With the steps businesses – particularly Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) – ought to take, not only to break-even but thrive in the changing trade landscape at the fore of public dialogue, measures aimed at improving trust and integrity are the most crucial tools for business recovery, a panel of seasoned business owners has argued.
According to the panel comprising the CEOs of Hubtel, Alex Bram; Hair Senta, Gwen Gyimah Addo; Skin Gourmet, Violet Amoabeng; and Kawa Moka Coffee, Emi-beth Aku Quantson, the limited person-to-person contact and increased access to verifiable information while engaging in e-commerce have made trustworthiness, perceived and actual, an invaluable currency.
Speaking at the 29th edition of the MTN Business World Executive Breakfast Meeting under the theme ‘The Changing Face of Retail in Ghana: Scaling successfully with Innovation & E-commerce’, Mr. Bram stated that the necessary infrastructure – but more importantly, the goodwill enjoyed by his firm resulting from years of credible service delivery – have been fundamental in driving resilience.
He revealed that there were wide fluctuations in sales during the few weeks prior to, during, and after the government-imposed restrictions on movement to curb spread of the virus: with an approximately 40% increase in business, especially in his firm’s forte of bulk messaging, prior to the lockdown; which was eroded by a 50% dip during the period.
However, he disclosed that demand for food and personal effects were up by some 400% in months following the lockdown, with a more than conservative estimate of 200% rise in digital payments witnessed. “The underlying infrastructure or backbone has been in place for years,” he said, as he disclosed that his firm has witnessed the consistent engagement of approximately 120 new customers daily.
“E-commerce is not just a website. There are some businesses in which e-commerce won’t properly take off if there isn’t first a face-to-face interaction,” he added, as he cautioned businesses against the wholesale adoption of every innovation available – but called for the proper analysis of requirements for a particular business.
Taking her turn, Ms. Gyimah-Addo tackled the ‘DM for prices’ menace; a situation wherein vendors on social media platforms publicly display their goods and services without attaching prices, and ask potential customers to send private Direct Messages (DMs) to ascertain the prices.
While she acknowledged that factors such as price differentials in various markets might necessitate the practice, price gouging and occasionally outright fraud were named as more likely reasons. She added that the seeming lack of transparency and additional layer of inquiry for the customer can all detract from the experience, leading to mistrust and consequently a loss of business.
Using her experience as a point of reference, she argued that trust built by personal interactions with customers using tools like video-calling platforms is indispensable. “Now, a lot of people shop and say we will pick it up later – why were they comfortable shopping from us? It’s a matter of trust,” she added.
For Ms. Amoabeng the first impression is key, and as such emphasis must be laid on packaging and delivery, especially for goods and services which might be ingested or applied to the body. She argues that business owners must “go over and beyond”, especially with initial presentation and delivery.
She added that in the event of a mishap, going to great lengths to resolve an issue is strategy businesses must adopt, as poor handling of a single incident could have a ripple-effect on one’s business.
Ms. Quantson, whose locally-owned business operates across the entire spectrum of the coffee-producing value chain, advised businesses to interact with members of their target audience to find innovative ways of serving them better. She revealed that her outfit consistently engages with younger, tech-savvy individuals who come up with innovative recipes and ways coffee can be advertised.
She added that with the relatively high cost of logistics, particularly transportation, it would be prudent for some businesses to partner in order to drive down cost.