Small business with a strong online presence grow 4 times faster than competitors who are not on digital, said Google Philippines country manager Kenneth Lingan.

With 65 million Filipinos now online, going digital should no longer be a question, Lingan said during the Digitize Cebu conference held in Cebu last Wednesday and organized by AdSpark, Globe myBusiness, and Department of Trade and Industry Cebu Province.

“For every single month, half a million Filipinos are going online. That’s really massive. You think about that – in a year, you are adding the population of Singapore online into the Philippines,” he said. “That’s the kind of market potential that we are dealing with here.”

Digitize Cebu Google Philippines country manager Kenneth Lingan
GROWING, MOBILE-FIRST. Most new Filipino users access the internet through mobile devices, said Google Philippines country manager Kenneth Lingan during Wednesday’s Digitize Cebu conference.

Filipinos are mobile-first consumers

But what defines the Filipino internet consumer, he said, “is the fact that we are mobile-first.”

Most new Filipino users access the internet via mobile phones. “In fact that’s really where they spent much of their time,” he said. Filipinos look at their phones 150 times in a day, studies said. People are very engaged on their phones and “it is affecting every aspect of our lives,” he said.

People today do not go online, he said, they “live online” and mostly through their phones.

That can be seen in findings like Filipinos’ growing dependence on services like Waze. While the global usage average is 17 minutes, in Manila Waze is used at an average of 70 minutes per session, he said.

In a world going digital, “small will be the new big,” Lingan said. The internet “could work for big business as much as it could work for small ones.”

He said small businesses are the “backbone of the country,” employing about 60% of the population.

“If you want to drive growth in the Philippines, the only way to really drive that is through empowering small business,” he said. A key driver for this is digitization, Lingan told attendees of the conference.

Digital levels business playing field

In the past, he said business was all about “having big resources.” Digital levels that playing field, Lingan said. With digital tools, business can reach the right customers and at massive scale.

“In the past if you’re a small business, your target market will only be your community. But with the internet, your definition of what your target market is goes beyond your borders,” Lingan said.

With digital advertising, businesses are then able to leverage measurements and tools to make sure their ad spending are getting “the right return of investments.”

He also spoke about the opportunities offered by the emergence of commerce in the country.

Digitize Cebu
DEPENDENT. People are increasingly becoming dependent on their phones to do most tasks.

Opportunities for e-commerce

“I know it’s still small in the Philippines, in fact, it’s just $500 million in terms of value but what we foresee is that the next 10 years this will grow 20X to $10 billion by 2025. And it’s changing consumer habits,” he said.

Among these habits is the practice of researching online via mobile phones even while inside a physical store.

He said people continually engage with phones to find information and these “micro-moments” will become the new battleground for brands.

Lingan said there are 4 types of micro-moments: I want to know, I want to do, I want to go, and I want to buy.

“The path to purchase is changing and evolving. A lot of people now, through that path of purchase, are consulting their smartphones to know more about their services and really making sure that they are better informed and would make the right decisions,” he said.

Influence path to purchase

Lingan said it is important for brands to have a strong digital presence because when Filipinos start researching on purchases, “82% are not absolutely certain of brand choice.”

“It is an opportunity for businesses to influence that decision by making sure that your presence online is strong,” he said. “People would go to their smartphones 6 to 7 times before they make their decisions.”

The role of phones is emphasized by findings that 78% of Filipinos have used a locator or maps app to find a store’s location and 80% have consulted their smartphones while buying in a physical store.

Lingan said the key to influencing the path to purchase and winning in a mobile-first world is to: be seen, be fast, and be smart.

Digitize Cebu
PHYSICAL STORE, ONLINE RESEARCH. Consumer behavior has changed, chief among them is the practive of researching online through mobile phones while buying in a physical store.

Be seen

“If you are not present online, you are saying no to all these people who are online. You are making it impossible for a lot of customers to find you,” he said.

“If I am a foreigner visiting Cebu and if you are not on Google Maps it’s impossible for me to find you,” he said, pointing out how easy it was for businesses to be listed on Google Maps for free.

He also emphasized the importance of online videos, especially on YouTube, in influencing purchase decisions and improving brand perception.

He said “50% of shoppers will more likely seek advice from online videos relating to their purchases.”

Lingan also said that more than 80% say online video “helps convince shoppers to think more positively about a brand.”

“If you have videos, I would encourage you to create a YouTube channel for your business. Every business has a story and videos would be able to tell your story in a much more enriching way,” he said.

Be fast

Demands of customers have changed, they now want things “as fast as possible.”

In a mobile-first world, Lingan said, 53% of users would abandon your website if it loads slower than 3 seconds.

“The important thing about mobile is to be really obsessed about the user experience,” he said.

He cited tools from Google that will help businesses assess their website speed on mobile and offer suggestions to improve this.

Digitize Cebu
BE SMART. Opinions aren’t as important today as data-driven decisions based on analytics.

Be smart

With today’s tools, opinions don’t matter as much as data-driven decisions.

“You now have opportunity for analytics for data. We need more data-driven decisions so that it could tell you what kind of investments have given you ROI,” he said.

He also emphasized the need for businesses to be willing to experiment on digital and use analytics to see if these work.

Online learning resources

Lingan also asked those present to take advantage of online resources to learn about entrepreneurship and tapping digital marketing to boost their businesses.

He cited the following resources as helpful to businesses:

1) YouTube channels for educational videos. He told people to subscribe to Google Small Business and Google for Entrepreneurs.

2) Think With Google website for industry trends and practices.

3) Google Primer, which offers marketing lessons by Google.

Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering Cebu City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since...

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