FOR some years now, a quaint neighbourhood café – let’s call it T Café – has been making quite a solid presence with its unique setting, delightful fresh meals and packaged local merchandises that tempted many a walk-in customer.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, pulling the rug from under their feet and upending all business projections for the café.
“Our customers were staying home for safety reasons. Confusion over dine-in SOP, limited seating and shortened operating hours put additional pressures on the business, ” the owner shared.
“While we appreciated the spirit in which these rules were implemented, we were badly hit. At one point, sales dropped by over 70% a day.”
Delivery kept the lights on at T Café for a while, but like many F&B businesses it was operating on paper-thin profit margins – and the cost of delivery fees soon became untenable.
“We really had to take a hard look at our customer pull factors. We could no longer promote the in-store experience and needed to revamp our menu to include more delivery-friendly items, ” said the owner.
Neighbourhood communities tried to support the café, coming in to grab to-go orders.
“We made it a point to ask them to tell their friends about our café, and that we are still open for business, ” he said.
To vary its offerings, T Café also collaborated with a nearby bakery that was also struggling.
“Supporting one another is important in times like this. The unity between local businesses has helped us survive.”
For a while, social marketing and joint collaboration seemed to work for him as a temporary band-aid, but it wasn’t sustainable as a third wave of Covid-19 hit the country.
Since he was struggling to cover the cost of goods and payroll, he needed a better plan to get his business online as fast as possible.
The main obstacle was speed of implementation.
“We didn’t have a website or an all-inclusive app like many digital-ready companies, ” the owner said.
He also needed a quick way to list cross-partnership products but like the café, his partners also did not have methods to go online.
In short, T Café needed an affordable business solution that would cover everything from product listings to digital payments and the owner needed it fast.
With limited access to resources and often lack of technical know-how to pivot his business from familiar sales channels, the owner could not adapt to the new normal.
So he turned to Kiple, a Malaysian fintech player that specialises in helping the underserved communities to go digital with speed.
Kiple was familiar with the challenges that T Café faced – that neighbourhood cafés and community businesses have very special needs that are different from the way an established online store sells its goods in an e-commerce ecosystem.
Local community-based businesses thrive on building a strong customer bond through a great customer experience.
For smaller businesses, getting from offline to online is not a flick of a switch.
As a start, Kiple and T Café drew out a clear digital solution together.
“We didn’t need just a strategy but a quick turnaround solution to survive. We called it the T-Café Survival Kit. Our first step together was redrawing our desired diner journey for both online and offline in the new norm, ” said the owner.
There are two key critical components in the survival kit. First, listings of products need to be simple but flexible.
“We needed a platform to get us a level of personalisation such as extra discounts, targeted communications, and special benefits that we can pivot at anytime.”
The second component is a personalised end-to-end experience from selection to payment and delivery.
“Kiple offered us their unified payment solution. Their kit worked for both online and offline experiences simultaneously.”
Armed with the kit, T Café quickly reviewed its list of customers and how to reach out to them socially.
The management worked quickly on marketing campaigns to drive repeat visits and referrals.
Kiple worked with T Café to ensure it can quickly list changed menus and pricing depending on available produce and customer preferences.
For walk-ins, KiplePay’s e-wallet and merchant applications were employed to minimise physical interaction, and to follow SOP for customers who choose to dine-in.
The app allowed the café to take orders quickly and handle payment without customers walking up to the cashier.
Customers could conveniently place their orders and make payment at their table through the app.
This minimised physical interactions with customers when taking orders and handling payments, and takeaway customers could order and pay in advance.
For an online journey, T Café used KiplePay’s one-click payment solution, which was quickly integrated on social media.
This allowed T Café’s owner to confidently do something he had never done before – create a dynamic online menu that he could easily update depending on demand and even promote occasional special items, all of which have improved his sales efficiency.
“Suddenly, we had a new digital sales channel set up for us in a week, ” the owner recalled.
“One of the plus points is that we did not have to spend extra to build a website. It was all done in a simple three-step process.”
The café created an order link, posted it on social media and customers could then order and pay with a single click before scheduling delivery or pick-up.
“It is important to get all we needed from the same credible partner that understood us so that we don’t have to repeat our needs multiple times.
“The digital playground has now opened up many opportunities and additional income streams that would not be possible if we had relied only on offline walk-ins.
“Faced with challenges in this new normal, digital platforms and digital payments are enabling us to be more flexible as a company and the Kiple team has taken us step by step to successfully make this transition, ” said the owner.
The story of KiplePay and T-Café is not unique.
With SMEs and micro-enterprises making up a whopping 98.5% of Malaysian businesses, and the F&B sector being among the hardest hit by closures and job losses, the need for all small outfits to seize the opportunity to build digitally enabled operations is indeed timely.
Government initiatives like the Prihatin packages that offer wage subsidies; discounts on electricity; loan moratoriums for SMEs; and, incentives to encourage lower rents have all provided much needed support.
But at the end of the day, these are merely stop-gap measures.
SMEs need to proactively seek means to improve their odds for survival in the longer term and even expand their income flow from new opportunities that the digital space can open.
As the nation continues to battle Covid-19, Kiple’s fintech team is supporting SMEs across a variety of industries.
KiplePay’s white label wallet-as-a-service (WaaS) solution is ready to support anyone wanting to organise a payment facility that is fully customisable to its needs, with features such as electronic know-your-customer (eKYC) management, online and in-store payment, QR payment, money transfer, voucher generation and redemption as well as loyalty and card management.
It is crucial for businesses, even those operating on a shoestring budget, to have scalable options to accelerate their pace in bringing their business online.
While digital payment may not be a new thing, having a holistic digital payment system makes a world of difference in helping small businesses keep revenue flowing during uncertain times.
To read more about how Green Packet enables digital warriors, go to www.digitalwarriors.greenpacket.com
Green Packet is an internationally recognized telecommunications, media and technology Company. Founded in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley in 2000 and subsequently listed on the Malaysian Stock Exchange in 2005, Green Packet designs and produces wireless devices, user-centered applications and services that enable the delivery of valuable digital experiences.