This retail family business survived the pandemic, thanks to timely decision-making and agile practices.
Manila Philippines—In Q1 of 2020, I met the lovely owners of Invitation House, sourced from an old business card I had kept for a very long time. I rang them up for a quick discovery meeting at their Greenbelt 5 store and discussed how I could bring them much-needed exposure online. I love working with brands that resonate with me. It gives me great pleasure to provide solutions that elevated businesses I truly loved and supported. I offered to have their eCommerce website built and implement digital marketing strategies that would help them grow their business online.
I would frequent their store at Greenbelt 5 to buy my notecards. They would specialize in their bespoke invitation design services, which offered premium laser-cut designs, and gift packages. Most notable gift sets were the personalized notepad and notecards, which you can either buy for yourself or someone else. They would describe themselves as a ‘local novelty and gift shop’. Rather, I would peg Invitation House as a very well-curated store with refined but affordable selections of stationery, paper products, and home decor. Some of which are IMHO very useful and aesthetically pleasing for nesting millennials. Beyond that, they diversified to other products (food and home essentials) but always stayed true to their clean, and inviting brand ethos. I wouldn’t put them in the same field as Gift Gate, Blue Magic, or Tickles, which were basically—what my sister-in-law would describe as kalat—selling you junk/clutter. Feel free to agree to disagree, but in the age of budol, the last thing you’d want in your already tiny room are things that get dusty, age terribly, and sparked little to no/temporary joy.
A challenging project during the worst of times
All was well during our scoping and implementation meetings. Website design, online merchandising, down to the customer engagement was discussed. Everything went well until the disrupting lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic struck in Q2 of 2020, halting all business. We didn’t know what to do. We postponed the meetings because there were no proper COVID protocols established by the very SLOW and incorrigible Duterte Administration. Vaccine coverage was still sparse. No mall operations mean no revenue. There were some supply-chain and logistics issues to resolve. I had suggested moving their pick & pack operations at home—until office operations are back. But even though limited office work was allowed, it was still quite risky as their office building was at the time under quarantine due to a reported case of a COVID-positive individual from another company. COVID-19 was still wreaking havoc.
Fortunately, everything can be done online. The lockdowns and uncertainty lasted throughout Q3 but we were agile enough to work remotely. By late Q3 we were able to finish the project and get the website launched for the upcoming Q4 holiday sales. The pandemic restrictions had then relaxed but with very strict physical distancing protocols.
Marketing, Remarketing, and Conversions
I sat down with one of the stakeholders and presented to her a crash course on digital marketing. The strategy was simple. Use Facebook and IG ads (where the current target audience is), use native tools on Shopify such as reminder emails (for those who added to the cart but did not checkout), shop discount/promo codes (to entice shoppers), and email campaigns via Mailchimp for customer retention.
- Generate ads to grab visitors to visit the website for the top of the funnel
- Remarketing to website visitors and using EDMs (electronic digest mail) to send customers back for purchase—which considers the middle of the customer journey
- Eventually conversion of buyers, and repeat customers of the bottom or the end of the funnel.
Results: Outperforming brick & mortar sales
With the pandemic in full swing and less than half of the population still unvaccinated, there was a great demand for online shopping more than ever. In this report on eCommerce sales in 2020, you can see that people had shifted immediately to online purchases. I was delighted to hear that the online eCommerce store outperformed the brick & mortar retail store’s sales! This only proves that proper digital transformation projects and marketing strategies implemented at the right time allow businesses to survive when done properly. There’s a bright future for agile and tech-savvy entrepreneurs! Online shopping is here to stay. Solutions like Paymongo give more choices for payment options so there’s more flexibility when choosing your payment gateway.
The same cannot be said for bigger retail chains with aging leaders and executives. Read how Napandemya ang Automatic Centre! Some are still quite slow to adopt. But let’s save that for another day. For now, let’s celebrate the big wins of our MSMEs!