Facing COVID-19: 5 Learning Points From Indonesian Local Businesses

April 27, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has not been making it easy for a majority of businesses. A recent study conducted by First Insight shows that since the pandemic began, 39% of respondents who are millennials underwent a reduced frequency in offline shopping and 30% of them actually started shopping online more often.1 With the apparent shift of people’s demands to online stores, businesses who have been primarily operating in offline stores can avoid being all balled up by starting to penetrate the online market.

Aside from the big leap into e-commerce platforms, business owners need to have a set of approaches in responding to the current pandemic for the wellbeing of their businesses. 3 of our users which are Indonesia’s very own local brands - Ainayya, Nature’s Market, and This Is April - have shared some useful tips to counsel local business owners for an optimal response towards the current situation.

1. Look after the health of the employees and working environment 

The government’s call to regulate the Work From Home (WFH) policy is an effort that business owners need to participate in for the sake of their employees’ health and the safety of the overall working environment. Ainayya, a local fashion brand, ensures the safety and health of their operations by facilitating their production house, providing nutritional meals for employees, and providing the healthy precaution kit consisting of regularly sterilized face masks as well as hand sanitizers. Meanwhile, Nature’s Market has built an emergency sink for their drivers who are responsible for delivering orders, is obligating their employees to regular handwashing, and is also obligating a change of clothing for employees who commute to work with public transportation.

2. Update stock progressively 

The demands of staple and household products are significantly increasing with more people staying at home. Based on our data findings, the sales of food and beverage (F&B) products rose by 143% from February to March 2020 and could even reach 260% increase in April 2020 (Read more here)

As a business that sells organic F & B and household products, Nature's Market is making an all-out effort to create a fair shopping experience by prohibiting their customers from panic buying and updating their stock progressively instead of simultaneously. This is an important step to make sure customers can get the products they need and avoid the scarcity of certain products. 

3. Build coordination and trust between employees

One of the issues mostly encountered by local online businesses under the WFH policy is maintaining effective work communication. With employees working from their own homes, there is a higher chance of misunderstanding to happen as the coordinations are no longer as intense as it was in an office setting. To counter this, Ainayya emphasizes the importance of solidarity, maintaining an active communication among employees while working, and sparking the spirit of fighting together when problems arise. “The key is to build trust among the employees and strengthen the internal bond.”

4. Establish an open communication with customers 

There is an inevitable uncertainty in the current outbreak situation. At times like this, it’s vital for online local businesses to establish an open and clear communication with their customers in order to provide messages of assurance when the situation spikes in uncertainty. Aside from assurance, business owners can also effectively inform any occurring issues in operations like a change in the delivery schedule, operational schedule, product stock updates, and other related changes. Sustaining the effectiveness of each owned communication channel is imperative in order to keep the customers loyal to the brand and to help them make better shopping decisions. This is Nature’s Market main principle in avoiding any sort of misunderstanding with their customers. 

Simple ways like creating standard templates for customer service questions or putting personal touches to broadcast messages can actually offer a lot to both customers and the business itself. As the situation keeps unfolding, customers would probably ask certain standard questions before they process the payment for their shopping cart; the procedures, the stock availability of the product, the business’ operational hours, etc. Answering these questions doesn’t have to be done in simple responses, instead various methods could be utilized and even bring more engagement to your business. For instance, business owners can answer the questions by creating informative videos or social media posts that tend to be eye-catching from a smartphone screen.

5. Maintain a positive mindset 

The COVID-19 outbreak is surely landing blows to almost all business sectors. Moreover, until now, there hasn’t been any reliable predictions regarding the end of this outbreak and when things would go back to normal. This Is April, who had to put their offline store activities to a halt since April 2020, has now focused all their promotion strategies to their online channels. They have also invested in more online distribution channels to make the shopping easier for the customers. 

Demands are inevitably making their way more and more to online channels due to the favorable benefits that direct-to-door delivery shopping offers in the current physical distancing environment. Therefore, it is only wise for a business to be following the direction of where the consumers are going. Instead of being in a complete standstill with offline operations coming to a halt, businesses can use a similar strategy to what these local businesses have used: pivoting focus to the online market. We believe it has ultimately become a necessity for a business to have an integrated approach when pivoting, such as having their own website with ready-to-use templates provided by SIRCLO Store, entering the marketplace platforms (Tokopedia, Shopee, Lazada, Bukalapak, etc), and utilizing social commerce (WhatsApp Business API). In simple terms, times like this serve as a reminder that businesses need to invest further in online sales channels that are strategic to reach their target audience. 

With all the tips mentioned above, all in all brand owners need to be aware of the importance of communication and mindset when navigating their businesses in the present concerning time. 

Communication isn't simply to be directed to customers or external stakeholders, but instead it should also be established internally between the company and its employees. Business owners should be honest and transparent to ensure that accurate information gets circulated evenly and openly, positioning their business as a reliable and trustworthy source of information. 

Businesses need to bear in mind that no business is alone in this. All of us, business owners, are currently in the same boat surviving amidst the outbreak while facing challenges that are unique to each of our businesses. However, if we can empower our internal teams and each other to persevere through it while working both smarter and harder, we have a higher fighting chance of sailing to the right direction.  



SIRCLO neither provides regulated advice nor guarantee results. The materials we convey reflect general insight and best practice based on information currently available, and do not contain all of the information needed to determine a future course of action. Such information has not been generated or independently verified by SIRCLO and is inherently uncertain and subject to change. SIRCLO has no obligation to update these materials and makes no representation or warranty and expressly disclaims any liability with respect thereto.