'What's Next?' in Sales, Retail & Marketing
Having returned to the world of Retail, Sales and Marketing, I have spent the last couple of months discovering the current and upcoming trends in these spaces and what these functions should be considering to stay relevant following the global pandemic. Below I share these tips.
Sales will remain a crucial part of any business, but the way people do sales has changed and will continue to change.
• Spark your creativity - it is a highly sought after trait! Salespeople really have to come up with more innovative ways to represent or demonstrate their services or products, creating new visual or emotional impact. Think live videos and virtual product fairs! Virtual reality meetings and product showcases will popularise over time.
• Let automation take over. People working in sales should invest their time in their customers and relationships rather than sales admin follow-ups. Companies need to invest in systems to maximize efficiency, such as a CRM system which allow businesses to efficiently manage relationships with customers and prospects in one place, eliminating numerous manual tasks and allowing a sales person to maximise the amount of time they spend selling.
• Social selling and more social selling! On November 11th ‘Single’s Day’ sales in China resulted in a mega revenue of RMB 400 billion on Taobao T-Mall on the day alone (!). This was achieved largely by ‘Chat Box Managers’ engaging with customers!
• Value based - sell the ‘WHY’ of whatever you are selling, not just ‘what’ you are selling. Brands who sell their stories are much more successful than those who simply keep telling you what their product specs are.
From a recruiter’s perspective, I do believe that companies will continue to invest in their sales functions in preparation for post-pandemic recovery to enable growth.
Marketing & PR
Many marketing professionals have been sharing that in the current environment their marketing budget is being cut. How should marketers adjust?
• Face the reality! Stop hoping that things will go back to normal, to the way things were. Embracing and adapting to change and finding creative ways around reaching and engaging your audience will be key to overcoming this hurdle.
• Brands nowadays are all trying to create that emotional connection with you through touching stories in their advertising. Simply look at recent commercials from Uber, Apple, Prudential and Oreo for a few examples. Uber’s ad actually tells the audience to NOT use their service during the pandemic; Apple continues to tie their brand with creativity by incorporating touching snaps of life in 2020. Prudential and Oreo commercials did not once mention their products but connect with you emotionally.
• Use the time to build digital platforms as an investment for the future. According to Gartner, 80% of multichannel budgets were spent on digital channels in 2020.
• Meetings and events will remain virtual for a while yet – if you haven’t made the switch already, familiarise hosting webinars or facilitating roundtables through video communication tools like Zoom. I have seen a selected few companies hiring ‘Virtual Meetings Manager’ as a result; which is surely an emerging role.
• Don’t let an opportunity go to waste! There are still PR opportunities to be had during the pandemic. Brands will be remembered for any positive actions during crises, and it should come as no surprise that customers do not return to those with poor behaviours. When Covid heightened in Hong Kong, Watson’s The Chemist became a well-respected brand as they made and sold clinical face masks to the public in a fair, accessible and affordable manner when people struggled to buy any.
• People prefer buying from brands that communicate well with their customers and those that provide a high human touch. Whether it is during or post pandemic, treat your customers well! Personalise if you can.
• We are hearing that many APAC roles are likely to be moved outside of Hong Kong (to Shanghai, for example) so roles here will become more local market oriented. Marketing & PR professionals in Hong Kong will therefore need to be more active in identifying new and suitable local collaborations.
It is worth remembering that despite the budget cuts, companies that do put spend into marketing during this time are more likely to gain from the market bounce back as they are the ones that would have remained visible.
The scene in Hong Kong is for sure very different today. It is hard to see our well-loved brands going under, but it is still an industry I and many others are passionate about. What do the insiders think will happen?
• In luxury, frontline sales roles are still paramount to a brand’s success. Shoppers still crave the physical shopping experience! That VIP experience determines loyalty. However, Hong Kong had previously enjoyed a period where business is almost spoon-fed by tourism, so now these luxury sales teams will have to be more aggressive while competing on their emotional engagement and personal touch with their customers.
• FMCG retailing, on the other hand, needs to focus on and invest in product quality while competing on price and shopping effectiveness (e-commerce / digital platforms). For example, the HK local e-commerce giant HKTVMall has been gaining more and more customers and traction with their product variety, reasonable lead-time and trusted on-time delivery.
• Brands that provide unique, bespoke in-store experiences and memorable customer service while operating an efficient digital platform will stay competitive for longer. We know of stores globally that have offered virtual assistance during lockdown, where they guide you through their products and take queries over video call.
I hope these points have provided some food for thought. If you are in Sales, Marketing or Retail, and are interested in a discussion about your career path or hiring for your teams, please feel free to get in touch via LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org