Vincent Tong and Henry Tong, co-founders of Printcious tell us about gift shops and pandemic challenges.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vincent Tong: It is indeed a difficult time for all of us, but we adjusted ourselves pretty quickly and got back on track. I get to spend more time with family members and foster a better relationship with them.
Tell us about yourselves, your careers, and how you founded Printcious.
Vincent Tong: Back in 2015, my twin brother (Henry) and I founded a website aiming to nurture gift-giving ideas to our potential customers and let them be in awe with the gifts that we have in store.
We eventually evolved into more comprehensive selections, providing not only DIY gift printing but also personal items with ready designs that can further decorate personal space in a tasteful manner.
How does Printcious innovate?
Vincent Tong: Since the beginning of 2021 we’ve entered into a partnership with a leading global creative platform and licensed content provider Shutterstock, to provide more than thousands of Shutterstock images and designs to our existing collection. Customers can use these extensive images and designs as templates to create DIY (do-it-yourself) personalized gifts such as throw pillows, t-shirts, mugs, canvasses, puzzles, mousepads, tote bags, and many more.
This partnership makes Printcious one of Asia’s largest print-on-demand companies to partner with Shutterstock. It also represents an extension of Printcious’s focus on custom designs into attractive ready designs, which can then be personalized.
Apart from that, we’ve also started focusing on merchandise program, actively seeking partnerships and co-branding campaigns with retailers, YouTubers, KOLs, and other public figures too, so we can work together to expand their brand exposure, and at the same time, providing a solution to their merchandise needs. This Print-On-Demand merchandise program helps our partners save cost and time, as well as worry-free with all logistics, warehousing, and fulfillment, as all these will be taken care of by Printcious. All they need to do is to upload designs, create products and start selling.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Vincent Tong: The Coronavirus has changed worldwide end-users shopping habits. Due to Movement Control Order (MCO) that is implementing in Malaysia and also in most countries around the world, people tend to spend more time browsing for products online at the comfort of their home. Hence we saw a climb in terms of B2C sales, but at the same time a drastic drop in B2B sales figures, as there are not many events going on that require bulk-order of corporate premium items.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Vincent Tong: Upon the announcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia, all offices and public spaces were ordered to stop operating and it has definitely affected the industry as this a never-before practice in Malaysia. Due to this, we had to change our business to a work-from-home format, where most of our employees were operating at their own homes.
As this is something new that we’ve not encountered, we didn’t start off with good productivity. Hence for the second phase of MCO, we’ve enforced a stricter communication and tracking method among employees to ensure high productivity and measurable results.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Henry Tong: We are communicating with our customers through common channels such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for an almost immediate response; as well as the conventional customer service emails to rely on customers’ inquiries. All our customer emails are monitored using the Zendesk CRM system, which helps us to ensure the highest customer service quality and efficiency.
Since the beginning of last year, we’ve extended our customer service support hours to midnight, even include Public Holidays, to ensure our customers are attended to whenever they needed help.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Henry Tong: There were some government wages subsidy programs and hiring incentive programs that helped us reduce payroll, and increase the willingness amongst the industry to hiring more new workers during these difficult times.
Your final thoughts?
Henry Tong: Even though Covid-19 has stormed us without much warning, it has definitely taught us a lot of valuable lessons in terms of crisis management, employee rewards, and retention, etc. At the same time, it has changed the market to embrace digitalization, to move their business operation from conventional method to online presence, thus making it more sustainable in a foreseeable future.
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