Filipinos love to give presents and more so love shopping for such. With the inflation situation making our purchasing power weaker, there has been a move to support local and help each other out. Various micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have established presences online in order to sell their goods and capture a market and we continue to shop online as well as we tick off our Christmas list.
However, shopping online in terms of supporting local requires the tedious task of searching and going through crowd-sourced favorites to find the desired product. Sometimes we may not have much time in our hands. While there are personal shoppers for known retail establishments who are available at our beck and call on Viber or other messaging platforms, it does not necessarily mean they are promoting local.
The recently-concluded Trade department-sponsored IMPAKABSAT 2022, where the department’s Cordillera office brought almost 75 MSMEs to Manila for a 9-day trade fair, was an example of promoting local — Cordilleran products in this case. The trade fair was able to generate revenues for the MSMEs but other hurdles lie after that. We soon realize that two things remain challenging for MSMEs in terms of us supporting local: marketing and logistics.
Marketing is a challenge for MSMEs as not all of them are necessarily technology-savvy and therefore cannot easily navigate digital platforms. In our experience as the social media partner of some agencies, we found that many MSMEs still did not have established online presences to enable faster transactions. At best, Viber or online messaging were the default route in entertaining customers outside their territory. We thus advocate that MSMEs establish an online presence and to ensure that relevant content is consistently shared to their target audience. Ideally, this digital presence could also allow for electronic payments to complete the buying experience.
Another challenge is in the logistics space. Given the geographic distribution of MSMEs, it could take some time for products to reach customers. Our infrastructure itself is not robust and logistics may not be as real-time as we want it to be. To address this, it is encouraged that customers shop as early as possible so the products can arrive in time.
However, this may not always be possible for many of us. For example, coffee is a big industry in the Caraga Region but how many of us are aware of this? This product would make for an excellent gift for our coffee connoisseur friends but since it is not as known as others (a marketing challenge) and is hard to get, (a logistical challenge), MSMEs in that region are missing a golden opportunity to have their products introduced to a bigger market and be supported by a wider audience.
Marketing and logistics are two key challenges that can be addressed in our efforts to support, grow and sustain local industries. These are two areas that companies and organizations can look into in helping MSMEs as they explore digital to reach a wider market. More importantly as customers, let us continue to support local even if it means spending a greater amount of time online scouring for the best buys that our country produces as we shop for presents.
Happy holidays to one and all! May your days be merry and bright.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building and sustainability. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.