Quick action helps firms seize opportunity in crisis

Quick action helps firms seize opportunity in crisis

E-commerce platforms present an opportunity for digital transformation to make business sustainable.
E-commerce platforms present an opportunity for digital transformation to make business sustainable.

The coronavirus outbreak is a driving force for innovation and digital transformation among private operators, says the Southeast Asia Center (SEAC), a leadership education institute.

"During the Covid-19 outbreak, there are many case studies that demonstrate how businesses of any size can cope in order to survive, and the most successful cases have turned crisis into opportunity," said Arinya Talerngsri, managing director of the SEAC.

Many successful use cases have occurred this year in comparison with 3-4 years ago, particularly in China, where the outbreak originated.

During the outbreak, Chinese cosmetics firm Lin Qingxuan was severely affected with declining demand and retail disruption. Half of its stores closed and sales fell 90%.

The company's executives saw it as an opportunity for digital transformation to make the business sustainable, Ms Arinya said.

The firm then geared up for social media engagement by using e-commerce platforms DingTalk and Taobao to reach out to customers. It distributed discount coupons and proceeded with live streaming to recommend products to customers.

The company also used mobile apps to build customer relationships and train shopping advisers to cater to customer services online, Ms Arinya said.

Through the business transformation, the firm reported sales of 400,000 bottles of camellia oil during Valentine's Day. The sales from one adviser in two hours was reported to be tantamount to the volume sold at four retail stores during normal periods.

"Lin Qingxuan intended to undergo digital transformation many years ago, but this crisis made them change faster," Ms Arinya said.

In the US, food truck Guerrilla Tacos was forced to shut in the wake of the outbreak. It then gauged customers' opinions on what they needed and found it was toilet paper and eggs.

Guerrilla rolled out a so-called emergency taco kit, which includes tacos, eggs and toilet paper. Delivery service is provided.

The kits sold well as management fine-tuned its business to cater to customer needs, which helped the company survive, Ms Arinya said.

"This case reflects that the company heeds customer needs first," she said. The company sourced the information from its customer database and Facebook page before offering a good experience for customers.

Another case is luxury brand Louis Vuitton, which switched to supplying 10 million masks a week and leveraged some of its perfume production facility to manufacture hand sanitiser.

The move came after revenue dropped 10-20% during the crisis and some of its shops shut down.

It's a good example of how a traditional and conservative company can move fast to attract customer attention, Ms Arinya said.

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