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#MobExAwards 2021 highlight: Grab helps small businesses thrive in the new normal

#MobExAwards 2021 highlight: Grab helps small businesses thrive in the new normal

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Through the years, Grab has grown to be a household name, offering a suite of services, including deliveries, mobility, financial services, enterprise, and others. 

Driven with a common mission to drive Southeast Asia forward by creating economic empowerment for everyone, the company sought to help small businesses which were hit the hardest from the pandemic.

Partnering with Kingdom Digital, the “Enterprise-level ad-tech for the smallest of small businesses” campaign was created. This resulted in Grab clinching the gold award for Best Use of In-App Advertising at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s MobEx Awards 2021.


After the pandemic hit, non-essential businesses experienced a temporary closure as mass movements were prohibited worldwide.

According to the Entrepreneurship Development and Cooperation Ministry, more than 30,000 Malaysian businesses have folded since the movement control order was first imposed; 70% of the casualties were small single-outlet retailers, restaurants and other micro-enterprises who struggled to make the transition from physical to online selling.

As a marketplace app, Grab could not exist without its small business partners. As a result, Grab had a business motive and moral duty to help these business partners digitise and thrive in the new normal. 

Grab targeted businesses that were earning under RM30,000 a month, and were granted a tax exemption by the Ministry of Finance. 


According to Grab, the problem with small businesses is that many of them lack the resources to have an agency or person in charge of marketing. Additionally, these small businesses are too busy to understand apps, ads or websites. As a result, these companies lack the knowledge and resources to move the business from offline to online. 

In fact, small businesses often face questions such as “how do I write copy”; “what size should my banner be”; “what photo to use when I don’t even have a logo”; and “how do I know if my ad is working”. 

While many companies were donating ad credits to small businesses, many of them struggled as there was no one to explain how digital ads worked. 

To genuinely move the needle and impact the livelihoods of these small businesses, Grab knew it had to offer more than free ad credits. In fact, these businesses needed an easy digital shortcut. That was an end-to-end performance marketing solution that even the smallest, least savvy of businesses could actually use – media space, custom radius targeting, tailored creative (in all the correct sizes for the different spaces), and ruthlessly simplified analytics.


Partnering with Kingdom Digital, a bespoke automated ad builder was created to help small businesses. Focusing on data and creative automation, and dynamic radius targeting, the ad builder was able to automatically pull information the small businesses had already submitted to Grab. 

This included the merchant’s name, address, opening and closing hours, phone numbers, store tag line, menu descriptions, store logos or menu item photos. The ad builder would then build ads with the available information.

There were also layouts for information that was not provided. These ads were then targeted to Grab app users that were within a 12km radius from the registered store address and automatically turned on/off during the stores’ opening hours.

Next, Grab and Kingdom Digital had to tackle the challenge of scaling the ads. First, the company and agency decided to send emails to all eligible GrabFood, GrabMart and GrabPay small businesses, describing the “Grab Loves Local Heroes” programme. 

The “Best space on the Grab app” was also utilised, where enrolled small businesses would receive personalised performance marketing creatives as well as daily ad exposures on the home screen of the Grab app. Gift cards were also designed to encourage Malaysians to support local businesses by sending the gift cards to friends and families. 

Last, Grab would feature interesting stories that it received across social media platforms as part of the “Grab Loves Local Heroes” campaign on Malaysia Day. 


The campaign turned out to be a resounding success: not only did Grab manage to offer free visibility, awareness and promotions for the local heroes by leveraging in-app advertising on its own app, it also received overwhelming support from Malaysians who rallied behind the cause. 

As a result, the heart-warming stories about the small businesses achieved more than 600,000 engagements overall.

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