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Firms going digital amid pandemic

THE MARKET has seen an increase in smaller businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, with most firms tapping digital platforms to reach their customers.

Lazada Philippines said some of its merchants have seen a sizeable increase in sales as they used the platform amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“During COVID, we have 2.5 times more in daily sales than we had back in February… A fresh seller [logged] 2.3 times increase in sales since onboarding in May. Another seller… who on-boarded in 2017… (has seen) sales that were three times higher,” Lazada Philippines’ chief executive officer Ray Alimurung said during BusinessWorld’s Virtual Economic Forum on Wednesday, citing in-house data.

Mr. Alimurung said the e-commerce platform started offering fresh goods, such as meat, fruit, vegetables, and fish to respond to consumer needs during the height of a government-mandated lockdown.

Lazada also recently enhanced its livestream platforms, with new programs such as a “Price Is Right” — inspired guessing contest and a singing competition, he said.

“We noticed that customers want to engage online and so we allowed brands to actively engage customers real-time,” he said, adding one brand got about 10,000 views per livestream.

The company also enabled digital donations through its For Good program, which has raised over P39 million to help local communities, Mr. Alimurung said.

The restrictions due to the pandemic led to the rise of independent sellers who primarily operate on social media, Ninja Van Philippines country manager Martin Cu said during the same forum.

“We’ve seen a real emergence of micro-SMEs (small- and-medium sized enterprises), small shippers, independent shippers who sell mainly on social (media) or are doing this as a hobby. I think all this time at home and the shutdown of retail businesses had forced people to find a new outlet,” Mr. Cu said.

To streamline the movement of essential goods during the start of the lockdown, Ninja Van Philippines opened same day delivery services for their business partners, Mr. Cu said.

Digitalization is one of the “mega-trends” driving growth among businesses, said Holcim Philippines Senior Vice-President for Marketing and Innovation Ramakrishna Maganti, as the pandemic has pushed firms to go online.

Mr. Maganti said some of the digital solutions Holcim is currently using include the remote tracking of equipment health, statistical demand forecasting, and using an online customer portal to connect with clients. — A.Y. Yang

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