By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter

INTEGRATING personalization and innovation into business strategies stands as a paramount move for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) looking to tap into the heightened consumer engagement and increased spending during the “ber” months, according to an expert.

The Philippines is known for its unique and extended holiday celebrations, which run from September through December.

This extended period of festivities results in heightened consumer activity and increased spending, making it a prime time for businesses to connect with their target market, said Armando “Butz” O. Bartolome, a business mentor and founder/president of GMB Franchise Developers.

“Opportunities are around, except that people would really need to identify which opportunities are there,” he said in an interview withBusinessWorld.

By customizing their offerings and embracing innovative approaches, MSMEs can effectively engage with consumers and make the most of the extended festive period, he noted.

Customization involves tailoring products and services to closely align with consumer preferences during the festive season, he noted.

“Innovation is very, very important here,” Mr. Bartolome said, highlighting the creativity underpinning products such as personalized gift hampers or refrigerator magnets with sensors.

“Offer samples,” Mr. Bartolome said. Business owners might be put off by the cost, but “sampling is very effective,” he added.

He also advised MSMEs to use online platforms to market or sell their products.

Collaborating with established e-commerce platforms, like Lazada and Shopee, provides MSMEs with a wider customer base, he noted.

Both platforms have a history of above-average numbers of orders during the season. This is buoyed by their 9.9, 10.10, 11.11, and 12.12 sales days.

Lazada, for one, reported that electronics sales surged 230 times during its 11.11 sale in 2022.Makeup and fragrance purchases were also up seven and six times, respectively, as compared to normal days.

Shopee, meanwhile, noted that orders from Shopee Mall, a by-invite-only premium retail space reserved for brand owners and authorized distributors, surged “14 times” from an average day in its 12.12 sale in 2021.

Sellers can entice customers through promotions, which may or may not necessarily mean discounts, Mr. Bartolome said.

He said that they can bundle products so that buyers who want to upgrade can have the second product at 50% off.

“That’s promoting your brand,” Mr. Bartolome noted. “Another way is to provide a coupon for a product they can buy even after the Christmas season… People will say, ‘Ok. I have a coupon from this store. I’ll probably redeem this coupon.’”

“You don’t have to give a massive discount because your profitability will be affected. It cannot be a do-or-die,” he added. “Know where your bottom line is.”

He said that it is also crucial to set up a realistic budget that accounts for logistics, manpower, and expenses such as participation fees in pop-up stores and bazaars.

Attentiveness to customer feedback, he also said, can differentiate a business from competitors. The success story of Coffee Buddy, a coffee business in Quezon City, showcases how customer focus can lead to growth and expansion, he added.

“The husband-and-wife owners are very attentive to customers. That’s one of the things I saw,” he said. “[Second of all,] they get testimonials from people who love their coffee.”

“There was a time during the season when they could hardly walk in their shop because of all the packages they had to prepare for pickup for all the food delivery platforms,” he noted. Even with the proliferation of competitors, it is still possible to “establish your unique selling proposition… if you put all your efforts in it.”

Mr. Bartolome also advised MSMEs against overstocking their inventories.

“Make sure you can move your goods. Make sure the people who are selling with you know how to move the products,” he said.

Those who end up understocking, meanwhile, can capitalize on the circumstance by turning it into a relationship-building exercise with consumers.

Instead of saying, “‘Sorry, this item is no longer available,’… have that clincher,” Mr. Bartolome suggested. “Say, ‘Give me your number. I will have this product delivered to you within the next two weeks,’ so then you have that promise you will never want to compromise.”

Don’t be afraid to start a business, Mr. Bartolome stressed.

“Be personal. You may have products that other sellers are also selling online, but you [can be] different because you have this personal approach. Start with whatever you want to sell but put your heart and soul into what you’re selling.”