By Dr Faiz Masnan
The closure of several businesses in Malaysia and other countries has resulted in the global unemployment rate escalating. This is due to restrictions and lockdowns imposed on most countries to reduce human interaction and the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Despite the various measures that have been taken by all governments, the virus keeps evolving into several variants and continues to infect humans.
Therefore, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have to learn to run their business in new and innovative ways. Even though SMEs are deemed to be more flexible compared to larger firms, their adaptation to the current situation might entail higher costs before they can earn returns. To help them with adaptation, entrepreneurs should attend courses on online shopping.
Some entrepreneurs find it difficult to learn and adapt themselves to the current business trend owing to internet illiteracy or technological difficulty. In that case, they can hire young graduates who possess the necessary skills since they are more aware of the current technology and business trend.
Online shopping is the best platform for businesses due to the fact that it requires lower costs and maintenance. Besides, the owners do not need to stay in their stores during normal business hours since online business can make their products available to customers for 24 hours a day. Unlike physical shops that can only be accessible to a limited number of customers who are in the vicinity, online business is accessible to all people who have internet access and applications.
Many youngsters are nowadays involved in online shopping because it is easier and requires less capital to set up their business. Vouchers, free shipping, cashback, and discount offered online are the reason why there is an increase in the use of online shopping applications.
Since people are changing what they are buying and how they are buying, SMEs should keep pace with the current trend so that they will not incur losses. They can shift from selling one type to several types of product and non-essential to essential products. They also have to be flexible to meet changing customer needs and market demands.
Demand for shipping services
In the service sector, the demand for shipping services has surged, stemming from online shopping. More purchases suggest more delivery services are required to ensure goods can be successfully delivered to customers. The trend in online shopping is very unlikely to decrease due to restrictions on cross-border movement. Products from China, such as medical face masks, face shields, and electronic devices, have increasingly become popular in the midst of the pandemic.
Therefore, it is pivotal for SMEs to focus on target customers who nowadays predominantly prefer online shopping. Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen Y are glued to smartphones almost all day. This provides business opportunities for SMEs to target specific groups of customers of different ages. Marketing efforts targeted at a specific group can effectively reduce their costs.
For instance, this generation mostly relies on social media such as Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook for entertainment and searching for the latest information regarding our current global issues, including COVID-19.
Dr Faiz Masnan is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Applied and Human Sciences of Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP).