Big wins for small businesses: Supercharging growth with online content

SMBs can also look at using technology to creatively engage with consumers through a combination of shopping and entertainment.

Seventy million – that is the number of micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that operate in Southeast Asia today. These businesses play a crucial role in contributing to Southeast Asia’s economic growth by also employing over 140 million people in the region. 

Yet, many of them struggled with substantial losses in sales and revenue due to the economic conditions and lockdowns that have taken place over the past few years. They were challenged in keeping up with engaging the consumer – including facing lower customer volumes at physical stores to forced closures due to high rent and low revenues.

However, not all has been lost. The region has become increasingly dynamic over the last three years. With more than half of Southeast Asia’s population under the age of 30, the rapid adoption of technology has not only contributed to a rising middle class but also the evolution of a mobile-first consumer – something SMBs can consider as they re-evaluate how they engage with customers for recovery and growth.

Engaging and entertaining the consumer through online platforms

Recent technological advances have reshaped the way consumers make choices. Technology is no longer viewed for just business continuity, innovation of processes, or remote work, it also allows businesses to connect with consumers throughout the decision-making process. SMBs looking to re-engage with audiences can consider utilising their existing tech resources to redesign the way they conduct outreach on their products.

One way to kickstart this process is to explore marketing and advertising beyond the confines of magazines and billboards by using social and content platforms. SMBs can take a page out of shoppable live stream experiences – a format that has taken the stage across the marketing world globally, allowing brands to interact with consumers from anywhere in real-time. It has also inspired new initiatives – from collaborations with popular creators to live fashion shows (e.g., Balmain), and even global LIVE virtual tours of museums.

SMBs can also look at using technology to creatively engage with consumers through a combination of shopping and entertainment. This is what we, at TikTok, like to call shoppertainment – a marketing strategy that is redefining the consumer path to purchase. Brands such as Pure Foods in Thailand have successfully grown over 30,000 followers with over 100,000 likes in just three months with videos that show consumers how to cook delicious menus with their food condiments.

These instances are just some of many that highlight the growing impact technology has on engaging with the consumer, and consumers’ optimism and enthusiasm for marketing innovation by businesses they resonate with.

Authenticity is key, bridging the gap between a business and consumer

Another consideration that SMBs need to pay attention to is building credibility with their customers. Over 72 percent of consumers globally believe that reviews and testimonials submitted by previous customers are more credible than the brand sharing about their own products in their content. In other words, beyond getting online, SMBs need to humanise their brand experience with personable social content, such as sneak previews of products being manufactured, experiences, and testimonials submitted by customers and creators about the brand or product, or employee behind-the-scenes footage to boost consumer intimacy.

Many of us may have experienced this with brands or seen this take shape via witty responses to comments, regular re-posts of fun user-generated content (UGCs), and honest conversations with followers during live streams. In fact, TikTok has increasingly become the go-to place for brands to authentically engage with consumers, and we have seen that 43 percent of users try something or go somewhere new after seeing it on the platform. South Korea’s cosmetic brand, Alive Lab, and Thailand’s beauty and wellness company, Fondokmai, ride on these trends to engage and reach a broader consumer base. Both brands regularly create content to feature new product launches, sales, giveaways, or even to explain the use of their products to keep in touch with existing and prospective customers online.

This only goes to show that taking a more open, authentic and even playful approach to producing content on products and services via social media or online content platforms will provide success for SMBs in engaging the consumer today.

Tapping into the power of entertainment commerce

A good place to start creating these joyful, entertaining, and authentic experiences would be to keep the latest consumer trends in view. In fact, a recent study conducted by Flamingo, highlighted how 61 percent of TikTok users liked brands better when they participated in trends such as hashtags, trending challenges, and songs.  By reviewing the latest trends, businesses could identify opportunities to insert themselves into ongoing discussions to open up avenues for themselves to engage with new audiences while providing them with the ability to discover their products.

Brands across Southeast Asia are already jumping on board some of the fast-growing segments on TikTok including gaming (+193 percent YoY), travel (+545 percent YoY), and education (+148 percent YoY). Furthermore, hashtags like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt have also since been viewed 12.8 billion times worldwide as of May. Businesses can leverage these opportunities to creatively reach out to the online shopping community whilst spurring consumers to discover their brand, engage and purchase, and eventually create their own organic product reviews about their recent purchases.

It is remarkable to see how technology has equalised the marketing and advertising opportunity for businesses to date. With all the diverse and creative formats out there, any brand can involve, connect, and engage the massive audience base currently available in today’s digital ecosystem – one just needs to be aware of and empowered to leverage said formats to fuel growth that they can be proud of. In other words, the possibilities for more are endless and there’s simply no business too small to dream bigger, better, and bolder.