may find more challenges in translating their business online, but it’s not impossible. Many gyms, fitness trainers, and instructors have shifted to providing online classes and exercises, allowing patrons to continue or purchase subscriptions. Online coaching and tutoring have become mainstream.
This boom in online shopping and services is possible through a steadily improving digital infrastructure locally. More consumers are becoming accustomed to online payment platforms and e-Wallets, like Paypal and Payoneer, with many local players in the latter industry such as PayMaya and GCash.
#2: Dive into Digital Marketing
Accepting online orders is just a first step. Now, more than ever, is the best time to lean into digital marketing. Everyone is online, online consumption is up even as we stay in the safety of our homes.
This translates to cheaper rates for online advertising in places like Facebook and Google, which is always a good thing when testing out the waters in online advertising. But don’t limit yourself to paid advertising methods to boost your marketing.
Consider the following:
- A well-managed online presence on social media platforms improves your branding and allows current and potential customers to connect with you easily.
- Content is king: in this climate of increased media consumption, having interesting content organically shared among your target market is free advertising.
- It sounds old-school, but it isn’t: email is still alive and strong, and an engaging newsletter can boost your brand as well as sell your offerings.
- Conversational marketing is in, especially with the proliferation of hyperlocal marketplaces. Leverage messaging applications and platforms like Facebook, Viber, and Whatsapp for a personal connection to your customers, and adopt chatbots to manage volume.
#3: Take Advantage of Automation
There’s only so many hours in the day. Don’t let inability to handle the volume of orders stop you from taking on more. It’s important to a rapidly-growing business to look into the benefits of automating as many tasks as possible.
Reserve complex tasks and tasks that require human intuition to you and your staff. These may include tasks ranging from business strategy to customer care for VIPs or challenging cases.
But for the rest, look into ways to automate these tasks using available online tools, such as:
- Online calendar scheduling tools to manage you and your team’s schedule,
- Project management and collaboration tools to keep track of project timelines and deliverables,
- Automated order-taking using chatbots,
- Scheduled drip marketing using online mailing list services to engage and retarget customers,
- Invoicing and billing software to manage recurrent billing and financial information,
- Customer relationship management software to make sure you’re taking care of your valuable clients,
- And so on.
#4: Cultivate Your Remote Office Culture
Many businesses have shifted to work from home practices while strict quarantines were in place. Some have retained full staff, while others have cut down on working hours to stave off the decreased revenue.
Regardless of the state of your workforce, just because your staff are out of sight, don’t let them be out of your mind. Cultivating the right remote office culture is important to retain and motivate your staff to continue doing their best past the challenges of the lockdown reality.
Even without the current crisis at hand, there are many advantages to remote working. You may be able to continue to reap the benefits of remote working even after the pandemic, if you take the time to create a mutually beneficial culture for the business and your staff.
Managing your staff remotely doesn’t have to be problematic with the right collaboration tools, such as online project management software, shared workspaces, attendance tracking, and video conferencing. However, resist the idea that your staff don’t work when you’re not watching them: you hired them for a reason, and now it’s time to trust them to do their jobs.
There is no one-size-fits all solution for transforming your business to take advantage of digital tools. It will take careful consideration of what your business needs, as well as picking the right tool for the right job.
However, now is the best time to get started improving your business. While many businesses are struggling, this is also a time for businesses to thrive and adjust as we work towards raising the economy again.
The move to digitize your business is an investment that will bring long term benefits to your bottom line. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme--but if it’s a reliable, stable business you’re after, going digital can certainly accelerate your growth sustainably.