Many local businesses were put in a difficult spot during the COVID-19 pandemic, to say the least. Due to factors including restrictive containment protocols, businesses, especially SMEs in the Philippines, were confronted with the dire need to adopt digital marketing solutions. If not, they risk closing their shops permanently.

In fact, data from the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) survey assessing the impact of the pandemic on MSMEs revealed just how tough of a spot these organizations were in. Among their considered actions were to file for bankruptcy, employee layoffs and pay-cuts; coming only as a last resort after seeking external aid.

Data on MSMEs in the Philippines' responses to the pandemic.

Not Left With Much Choices. Aside from government aid, among the top responses that SMEs in the Philippines considered to ease the pandemic strains seem to put internal stakeholders at a losing position with staff reduction and pay cuts being the immediate actions that follow a scenario in which they aren’t able to secure financial assistance. Photo by Propelrr.

Thankfully, a year after the pandemic, SMEs began to see a small hopeful turn and found some footing in stabilizing their business with the aid of digital solutions. But even as it’s hailed as the saving grace of SMEs struggling to cope with the calamity the virus has caused, digital adoption and migration remains as a pipedream for many.

Even for those heading corporations, digital is a whole new terrain that’s difficult to master. What more would the challenge be like for the owner of an SME when, on top of the overwhelming amount of concepts and digital tools you’ll have to learn about, there are many other barriers to digital adoption for the typical SME in the Philippines?

As a digital marketing agency in the Philippines, we know the struggle to set up and gain footing all too well. It’s no walk in the park and sometimes, given how chaotic it can be, you can end up tucking your tails and abandoning your digital transformation.

But what makes the challenge of forging ahead worth it despite the difficulty, is the massive potential for business growth waiting ahead.

Chapter 1

What is digital adoption and digital marketing?

Left and right, you’ll hear people harping about digital marketing specifically as the best solution businesses can have in place right now, and for valid reasons.

What is digital adoption and digital marketing?

With over half of the world’s population online, digital adoption and venturing into digital marketing has become a regular part of how consumers and businesses operate daily. That’s billions of people waiting to hear about what your product or service has to offer!

What digital marketing is and why it’s an essential pillar in digital adoption is that it’s a process of implementing strategies to market everything about your business to online audiences. These marketing strategies are and should be aligned with your overall business strategy, and achieve various goals and objectives you’ve set for yourself.

These are based on an effective digital marketing strategy framework which covers all digital touch points in your customer’s journey. It should also be scalable enough that you can tailor-fit it to your business needs and capabilities. Scalable in the sense that it allows digital adoption to be undertaken not just on a need-to-have basis.

Over time, digital marketing has helped both consumers and businesses transact more efficiently; saving money, time, and effort than ever before. This fact alone is prompting even more shifts as it costs less to scale compared to traditional marketing that relies on print and broadcast media.

So if it’s so great and cost-effective, then why have SMEs in the Philippines lagged behind in digital adoption, up until the pandemic forced the shift? This question, we try to answer below, as we take a zoomed out look at overall digital adoption by SMEs in the Philippines.

Chapter 2

Hurdles in digital adoption faced by SMEs in the Philippines

If you’re here now trying to catch up on digital marketing for your business, you’ll find that you’re really not the only one. And that fact is something you must not fault yourselves entirely for.

Hurdles in digital adoption faced by SMEs in the Philippines

The Philippines has been lagging in digital transformation, because it’s an effort that requires not just an internal capability to support, but external ones as well. Such that come from external stakeholders that are tasked with crafting and refining policies and infrastructure that foster and encourage the smooth uptake of these technologies.

This is where government agencies should step in and step up to empower and not just encourage entrepreneurs to undertake digital transformation. With our economy seeing increasing growth in digital goods selling, it should only follow that efforts go beyond calls and move towards solid actions to enable it.

However, up until 2018, only a small chunk (seven percent) of businesses undergoing digital adoption in the country can be considered as leaders. These figures tell of the huge gap between the success SMEs can potentially attain with digital transformation, and the actual capabilities they need to have to tap into that.

