Google exec urges MSMEs to go digital

By Victor Anthony V. Silva |August 30,2017 - 10:49 PM

KENNETH Lingan, country manager of Google Philippines, speaks before the participants of Digitalize Cebu conference at the Cebu City Marriott Hotel on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

In this age of digitalization, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are poised to become the country’s next big businesses.

Kenneth Lingan, Google Philippines country manager, said that MSMEs are the backbone of the country’s economy, accounting for 99.6 of all businesses as well as employing around 70 percent of the total workforce.

However, he said these numbers don’t translate to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), with the total contribution of MSMEs to the economy being less than 40 percent, relatively smaller compared to the same sector in other Southeast Asian countries.

“In order to drive the growth of the sector, we need to empower small businesses through digitalization,” he said during the Digitize Cebu conference at the Cebu City Marriott Hotel on Wednesday.

Google and AdSpark, with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), brought together small and medium enterprises in Cebu to learn about the latest trends in digital and mobile, and consult with experts on digital marketing.

In a talk on the country’s digital landscape, Lingan said that the internet makes business a level playing field, evidenced by a study Google did, which found that enterprises that have an online presence grow faster than those that have not yet gone digital.

He said the internet could work both for big and small businesses, reaching the right customers at scale as well as making every investment count.

World market

“Before, a business’ target market was only its immediate community. With the internet, it can go beyond that. You have the potential to reach the millions of people online all over the world. Should we go digital? The answer is yes,” said Lingan.

Lingan cited as an example Cebu-based Chedz Cakes, which has an online presence.

He said that overseas Filipino workers who have access to the internet can check out Chedz’s page, order a cake, and have it delivered to their loved ones in Cebu City.

There are currently 65 million Filipinos online at present, with most of them part of the “mobile-first” generation.

Google projected that the Philippines will continue to digitize fast due to its young, growing, and more affluent population as well as more affordable data plans and declining smartphone prices.

With the average person looking at his phone 150 times a day, Lingan said “we don’t go online, we live online.”

Digitalization has brought improvements in different sectors including Google Maps, Waze, Agoda, Uber, Grab, and Airbnb for travel; YouTube for entertainment; and has redefined people’s shopping experience through electronic commerce platforms such as Lazada, Zalora, and OLX, among others.

The e-commerce sector is currently valued at $500 million, but is projected to grow up to $10 billion by 2025.

He said today, 10 percent of online Filipinos make their purchases off the internet while 65 percent of them do research before buying products.

‘Micro-moments’

But Lingan said the new battleground for brands is what Google calls “micro-moments,” which there are four types namely: I want to know, I want to do, I want to go, and I want to buy.

These moments have transformed the path-to-purchase, which he pointed out businesses should take advantage of.

Since Filipinos do a great amount of research work online, this should be a perfect opportunity for businesses to make themselves known.

“Smartphones are an early gateway to your store. If you have an online presence, you will get discovered,” said Lingan.

Lingan said it was important for businesses to be “seen, fast, and smart” amid these shifts in the way customers transact.

He introduced Google tools such as Google My Business, Google AdWords, YouTube Video Ads, and Google Analytics that will achieve these and help MSMEs grow to become big businesses in the future.

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