Marketing during the time of Corona

The world currently has the greatest number of people who have “free-time” and are using the internet more than ever. If you run a business and were thinking of the best time for you to revamp or begin with a fantastic plan to have a digital presence for your brand or business, this can just be the right time.

Corona Virus (COVID19) has thrown the world out of the league. It has hit many of the businesses worldwide. Hit so hard that not only many of the SMEs are struggling to survive, but also quite a few of the larger corporations and businesses are hardly pulling this off. If this pandemic doesn’t show the sign of going away anytime soon, the world after this wave of COVID19 might be a very different one, a complete paradigm shift in terms of human development. However, as a friend of mine said a few days back, “This shall too pass.” 

Right now, many of us are running our offices establishing a work-from-home policy, and many of us have also completely halted our operations. Never had the world before this time had seen so many of us working from home. The world currently has the greatest number of people who have “free-time” and are using the internet more than ever. If you run a business and were thinking of the best time for you to revamp or begin with a fantastic plan to have a digital presence for your brand or business, this can just be the right time. And, if you still think your business does not need to “go digital”, you might want to give another thought about it.

With over a billion population staying at home working or using video streaming channels like Netflix or Youtube, ISPs are being tasted with their ability to manage bandwidth for everyone. In a bid to alleviate the potential congestion, Facebook joined Netflix, Amazon, and Youtube to reduce its default video quality in Europe on March 23. A report by CNBC states that over 60% of data transmitted over the internet account to video streaming. This is mostly because videos have a larger file size than other types of files. Yet, this is the time when the number of daily active users and the daily active session per user is at its peak. Facebook and Twitter have already reported this over the media. This clearly means there is no better time than now to reach your targeted audience through digital platforms.

Over 3.3 million US citizens filed for unemployment benefits last week. Not just the U.S., gig economy has pretty much stalled around the globe raising the level of unemployment and sunken level of earnings. There is only a small amount of discretionary income available in the hands of people and they are going to spend it in a wise manner. Thus, unless you are a product or a service provider for the basic necessities, your marketing efforts should focus not on promotions and advertisements to sell your products or service but on public service announcements (PSAs) and non-profit initiations intending to give a boost to the level of brand awareness. Impressive and interesting messages will not only keep your business or brand in the mind of the customers but will also allow your business to polish the brand image.

Similarly, if you are yet to have your business presence on social media platforms, now is the time to start. And if you do have an account that hasn’t been done much, working on the content and posting updates is what you should start doing at this time. As mentioned earlier, the greatest number of people are “online” at this period of crisis and you can leverage this time to show the level of concern you have over your customers. Depending on the type of user-base suitable for your business, you can go ahead in creating accounts over several platforms. One thing you shall however remember is that the initial state of setting up accounts and making posts over these channels is more about diving into content marketing and not throwing in ads or offers. Content marketing is not more about conversions but is more about building relationships and keeping the engagements at a high level with your target audience.

Before you dive into preparing and posting content over the platforms, it is highly recommended that you look into the dynamics of each of the platforms as each of these might have a different target-audience to look into and require more-or-less a different content and strategy to succeed. You may look into some of the interesting tips from Social Media Examiner’s Youtube channel which I find to be concise and extremely useful in terms of developing content and building engagements across multiple channels.

Make sure you have your presence over Facebook – that’s where the biggest crowd is right now. Also, do not forget that search engines have a major role to play in your digital presence. Conduct SEO audits for your website if you can, or get the help of the experts. In my case, I always provide a list of checkpoints for my clients to look into as a part of the basic SEO audit. Optimize your website based on the results of the audit. Another thing to remember is that Youtube is the second most popular search engine. Thus, your presence on Youtube might be of great help, and with Instagram’s IGTV gaining popularity you may use shorter versions or similar content over both of these channels.

Leveraging these strategies might not pay off in the short run, yet these are sure to turn into an invaluable asset as the world dives further into the digital and augmented world over time. As they say, better late than never.