A fact echoed by International Data Corporation Philippines Market Analyst Alon Anthony D. Rejano in a statement he told the BusinessMirror:

The Philippines still has a long way [to go] and more work to do from a cultural, regulatory and technological standpoint.
- Alon Anthony D. Rejano

In the SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook 2019 published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, other common barriers in digital adoption that SMEs face include lack of information and awareness, skills gaps, insufficient capital, technology and infrastructure gaps, or gaps in organizational practices.

Barriers to digital adoption for SMEs in the Philippines.

Hurdles in Digital Adoption for SMEs in the Philippines. Among these hurdles, which one do you relate to the most? Arguably, SMEs in the Philippines could be facing one, two, or all of these hurdles; stuck at a loss on how to overcome them. But in terms of lack of knowledge and access to digital tools, we hope to help you out as a veteran digital marketing company in the Philippines. Photo by Propelrr.

The study also pointed out that digital adoption also differs in speed and breadth. Where small businesses are less digitized compared to medium-sized ones. And where large businesses can digitize a number of business operations simultaneously, small businesses often do so in increments – opting to innovate in administration and marketing first.

It’s needless to say that these barriers will need an intersectional approach, activating the participation of both private and public entities. But with the competition unresting and continuing to tighten, SMEs in the Philippines are pressured to keep pace and do it fast. But with all of these factors given, what can be your most productive first step?

For us right now and with this content, it’s to help bridge the gap in accessing helpful information and skills you need to take that first step in your digital transformation and building a resilient business.

Chapter 3

Five resilience-driven benefits of digital marketing for SMEs

Thankfully, more and more SMEs in the country are discovering the benefits of digital marketing in the time of the pandemic. And good thing too, as digital marketing and business digitalization offer many benefits that you can reap even beyond COVID-19.

Five resilience-driven benefits of digital marketing for SMEs

Because ultimately, the benefits of ecommerce and other digital marketing solutions you’ve put in place, do not and will not serve as mere band-aid solutions for now. As long as it’s there, seek to maintain and grow it so that you can continue to enjoy its many advantages.

The benefits of digital marketing solutions

Developments in digital empowerment of SMEs

This was something already learned by business leaders who sought digital transformations amid the pandemic. Ride Revolution’s chief executive Noel Tordesillas, for example, sees their digital marketing solutions as “permanent fixtures” that can continue to foster further growth in business, even beyond the pandemic.

Similarly in the public sector, the value of digital marketing business digitalization has become more apparent with the growing adoption of ecommerce by local business. And, in response to this, more efforts to support its uptake by SMEs are being eyed by the local trade department.

growth of ecommerce adoption in the philippines

Continuously Growing Industry. Thanks to this growing recognition of the benefits of digital solutions from both the private and public sector, more SMEs are exploring the digital front to keep business alive. More importantly, this growth has also sparked more efforts to empower SMEs coming from the government, making ventures into this realm of marketing more possible. Photo by Propelrr.

It’s these developments that make now the best time to be exploring digital marketing and its potential to grow your business. If you're still on the fence about it, then below you’ll find some other compelling benefits that you can expect to gain from a pursuit into digital.

Top benefits of digital marketing for SMEs

  1. Ensure business survival
  2. Build-up and establish lasting brand recognition
  3. More proactive marketing strategies with the help of data
  4. Compete using more cost-effective strategies
  5. You always have an audience

1. Ensure business survival

Chess board with a pawn standing

Digital marketing is by no means a new strategy. And, if anything, it’s proving to be a crucial strategy for keeping businesses big and small afloat in the current circumstances.

Business digitalization and digital marketing ensure business survival because the platform is much easier to sustain compared to traditional channels. Moreover, an online presence opens up a floodgate of more business opportunities, as more people engage with online shopping amid the pandemic.

Hence, engaging on digital isn’t just an act to throw your business a lifeline, but rather a crucial step to increase your brand’s competitiveness and growth. It allows your business to thrive, and provides it with a competitive edge against your competitors who have yet to go digital.

2. Build-up and establish a lasting brand recognition

Build-up lasting brand recognition

One of the most crucial aspects of digital marketing is a brand identity that sticks with your target audience. With both your customers and competitors migrating online, it becomes imperative that you also develop your online presence.

