On the 17th of March 2020, just about two months back, the Malaysian government announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) to be effective immediately.
Malaysia went under a full lockdown that night, and just when it felt like COVID-19 was not going to affect us, it did.
If you're reading this, you are most likely at home, locked down to help flatten the curve. And here's a big kudos to you and millions of others who are helping the world fight this pandemic by doing their part!
However, staying at home isn't what most had in mind when we celebrated the start of 2020.
Especially considering how the first quarter is the most crucial for businesses. 2020 was supposed to be about breakthroughs; instead, we got a (virus) breakout.
"You must improvise, adapt and overcome" - Conor McGregor.
We must analyse and learn from this situation if we want to overcome it, so without further ado, here are three crucial lessons our business has learnt from this pandemic:
1. Shut Down - Never put all your eggs in one basket.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, people immediately went into a buying frenzy; supermarkets ran out of food, restaurants closed down, and so did all the physical stores for house appliances and electronics.
All businesses that depended solely on their physical outlets, have faced the biggest setbacks as the lockdown forced all businesses to shutdown, and advised everyone to stay indoors.
Businesses who had online stores were able to quickly reallocate resources and push customers to purchase through their online channels.
Lesson 1: Never underestimate or postpone channel diversification for your business. Building up multiple sources to reach your customers is the key to risk aversion in crucial times such as this.
2. Essentials First - Bread and butter always sell.
During the first two weeks of the MCO, there was one key switch in consumer behaviour: People's mindset changed from a "Want" mode to a "Need" mode.
This has not changed two months down the line. Along with the MCO, we are now also in the month of Ramadan, where traditionally, most Muslim families like to stock up on food and home essentials to be able to prepare for the month-long fasting period.
Grocery delivery service, Happy Fresh, is booked for months in advance, and while the growth of the food delivery industry is not a shocker for anyone, it's important to notice how quickly people changed their purchasing behaviour to be still able to get their essentials.
Lesson 2: Always focus on the real problem your business set out to solve. And then adapt your product to help your customers. One inspiring example is Airbnb, despite travel being one of the worst affected industries, they were quick to realise that at the end of the day the real problem is to help people create personalised experiences, even if they are at home, a couple of weeks into lockdown and Airbnb's Online Experiences were rolled out, offering unique experiences around the world from the comfort of your home. It might not be a complete solution, but it's a start.
3. Moving Online - Embrace the current, and you will swim further.
As people are spending more time at home, the internet has never been busier. More people are exploring shopping online than ever before. Online marketplaces and websites have replaced shopping malls.
Countless businesses have started building their shops online, and marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee are playing a massive role in supporting the local stores.
The online growth trend has been significant, and this was quite apparent when e-commerce delivery services provider Ninja Van raised millions ($279m) during the pandemic.
At Leap, we noticed a significant jump in traffic across all our online stores. Shoppers are also looking for products that they usually buy directly from physical stores, and this behaviour will continue to grow even after this pandemic period has passed.
Lesson 3: Embrace the online world, from digital content creation to building an online store, it's never been more natural and as necessary to create your businesses' online presence. It's an investment for the long run and one that can help your business no matter the situation.
We hope that the above learnings inspire you to take action when it matters most. Running a successful business comes with a lot of pain, and this is yet another challenge we all need to endure and surpass.
At Leap, we are a team of professional e-commerce specialists who guide entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. If you are looking for help to get started or grow you online business, let's get on a quick call to discuss how we can assist.