Here at MARKETECH APAC, one of our commitments is giving SMEs a dedicated space to bring forth their creativity and innovation, an area that is often overlooked against industry giants. 

Within a year of sharing and announcing SME marketing campaigns in the region, it is TikTok’s ‘Shop Local Saturday’ that comes out on top as our SME Marketing of The Year

The campaign is already a winner right off the bat – TikTok having grown to be the leading destination of entertaining content for the past two years in the pandemic, it is only but an innovative and progressive move to use the platform’s consumer base and transform the space as an enabler of SME business growth. 

Launched in May 2021 in the SEA markets of Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, ‘Shop Local Initiative’ offers SMBs the opportunity to be featured on the platform through a variety of paid advertising packages, utilizing TikTok’s unique suite of in-app spotlight features. 

Here’s our interview with Esme Lean, head of small and medium business for APAC on TikTok, who shared with us how SMBs can better deliver content on the platform and the future SMB initiatives and features we can look forward to this 2022.

Why did you launch ‘Shop Local Saturday’ specifically in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam?

TikTok For Business is home to all current and future marketing solutions for small and medium businesses (SMBs). 

With SMBs forming the backbone of many local economies in Southeast Asia, we launched ‘Shop Local Saturday’ in these markets in hopes of empowering and supporting them, especially with many SMBs in this region still managing the impact of the pandemic. This is corroborated by our research, which found that 1 in every 4 SMBs in Thailand as well as 1 in every 3 Vietnamese and Indonesian SMBs use TikTok as their preferred ad platform and find TikTok ads to be most effective, highlighting the strength of the platform as a marketing tool to drive their business goals.

The Shop Local Saturday initiative hence seeks to level the playing field on TikTok for all businesses regardless of size, by raising awareness and amplifying their offerings. We hope to show SMBs in these markets that we’re not only here to support them, but they can leverage TikTok to launch meaningful campaigns that will ultimately drive sales and real business results.

What has been the response of the SMB community towards the initiative?

Shop Local Saturday is one of our top-performing campaigns in Southeast Asia in 2021, which saw over 170 SMBs across three markets participating. With Shop Local Saturday, SMBs saw a huge increase in the number of impressions and clicks throughout the campaign, resulting in significant business results for participating SMBs.

On a baseline level, how can SMB brands deliver content that will effectively attract audiences on the platform?

Investing in digital transformation will certainly help companies, particularly SMBs, to meet their business goals. In particular, TikTok, which celebrates the short-form video format, represents a new marketing reality for brands of all sizes to best reach their audiences.

To cater to SMBs, TikTok’s flagship advertising platform, TikTok Ads Manager, makes it super easy for SMBs to access, launch and measure their ads campaign directly. Through TikTok Ads Manager, brands can create In-Feed Ads that offer SMBs a chance to place immersive video experiences within users’ For You feed. With this full-screen, auto-play, and sound-on format, SMBs’ ads can fit right into the user experience. This way, SMBs also now have the ability to independently launch and optimize campaigns to drive sales and real business results, giving them the opportunity to be easily discovered by users.

Have SMBs always been part of your main advocacy as a platform? What have you found is the role of TikTok in SMBs’ success and development?

TikTok has always been committed to empowering SMBs in Southeast Asia with the tools to drive their businesses forward. With over 240 million TikTok users in Southeast Asia alone, we recognize we have a significant role to play in supporting the many SMBs based in this region, by helping them tap into these vast communities.

We hence see ourselves as an enabler – in supporting SMBs in their growth and finding their authentic voice on our platform so they can grow their businesses. To this end, in addition to Shop Local Saturday, we also launched our Grow with TikTok: Starter Lab last year – an in-depth TikTok training program featuring interactive sessions that help SMBs in Southeast Asia build their expertise as advertisers and grow their businesses effectively on TikTok. During these hour-long sessions, SMBs get the opportunity to learn from established figures in the marketing industry, as well as hear from the TikTok team, on how to get started on TikTok.

What future initiatives and features can we expect from the platform towards SMBs?

In March 2021, we kicked off our Small Business Resource Center in Southeast Asia to provide best practices and resources for SMBs to learn to connect with their audience and drive results. This will continue to house best practices and serve as a learning repository for SMBs as a form of value-added support.