A strong brand identity lets you stand out from your competitors by being a prominent and recognizable name in the industry. This recognition then leads to a stronger affinity within your audience to choose your products or services over all others. Eventually, you’ll also achieve brand loyalty and advocacy.

An effective digital marketing strategy solidifies and strengthens this brand identity by maintaining this connection with your customers on online platforms. A benefit that is indispensable now that it’s difficult to foster these connections via offline channels.

3. More proactive marketing strategies with your business's data

Magnifying glass on a map

The best thing about digital marketing and advertising is that it’s not a one-way process, but rather a feedback loop. This feedback loop and sustained relationship with your customers lead to business sustainability.

With online marketing, you’re not just telling people about your product, but audiences are also able to communicate to you what they think about it. This is data that is less accessible with traditional marketing channels.

Digital marketing shifts the thinking from audiences as just consumers to “customers as co-producers,” which effectively boosts your audience's response to your brand. People like to be heard, and knowing what they like through the data you gather on digital platforms help you create proactive and actionable steps to meet their demands.

4. Compete using cost-effective strategies

Woman typing on a laptop

A common misconception about digital marketing is that it’s a financially burdensome solution. But if you run the numbers, it’s actually more cost-effective than you think.

Traditional marketing in the Philippines may still reign supreme but it may well be impractical for SMEs to resort to these versus online marketing. With online marketing, doors open up for small businesses to compete even with bigger brands because on digital, the playing field is more level and accessible to all.

Resorting to online media forms eliminates expenses involved in producing expensive marketing materials for traditional media. Having a strong online presence also builds up your brand’s popularity and identity which adds up to your customer’s loyalty to your brand.

5. Ensure that you always have an audience

Silver microphone

Digitalizing your business ensures that you always have an audience. And on the internet, visibility is an absolute necessity for brands.

Thankfully, the en masse migration to online spaces makes it nearly impossible for your brand to not be discovered and engaged with. Not only that, but amid the pandemic, users are also spending more and more time – increasing your changes of reaching your target market further.

Data from Hootsuite shows that the Philippines alone spends hours on the internet. With visibility so crucial to a brand’s survival and offline channels restricted, digital marketing provides the important bridge that helps maintain brand-consumer interactions.

Clocks showing total time spent on the internet

Spending the Most Time Online. Time and again, online usage data from Global Web Index, We Are Social, and Hootsuite show that the Philippines is one of the top countries that spend the most time online, with nearly 11 hours spent on the internet. That’s five hours more than the worldwide average. Photo by Propelrr.

Those said, there’s no further questioning that digital marketing is an exciting new strategy SMEs need to take up to survive the changing economic market in the pandemic.

But in order to fully maximize these benefits, you’ll have to come into digital fully equipped with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to execute critical strategies. And that’s what this content exists for: To help provide you the digital marketing resources you’ll need to help your online business grow.

Below, you’ll find the very same resources that have prepped our world-class digital marketing professionals at Propelrr. Here and now, you can browse this curated library of digital marketing resources, and get started on a journey towards online business sustainability that outlasts any calamity.

Chapter 4

Online business requirements and checklists you’ll need to start your business

Truly, digital presence is crucial for any business to survive in this day and age as the pandemic continues to push businesses to go digital in order to reach customers.

Online business requirements and checklists you’ll need to start your business

To achieve more stability and continuity, many businesses are finding hope in going full digital — be they a small or big business.

However encouraging that sounds, the task can be daunting for a number of reasons. The most pressing of which is the lack of guided resources that help you in setting up your digital platforms.

But don’t worry, we got you. In this section, we’ll cover all the basic requirements you need to set up a digital presence for your small business. You will find registration requirements and procedures for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and various digital platforms on which your business can exist.

If your business is already registered, you can go ahead and skip to the section on basic digital storefronts to jumpstart your brand’s online presence.

Get Started: Registering your online business and setting up your channel

  • DTI Registration

    DTI Registration

    One of the first steps on how to start an online business is to get your business registration from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Download the full guide on business registration in the Philippines, here.

