FUTURE PROOF: Online strategies for retailers | New Straits Times

LAST week, I wrote about how in order to survive the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers would need to improve their online presence, take good care of their staff and their customers.

This week, I want to elaborate on e-commerce and the kind of content that retailers can consider creating to boost their online offerings.

There are many strategies that could be useful regardless of whether the shop is selling something that’s tangible (e.g. products or food) or provides some kind of service (beauty salon, gym or yoga studio).


If you’re a shop that sells physical products, you should already be online selling your wares. Even if you don’t have your own e-commerce-enabled website, you should at least sell some of your products through platforms like Lazada and Shopee.

But if you want to be serious about e-commerce, you should build your own online store so that you own the customer database and can run your own loyalty programmes.

Online marketplaces, like Lazada and Shopee, can complement your online store and provide additional sales. But your main focus should be your own online store.

If you’re a service-oriented business, it’s less obvious what you can sell online. But even without creating any new products, there are things you can already sell straight away. For example, you can sell gift cards that people can buy for their friends and family. If those gift cards offer a fantastic deal, some people will buy it for themselves.

Offering a really good online deal will help to generate some much-needed cash flow. Notice how AirAsia, for a limited time, offered a year-long unlimited travel deal for RM499.

Those kinds of super deals will get people buying things in advance that they’d use later. For shops that offer services, you can sell gift cards for services that people can redeem later but it has to be a super deal for news about it to become viral.

If you’re serious about the online game, you can’t just rely on selling gift cards. You would need to look into creating some digital products that you can sell. We’re talking about video tutorials.

Yoga studios, gyms, beauticians, hair salons and even restaurants, can all provide video tutorials. This will entail some investment in time and money but if you do this, you’ll suddenly have a new revenue stream that you never had before.

There’ll be the temptation to do it DIY style. This is okay if you’re creating content just for branding and marketing. But if you’re going to sell the video lessons, they need to be properly shot and edited. Maybe not to broadcast quality standards but they can’t be shoddy productions either.

In the short term, you’d probably have to engage someone to help you make these videos. For the long-term, try investing in equipment and training for your staff to learn how to produce decent quality videos in-house.

This Covid-19 crisis has forced many service-oriented companies to very quickly go online. Some have adapted better than others but all have to make online sales a key plank in their business model rather than just an afterthought.


Your online strategy shouldn’t be just for generating online sales. After all, you’ve still got a physical store that needs customers to come in. Content marketing is an effective and cost-efficient way to get your message out so that people will know about your brand and what you have to offer through the online and physical stores.

As a retailer (and not a content creator), it might not be obvious to you what type of content you could create for content marketing purposes. Actually, there are plenty of things you could do just based on the business activity you’re involved in and the people running the business. Here are some ideas.

At its most basic level, you can provide some education or information about the topic you specialise in. For example, you could provide a little history lesson about your area of specialty.

You can also educate them about latest trends and products they might be interested in. If you don’t want to create lessons for sale, you could give them away for free to establish authority on the topic and to generate leads to your physical store.

Entertaining, light-hearted and human-interest content related to your area of specialty and/or to your company is something that will personalise your brand and endear it to the customers. This could include trivia and little-known facts about your company. This would be very easy to do and can be presented as short snippets.

You could also create little “featurettes” about employees so that customers get to know the people involved. If you’re a yoga studio or a gym, you could feature the instructors and let the clients get to know more about their background. If you’re a restaurant, the obvious people to feature are the chefs. If you’re a hair salon, why not feature the hair-stylist?

If you have a store that sells products instead of services, you can always feature the store manager or the one who makes purchasing decisions. They can share with the viewer some insights into how they do their work. If you apply your imagination, there’s tons of content that could be made featuring the people who work in the company.

Increasingly, people do care to know more about the values of the business establishments they choose to spend money on. One thing that resonates with millennials and the urban consumer is sustainability.

Companies and brands are expected to adopt business practices that are environmentally-friendly. So do shout out about how green your business is. It will make a difference for some customers.

In the aftermath of Covid-19, green isn’t enough. Businesses will also have to emphasise just how clean they are. If you sanitise your shop, trolley and baskets regularly, let the world know. Show it on your social media or YouTube channel. Let your customers know the extent you go to in order to provide a hygienic environment for them to shop in.


The last type of content I wish to write about is something called social experience — giving your customers a chance to experience some aspect of the store’s activity even though they’re in the comforts of their homes.

For example, you could provide a live-stream of your activities to give people an insight into what goes in your company. Live-streams allow customers to be a fly on the wall. People are fascinated with live-streams because they’re delivered in real time and there’s no possibility of editing.

Live-streams are also good for times when you have live events. But you should also make short highlights for those who don’t have the time to scroll through a live-stream to look for key moments. Select the moments you wish to share and present an edited version for general public consumption.

Selling stuff online makes a lot of sense. Creating and selling how-to videos is something completely new for retailers but if done right, it could generate some additional revenues.

But even if you don’t fancy creating content for sale, you should create content for branding and marketing purposes. This is the wave of the future and indeed, it’s what you’ll need to do to stand above the crowd and survive during these trying times.

Oon Yeoh is a consultant with experiences in print, online and mobile media. Reach him at [email protected].

— to www.nst.com.my

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