#PRAwards 2021 highlight: How Lazada helped SMEs weather pandemic headwinds

Taking home the gold for PR Team of the Year (Brand) and silver for Best Regional PR at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's PR Awards 2021 is Lazada Group which amidst the disruption of the retail landscape last year, coordinated regional initiatives to help SMEs digitise to meet changing consumer demands and strengthen resilience. Lazada’s region-wide initiative targeted at SMEs was aimed to meet its commitment to support businesses in both weathering immediate economic conditions as well as building longer-term competitive advantage.

Challenge

As the pandemic hit, it was clear that SMEs has a great challenge ahead of them. The precipitation of a recession coupled with accelerating changes in consumer behaviours forced many SMEs to rethink existing business models and lean on the government and eCommerce players for support. In a new norm fraught with changing consumer behaviours, Lazada wanted to look for new opportunities to engage with shoppers and excite them with new experiences.

Given the pandemic caused unprecedented structural shifts in the retail landscape which left Southeast Asia’s SMEs in local economies at risk of survival, Lazada decided that it would provide stimulus by way of subsidies and resources to encourage sellers to diversify their operations online, in the areas of logistics, e-payments and customer service. Lazada’s region-wide initiative took place in three key areas:

1) Provision of SME stimulus packages to support over 150,000 SMEs across Southeast Asia, with subsidies and resources to enable these businesses to start an online store with Lazada;

2) Support SMEs to optimise cash flow; and

3) Deliver initiatives in collaboration with local governments to support sellers.

Lazada knew to bring sellers on board, it needed to empower them by helping them to understand the shifts in consumer consumption behaviour. In communicating to SMEs across the region, it wanted to take a localised approach to highlight the unique challenges and opportunities that Lazada could help solve for. In communicating its regional and local efforts, Lazada needed to highlight the benefits of its Lazada SME Stimulus Package, its offline-to-online (O2O) Promoter & Affiliate Programme, Lazada University, as well as collaborations with local governments. Lazada also needed to communicate country-specific initiatives in support for SMEs.

Strategy

The mass online retail migration campaign not only safeguarded retail malls and their tenants by diversifying their business models, but it also enhanced the shopping experience for consumers by creating a symbiotic and seamless offline to online experience.

Across Southeast Asia, Lazada supported department stores and malls in their transition online. Given the change in consumer mindsets, Lazada knew that shifting sellers online could meet consumers’ needs and expectations not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term by keeping them competitive.

To trigger SMEs to act to diversify their business strategies, Lazada partnered with local governments and offered SME stimulus packages to ease SMEs in making the transition. In order to communicate the initiatives to support the SME sector, Lazada synchronised its awareness efforts with the help of the media and direct communication with its consumers.

Execution

Lazada launched stimulus packages to support over 150,000 SMEs in the region which included cash funds to subsidise start-up costs, expedite onboarding processes and access resources from Lazada University.

It also put in place a dedicated support team and aided SMEs with the ability to tap into Lazada’s data and strong logistics network. Cash flow aid was also offered via fast microloans with fixed weekly payments. It did so by partnering with financial institutions, leveraging Lazada’s data, scale, and network, to negotiate better terms to benefit sellers – including lower interest rates, faster approval times (within three hours of application) and more flexible payment terms.

While Lazada announced its stimulus at a regional level, it also dovetailed country-specific announcements around its packages in line with local government announcements of stimulus packages, highlighting country-specific initiatives that SMEs could tap into, via series of media releases and interviews to drive broad awareness.

In Thailand, Lazada announced that it would launch a stimulus package for 50,000 SMEs and that it was extending its #YesICan campaign to enable hundreds of sellers from popular shopping districts to set up their online stores free of charge. This was complemented by access to Lazada’s online-to-offline (O2O) Promoter & Affiliate Program which enabled over 15,000 brand sales personnel to sell products through their social channels and LazLive and still earn commission from brands and Lazada.

The announcement also highlighted Lazada’s engagement with consumers via LazLive, allowing consumers to live stream reviews of their favourite products and earns an income from it. It placed a spotlight on the good social initiatives it was undertaking to serve the community (via LazadaForGood) to facilitate donations for hospitals and medication foundations.

Additionally, it highlighted work being done with Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operative to pilot an initiative that would help 356 young, smart farmers to sell online, providing free intensive workshops and access to business advisors.

To highlight its stimulus packages in an easy manner, Lazada banked on visuals reference. The announcements were designed to highlight how Lazada helped sellers, the broader community, and how it engaged with and attracted consumers to its platform. Lazada also developed and delivered country-specific media programs to demonstrate what it was doing to address the unique challenges across the region. It approached this via media outreach, supported by case studies, and direct consumer communications. It also created many human interest stories.

Result

Lazada’s regional initiative and local activations saw a mass online migration of sellers to its platform – reflecting how Lazada’s stimulus packages and seller support resources helped spur more businesses to digitise and diversify their business operations on the Lazada platform. Between April to June 2020, Lazada Singapore saw 4,500 new sellers and a four times increase in monthly new seller sign-ups.

In 2020, Lazada Philippines onboarded double the number of sellers as compared to 2019. Coupled with media awareness, Lazada also implemented a series of sale campaigns under its “Bounce Back Together” program in April where over 7,000 sellers received aid to help their businesses recover. Zuprafresh, a fresh food seller was able to generate five times the earnings compared to pre-lockdown sales.

The awareness campaign of Lazada Malaysia’s stimulus package, “Pakej Kedai Pintar”, running between April to June 2020 saw more than 17,000 new small businesses onboarded. Local SMEs saw an overall growth of over 110% in sales due to the initiative. As of August 2020, Lazada Malaysia’s SME stimulus packages, sales campaigns and government partnership initiatives increased the number of new SMEs who digitised their business by three-fold, compared to the pre-MCO period in January 2020. About 10% of the sellers Lazada Malaysia onboarded from June to August 2020 saw sales grow approximately 10 times their daily average (non-campaign period) during the 8.8 campaign.

Lazada stimulus package also helped an estimated 45,000 SMEs in Thailand from April to May 2020, and in June, the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs (SMESCO) and Lazada Indonesia launched a training programme to support SMEs to digitalise. Lazada also promoted locally made products in the “Bangga Buatan Indonesia” programme launched by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. In April 2020, Lazada introduced the fresh food category on LazMall in Vietnam, to support fresh produce sellers to diversify revenue streams and reach a wider consumer base amid a challenging business environment. Within six months, the number of fresh food category sellers onboarded on LazMall has increased six-folds.