    Download the Checklist

Going Digital: Basic digital storefronts you can set up

A great online business adheres to an effective digital marketing strategy framework. A framework like the Propelrr Digital Marketing Strategy Framework would tell you that picking the right platform for your brand’s online presence can make a huge difference in achieving your company’s goals.

So, tick off one of the vital components of online business requirements with these recommended online platforms.

Resources on social commerce

Social commerce lets brand owners and users buy and sell products and services within a certain social media platform. Through these, you and your customers won’t have to click and visit numerous web pages, or download additional apps to browse and buy items.

Of the social commerce sites, Facebook and Instagram are two of the most popular and integrated platforms. Learn how each of them work.

Resources on online marketplaces

Online marketplaces are popular online versions of your favorite physical stores. They provide countless stores for different categories of products from different sellers.

Two of the most well-known digital marketplaces in the Philippines are Shopee and Lazada. Take note that though they may have similar features, they also have unique sets of online business requirements for certain products and services.

  • Start Selling on Lazada

    Start Selling on Lazada

    Lazada has great features both for sellers and buyers – from various payment options, to aiding your logistics. Set up your shop by following these steps.

    Learn More
  • Start Selling on Shopee

    Start Selling on Shopee

    Like Lazada, Shopee has a wide range of products and payment options for sellers and buyers. It also has star ratings and review sections, and features different contests and seminars that will benefit sellers to gain knowledge and resources for their online business.

    Learn More

Resources on ecommerce

Pre-built ecommerce stores are go-to options for anyone who wants to save on the effort of building their own ecommerce websites from scratch. There are lots of websites that can help you buy or create the online environment that your brand needs.

Planning and Strategizing: Marketing strategy checklists

Awesome business ideas result in awesome rewards for your brand, only if you know exactly how to carry them out. This is why the right marketing tools and strategies are definitely part of online business requirements to ensure that you meet your brand’s objectives.

Here are some of the different kinds of advertising channels and solutions that you can utilize.

Resources on paid advertising strategies

Resources on earned marketing strategies

  • How to Harness Word-of-mouth

    How to Harness Word-of-mouth

    Word-of-mouth earned advertising is common in physical stores. But in online businesses, they take the form of social media mentions, comments, and shares. These actions can make or break your potential customers’ views of your brand. So remember to add web pages dedicated for reviews and testimonials as well as settings that will enable users to like, share, and comment on various content.

    Read the Article

Checklists and templates for organic growth

Rented media is when you place your advertising content on free platforms. These channels can be in the form of social media, websites, and emails. Unlike paid media, you do not have to pay for anything and only have to utilize the terms and conditions of use for these channels.

Chapter 5

Learn and understand consumer and online business laws in the Philippines

As a business owner, it is your duty to know the laws, rules and regulations that set your obligations and protect your rights. You should also be well-versed on consumer protection laws. Failure to comply with statutes and regulations may lead to serious implications such as penalties and even cancellation of your business registration. Keep in mind that “ignorantia juris non excusat” or “ignorance of the law excuses no one”.

Learn and understand consumer and online business laws in the Philippines

Business laws in the Philippines, including the Revised Corporation Code (Republic Act No. 11232), are crafted by Congress and approved by the President. Meanwhile, rules and regulations in the form of memorandum circulars and orders are issued by government agencies including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

If you find reading through business laws and regulations intimidating, you can always refer to helpful articles written for non-legal practitioners.

Here is a list of online resources on laws concerning businesses and consumer protection.

Laws concerning business registration

Registration is the first step in setting up a business. While this stage is time-consuming, it is non-negotiable. Your business permit is required in registering with the BIR for your taxes, and in acquiring other licenses necessary to run your business.

Here are resources for laws and government issuances you should take note of.

Laws and policies concerning operations of online businesses

Are you running an ecommerce business? You should know about laws and regulations relevant to online selling in the Philippines and other related business activities.

  • Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 55-2013

    Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 55-2013

    This memorandum circular provides you with guidance on the tax obligations of parties to online business transactions. It covers a number of transactions like online shopping or retailing, advertisements, and many others.

    Learn More

Laws protecting your rights as a business owner

There are also laws enacted to protect your rights as the business owner. These laws ensure your rights are protected while doing your legitimate business here in the Philippines.