Additionally, TikTok also signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with SMB associations in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia last year, as part of its overall plan to contribute to the growth of SEA economies by enabling SMBs through education, and providing greater accessibility to TikTok Ads Manager for businesses across the region.

Moving ahead, TikTok will continue to monitor trends and engage in consumer behavior research, to effectively keep our finger on the pulse of what works for SMBs.

SMBs are a critical part of our communities — both on TikTok, in Southeast Asia, and around the globe — and we’re committed to empowering them to unlock new opportunities and drive business results. To that end, we will continue to create big moments and initiatives that champion and empower small businesses in the region through workshops, online trainings and support, and other resources to help them reach their goals as 2022 unfolds.

This recognition is based on the results of Google Analytics on the most-read stories of 2021 with editorial validation on the significance of a leader’s contribution, campaigns results, and overall impact.

Hong Kong – HGC Global Communications (HGC) has launched its retail ICT (information, communications, and technology) solution to cater to the needs of SME retailers in making their digital transformation strategy easier, especially as enterprise activity has been greatly affected by the pandemic.

An initial offering by the network company is making retailers stay connected to their customers, including Whatsapp+ service and automated chatbots for the retailer’s online chat system.

Furthermore, the new offering also aids SMEs in creating their online shop from scratch, including marketplace tools such as inventory management, trade reports, and analysis, as well as support for multiple payment methods.

Lastly, the digital offering allows retailers, more specifically in the catering industry,  to practice electronic point of sale (ePOS) systems. The system supports digital menus, enabling customers to use their smartphones to order and pay for meals. This can reduce the necessary manpower and limit mistaken orders, so restaurants can deploy staff more flexibly and efficiently. 

“SMEs are facing various challenges running their business in the midst of the pandemic. Even so, this presents retailers with an important opportunity to optimize their business operations. HGC strives to stand by SMEs at this critical time. Our Retail ICT solution can efficiently address the difficulties they encounter,” said Joe Cheong, COO for corporate business & enterprise market at HGC.

He added, “With the professional follow-up and support provided by HGC’s consultant teams, as well as our competitive pricing, we can guide them on a journey of rapid digital transformation to achieve significant improvements in operational efficiency. We hope to ease the pressure on SMEs, empowering them to continue running their business and identifying new business opportunities even during the pandemic.”

In addition to the digital marketplace package, HGC also offers retailers a unified communication solution (HGC UC) that combines business voice and mobile communication, plus other value-added services like mobile video conferencing to fulfill the needs of enterprises operating during the pandemic through a one-stop ICT solution.

Singapore – Gigworks, a local-based platform which allows buyer-seller integration facets of freelance services, has been recently launched in Singapore. 

Gigwork’s freelance mobile application platform caters to the growing demand for local and global freelance service engagement opportunities, especially as COVID-19 restrictions have seen a rise in remote work demand. Services offered include content writing, graphic and web designing, coding, translation, photo and video editing, and online marketing.

Gigwork’s freelance mobile application features a search integration to find freelance services easily using keywords, chat function for buyer-seller communication, review system to rate service efficiency and professionalism, and a dashboard to check balances and income based on previous projects. 

Catered primarily for freelancers and small businesses, Gigworks hopes that this new mobile application will help bridge the gap between job opportunities and create a network for other innovation systems locally and globally.

“The mission of Gigworks is to bring stellar work opportunities that are a match to people’s talents and capabilities with ease. We want to help people improve their lives as well as financial situations by having easy access to a myriad of good work projects via our platform,” Glenn Tay, CEO and founder of Gigworks stated.

Tay, who founded IT consultancy firm Plexure in 2011, is using his experience in founding the aforementioned consultancy firm and programming skills to develop Gigworks into a more online professional service engagement.

The mobile application is available on Google Play and on the app store, and users can register to offer their own services or seek one.

As more businesses embrace technology, the need to secure devices, software, and technology platforms grows even broader. With cyber threats becoming more complex and far-reaching, even small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need to invest in cybersecurity platforms to not only protect their businesses but also ensure the safety of their customers and employees. 

That’s why Saphron, an insurance technology (Insurtech) startup on a mission to make insurance radically accessible, rolled out its newest offering called Cyber Insurance and Breach Response for SMEs, or CYBRIS for short. CYBRIS is a cybersecurity insurance policy that protects a business from financial losses arising from a data breach or a cyber attack. 

