A grand pivot: How Yoco adapted to a COVID-19 world

how yoco adapted to assist small businesses

There are few lockdowns in the world as severe – and as hard-hitting economically – as the one inflicted upon South Africa.

The situation in South Africa cast a big shadow over our first ever virtual SCALEup on May 28, which came with a brand new format called The Marketer’s Snackbox: acutely aware of the Zoom fatigue affecting everybody, our webinars are short and snappy 20 minute affairs. Perfect for a lunch break or over your morning coffee! 

This time around, our moderator Natasha Fourie spoke to Matt Brownell of Yoco, a point-of-sale payments provider for small businesses – and the market leader in South Africa since their launch in 2014. Making easy payments possible for thousands of businesses across the country, Yoco’s customer base – up to 80,000 businesses – spans a wide range of sectors, with particular strengths in gastronomy, retail, and health and beauty.

With a business model focused on small businesses – most of whom were forced to shut due to the lockdown announcements on March 23 – COVID-19 had a big impact on the company’s bottom line. In an insightful discussion, Matt revealed how they’ve pivoted since the crisis erupted, finding out about how they adapted their entire product offering and their marketing and media strategy to suit the new normal. Here are the five takeaways we gleaned from the short, but vital, discussion.

We don’t stop for long here at DCMN. Sign up for next week’s webinar on the topic of online gaming, with speakers from Wooga, Nordeus and Kolibri.

“Thoughtfulness trumps speed in a crisis like this”

COVID-19 came at a strange time for the Yoco team, who had just successfully hosted their first conference day only one day before the lockdown began! “We weren’t so prepared,” Matt admitted. “I had woken up the day after and thought maybe I would take a breather before the rest of the year.”

Many companies immediately are all systems go, but for Yoco it was a bit different. Instead, they spent the first five days surveying their customer base and finding out exactly what they needed to overcome and survive the crisis. Their findings consisted of three needs: resources & knowledge, community and product. These became the three pillars of Yoco’s subsequent COVID-19 strategy. For example, the focus on resources and knowledge led to a content marketing strategy centred on their blog, with timely and highly relevant articles that hone in on ways to assist small business owners during the crisis.

What small businesses needed was clear data on what was going on

Transparency and openness is a key part of Yoco’s philosophy. So it was no surprise they decided to use all the data they have – something extremely rare – to help small businesses publicly. To that end, Yoco launched their Small Business Recovery Monitor, an index tracking small- and medium-size business turnover in South Africa, information and data that small business owners were sorely lacking beforehand. 

Displaying the index, Matt showed how at its lowest point, small business revenue dropped 92% on pre-lockdown levels. Matt also noted here that, of course, their customers’ loss of revenue directly correlates to a loss of revenue on Yoco’s side. Hence it was imperative for Yoco to pivot, changing their content strategy to support their clients’ recovery or to minimise losses where possible by providing them with knowledge and resources.

And that wasn’t the only product innovation…

In one week, they built another application their customer base was in need of: a voucher system. Called Support Small, it’s another one of these great local business initiatives that we’ve seen since the crisis erupted. Support Small acts as a small business directory for which customers could buy online gift vouchers, or donate and shop at businesses who are still trading. “It was a product-led response to a customer need,” he told Natasha.

Company culture is very important – especially when remote working

“Agility is embedded in our DNA,” he explains. It’s not just the ability to switch courses quickly – something startups are often praised for – or having the right tech at their disposal that has been crucial for Yoco’s switch to this ‘new normal’. Even more crucial is a focus on compassionate leadership, something that has always been important for the business.

“We went from having an all-hands meeting every two weeks, to having one every day,” Matt told us. “And we had a big focus on overcommunication, too. Some people complain about having too many meetings, but at this time we thought it was crucial.”

He’s confident that’s what will see Yoco through the crisis

They’ve already pivoted, and he expects more pivots to come as they shift to a more product-led offering. But it’s that aforementioned focus on culture that’s really crucial: “Culture either fragments or gets stronger in a crisis,” Matt says, talking about how inspired he has been by Yoco’s solidarity since the crisis erupted.

“I heard a quote saying about 10% of businesses come out of a recession stronger,” says Matt. “Yoco will be one of those 10%.”

Thanks Matt!

Need help pivoting your marketing strategy? Talk to us at hello@dcmn.com if you fancy a chat.

    Liked that?

    Here are some more articles that may interest you.

    Media consumption in focus: which channels dominated the corona year?

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the last year has seen global media consumption go through the roof.

    How to foster wellbeing at work: an interview with our CPO Nikoletta Tamas

    Wellbeing at work is more important than ever. With traditional separations of work and life…

    Learning is a responsibility: How DCMN does employee development

    DCMN is, simply put, really big on learning. Pre-corona we had experts come to our…

    How can retrospectives help your business grow?

    Retrospectives, while coming from the tech world, can be used by any team at any…

    Incrementality: The Guide for Online Marketers

    Ever wondered what your YouTube campaigns actually bring to the table? We all know the…

    Earth Day 2021: how can digital companies be more sustainable?

    Earth Day every year falls on April 22 — and in 2021 this is one…

    Poutine and Possibilities: what you need to know about entering the Canadian market

    When expanding your brand to North America, you might be tempted to look past Canada.…

    Ambition and acquisitions: an interview with upGrad CEO Arjun Mohan

    If you thought learning stopped at school — then think again. People the world over…

    #ItsNotOk: Truecaller’s new campaign fights harassment of women

    If there’s one thing brands realised over the last year, it was that brand purpose…

    How Blinkist used podcast marketing for audible growth

    Are podcasts the key to your growth? Our latest SCALEup webinar saw us discuss podcast…

    Ahead of the pack: 5 lessons from Peloton’s phenomenal growth story

    With a global member base of 4.4 million members and 1.67 million bikes and treadmills…

    Music to (our) ears: How Deezer struck the right notes during 2020

    Our final SCALEup webinar of the year took a jump into the world of music…
    Write a comment

    Know more to grow more