Laws protecting the rights of your customers

Consumer laws in the Philippines were crafted to ensure that consumers’ rights are protected. By knowing the protection of your customers, you would be able to provide the products and services that are aligned with laws and general expectations of the public.

  •  Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394)

    Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394)

    This law protects the interests of the consumer, promotes their general welfare, and establishes standards to conduct for business and industry. It also provides the legal basis for consumer protection in the country.

    Learn More
  • Data Privacy Act of 2012 (RA 10173)

    Data Privacy Act of 2012 (RA 10173)

    It is the policy of the State to protect the fundamental right of privacy. This law ensures that personal information in information and communications systems in the government and in the private sector are secured and protected.

    Learn More
  • Truth in Lending Act (RA 3765)

    Truth in Lending Act (RA 3765)

    This law provides for the rights and obligations of creditors and debtors. It aims to keep citizens aware of the true cost of credit and ensure transparency. This prevents the uninformed and harmful use of said credit.

    Learn More
  • Price Act (RA 7581)

    Price Act (RA 7581)

    The law aims to make basic necessities and commodities available at reasonable prices at all times without denying legitimate businesses fair return on investment. It hopes to protect your consumers against unlawful pricing, distribution and marketing of goods.

    Learn More

Chapter 6

Digital marketing resources on online marketing channels

Aside from enlisting the help of a digital marketing agency to ease the transition to digital, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the different types of digital marketing channels available to you.

Digital marketing resources on online marketing channels

This is important for business independence, and helps you craft and/or refine your digital strategies in tow with the advice from your partner agencies. After all, you know your audiences and business best. Combining your insight and that of an agency’s will help you develop a complete strategy that is able to achieve your business goals.

Do you have a solid knowledge of all these channels below? If not, then read these Facebook marketing resources and other channel-specific resources, below.

Chapter 7

Basic frameworks and strategies for running an online business

Get ahead with planning your digital marketing strategies for your business. Become a master at digital marketing with the help of these free online marketing resources.

Basic frameworks and strategies for running an online business

These curated readings and courses will help you learn the ropes of digital marketing and basic online marketing strategies that are framework-backed, and proven to work across various industries.

Chapter 8

Digital marketing resources for marketing and advertising strategies

Now that you’ve gathered what you need in setting up your business online, you can now start leveling up your game by strengthening your digital marketing strategy. In strengthening your strategy, you must look for reliable resources that will help you in your campaign.

Digital marketing resources for marketing and advertising strategies

These resources below comprise of training courses, downloadable content, articles and publications to support your marketing and advertising strategies. Check them out.

Chapter 9

Resources for marketing performance tracking

You can't improve what you can't measure. Learn how to evaluate your online marketing efforts with these helpful articles, downloadable content, and training courses.

Resources for marketing performance tracking

With basic digital marketing analytics, you can propel your business to success with improved strategies and campaigns.

Chapter 10

Key takeaways

Now that the resources are handed to you, a final note of reminder we’d like to leave you for your digital transformation is to not allow yourself to be intimidated by the overwhelming amount of concepts that you have to learn.

Key takeaways

Acknowledging your limitations is important in putting into perspective your potential and capabilities, after all. During your journey, remember that:

  • The path to success isn’t necessarily linear. Much like everything on digital, there will be many twists and turns you’ll go through before you reach a certain goal. When pursuing digital transformations, you’ll need to understand that so you don’t unnecessarily pressure yourself.
  • It helps to have a framework guiding you. This will not only help guide you with a systematic approach to your learning, but later on in your practice and implementation in work as well. Having a proven framework backing your steps and actions towards transformation will definitely help provide structure in a chaotic world such as digital.
  • Prioritize and delegate your learning. As business owners, you’ll often fall into the trap of feeling like you need to learn everything. While that is possible and encouraged, it would be of great help to adapt with agility to prioritize and delegate other learnings to your trusted leaders in your organization. You’re not in this thing alone.

Did we miss other aspects of digital marketing you’d like to learn more about? Make sure to let us know in the comments section, and let us grow this library of digital marketing resources for businesses.

If you need more help from the experts, feel free to send us an email, or if you’d like to share this with a friend for now, don’t forget to tag our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn accounts in your posts.

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