Lorenzo Chan Jr., CEO of Saphron

“In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to say that you’re in business but you don’t utilize technology. No matter what sort of business you’re in, it’s very unlikely that you will not come across data or information about the client. And there is an insurance policy [to protect] that.”

Lorenzo Chan Jr., CEO of Saphron

The importance of cybersecurity in the new normal 

Products like CYBRIS have become increasingly relevant in the new normal, as digitization has become a necessity for many industries. A business that is handling any form of data in a digital platform, whether it’s a cloud database or social media, is susceptible to some 

form of cyber attack or data breach, so it’s important that businesses insure themselves should they become the next target. 

The product’s focus on SMEs is crucial, as small business owners are the most vulnerable to cyber threats. A 2018 study by GoDaddy revealed that 50% of small businesses in the Philippines experienced financial losses due to hacking, one of the most common types of cyber attacks. Research from CyberScout, a multinational provider of cybersecurity solutions, shows that even small businesses that only have one or two servers for their digital operations can lose anywhere from Php250,000 to Php750,000 from a data breach. 

Andrew Hong, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific at CyberScout

“SMEs are not comparable to conglomerates or enterprises, because they don’t have the budget or expenses for high-tech [cybersecurity solutions]. When [cyber threats] hit them, they will hit them very deep.” 

Andrew Hong, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific at CyberScout

CYBRIS: Your trusted ally in protecting your business 

With these threats in mind, CYBRIS ensures SME owners that their businesses will be protected financially from the aftermath of a cyber attack. A business covered by CYBRIS will receive financial compensation to cover the various liabilities arising from a data breach as well as help them take the first steps to recovery. 

As it was made for SMEs, CYBRIS offers its policies for as low as Php7,500 to Php14,500 a year—around the same amount as, or even lower than, car insurance. In turn, the policy will cover up to Php2.5 million worth of financial losses arising from a data breach, which includes privacy breach liabilities, security breach liabilities, regulatory penalties, and payment card industry fines. CYBRIS also provides support for processing ransomware attacks, which according to CyberScout can cost around Php50,000 to Php150,000. 

On top of this financial coverage, a CYBRIS policy also comes with 24/7 rapid breach response service from CyberScout, which has a wide network of industry and legal experts who are able to guide businesses when it comes to data breach incidents. CyberScout also helps entrepreneurs navigate through uncertainties in their digital operations and ensure that they are following the best practices in cybersecurity. 

One of CyberScout’s clients is a mid-sized aviation company operating in 60 countries, which suffered from a password attack in 2019 that led to fraudulent emails being sent to the company’s clients. Once the company reported the attack, CyberScout shipped a proprietary blackbox that allowed the client to conduct a forensic investigation of the compromised units. Through this investigation, CyberScout was not only able to advise the company on how to inform their clients and recover from the attack, but it was also able to identify other vulnerabilities within the company’s systems that could be exploited by cyber criminals. 

“We help SMEs facilitate the entire [breach response] process,” said Hong. “We advise you step-by-step on how to deal with a cyber attack. We even have a consultative panel of lawyers and industry experts to help.” 

Secure your business for the digital economy 

For Atty. Leandro Aguirre, Deputy Privacy Commissioner at the National Privacy Commission (NPC), products like CYBRIS have a two-fold benefit. Not only does CYBRIS enable SME owners to grow in the digital economy, it also makes them view the threat of cyber attacks more seriously. 

“[CYBRIS] is something that hopefully will help SMEs who may not have the necessary resources or who may not even prioritize cybersecurity or data privacy,” said Aguirre. “Something like this will put it forward, make them think about it more, and it will help them take the necessary steps to comply with the regulations of the NPC. I look at this as some kind of multiplier effect with what we’re trying to do with the Commission. It makes them more aware of what they need to comply, and that also helps us.” 

Through CYBRIS, SMEs can protect themselves from the financial repercussions of a cyber attack without having to shell out a lot of time, effort, and investment. With its affordable rates, comprehensive coverage, and accessibility, CYBRIS is every SME’s trusted ally in cybersecurity. 

“This particular product is earmarked for SMEs. People normally think cybersecurity is not affordable, that you’ll need big comprehensive teams to maintain it. SMEs don’t have the time nor the resources for those right away, and sometimes they’re not even aware of it. [Offering] this product that is simple, affordable, and available online is going to be quite useful,” concluded Chan.