Originally, this article was previously published on Medium.

Lagging in digitalization

Government has time and again failed to understand the need to go digital in all the sectors and put the effort in developing regulations to monitor the digital platforms

Few weeks back, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) announced that it will take serious action against those who receive or make international payments through social media platforms. Considering these transactions to be illegal, NRB has said that any such activities would be treated as foreign currency embezzlement for which the action would be taken under the Foreign Exchange Act (2019). The announcement was made amid the rising popularity of social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. While NRB seems to have recognized the growing popularity of these channels, the statement indicates the failure of NRB to prescribe a proper solution to bring these transactions into a tax bracket.

It isn’t true that making or receiving payments over international online channels is illegal. However, as none of the banking sectors are connected to the international digital banking channels, most of the companies and individuals opt to make payments using foreign bank accounts and cards. These payments are then either sent or received through informal channels such as hundi which then happens to be illegal in nature.



Provisions so far
As stated by one of the officials of NRB, there is a provision that allows any institution or individual to make payments for advertising over social media platforms which requires approval from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Upon receiving the approval, the provision allows payments up to Rs 10,000 to be made through banks. It is unclear if this limit is per transaction or per year for an institution or an individual. However, any transactions beyond this limit require approval from NRB.

While the process to get an approval of almost a hundred US dollars is such a hassle, one can barely think of dealing with provisions to get approval beyond Rs 10,000. Moreover, for an agency providing advertising solutions to multiple clients and running multiple online ad campaigns, visiting a bank each time to make the payment is in no way a practical solution.



In one of the interviews, Sixit Bhatta, the founder of the popular Nepali ride-sharing app, said that “If we look at the developed economies, the absence of laws and regulations means it’s legal, and you make the frameworks very swiftly to accommodate innovation. In our (underdeveloped) economies, they (the government) deem the absence of laws as not legal and they are pretty slow in creating regulations.” The government has time and again failed to understand the need to go digital in all the sectors and put the effort in developing regulations to monitor the digital platforms.

In the absence of law, Pathao and Tootle riders have been cracked down and fined multiple times for “operating the vehicle against its purpose”. However, after a strong backlash from the public over the social media platforms, the government stepped back and stated that it would allow their operations. Soon it was heard that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli directed the Ministry of Physical Planning and Transportation to come up with the laws for governing these platforms. While the Department of Transport Management had stated that it would have the new law ready by the New Year’s Day of 2076 (April 2019), nothing has been heard of over these several months.

Third-party platforms have surely been a boon until now. However, the ability to make direct payments through the cards of the banks is much of an easier option.

Amid the growing popularity of online shopping portals and increased online transactions, the government released a national strategy for e-commerce only in August 2019, almost five years after the e-commerce began operating in a full-fledged manner. Yet lack of auxiliary infrastructures has been much of a hurdle for these platforms every now and then. For instance, the country lacks proper road maps and house numbering systems to locate or deliver the ordered goods. Moreover, the inability to make use of the debit or credit cards of the national banks for the payments in these platforms and compulsion to use third-party payment channels such as eSewa and Khalti has been a hassle for the users. Third-party platforms have surely been a boon until now. However, the ability to make direct payments through the cards of the banks is much of an easier option.



Time to speed up
No one can deny the fact that the offerings that can be made through online platforms are immense. The ability to encourage such platforms and accommodate them into the regulated market will not only ease the lives of the people but will also allow the government to bring these into a tax bracket and earn revenues.

Moreover, while the government aims to welcome millions of tourists there is a need to realize the significance of developing digital infrastructure to cater the needs of the tourists. For sure the tourists would prefer to search for a cab service online, book it through an app, and make payment using their card rather than taking up a hassle to walk to the street, look for a cab, bargain over the price, and get used to with the currency.

This article was published on March 12, 2020 on Republica National Daily