Jake Fichman
Government Media Advisor | CEO | American Israeli

The Digitalization of Israel During COVID

Photo Credit: Krokodil Gena

Israeli Businesses Cry For Help

Since the onset of COVID, Israeli business owners have been among the most economically-harmed demographics worldwide. The nation has done a tremendous amount to protect its people by restricting operations and human engagement, which directly resulted in the closing of thousands of businesses’ doors within the largest cities in Israel; Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Haifa, etc. As a reader, there is no doubt that your city is in a common standing, however, there exist significant differences between cross-national dealings with the situation.  Between the nation’s enormously locked-spend on the Defense sector of the economy, mixed with a high dependency on the nearly $3 billion of foreign currency invested in Israel’s economy per year, it’s quickly understood why the domestic businesses are in dire need of support.

1/2 Million Business Owners Sent Home

There are over half a million self-employed business owners, many of whose businesses closed immediately without any possibility of working from home when the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Abir Kara, founder of the ‘I’m Shulman’ Facegroup book explained to the Israel’s President, “60% of employees are in small businesses.

President Rivlin, speaking to these representatives of small business protestors, expressed,

We are in an emergency situation which is like war, and we must see the big picture without abandoning anyone.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has given enormous support to these business owners, doing all that it can to stretch the financial possibilities to stabilize a shaking economy and a discouraged population. During the Economic Press Conference in early June 2020, the Prime Minister stated,

Citizens of Israel, I will immediately present to you the economic safety net that we have prepared for the coming year. This safety net is for wage-earners, the self-employed and businesses. The Finance Minister and our teams worked on this plain around the clock in recent days. We worked so that you will receive the money, as quickly as possible.

A Digital Haven

My personal work as acting CEO of a multi-national, Israeli strategic marketing company (Goldfish Marketing Inc.), has given me a front-row seat to the scrambling and pivots of global brands, as well as smaller local brands. From NGOs to retail brands, the world of business has been forced to consider the digital realm as its leading potential haven for recovery. How does this look practically? There are two specific situations that have led to similar adaptations:

  1. Businesses who were brick and mortar, forced to shut their doors
  2. New businesses looking to launch a new brand; start-ups or retail brands

Both of these business models have forced founders and management to learn the less-known vocabulary of the digital marketing and communications world. CEOs who have been running retail businesses in a franchise, multi-location retail store model, or innovative new companies that depend on human engagement or arrival. Airbnb is a tremendous example of the multi-location, human arrival model. Using its “hosts” as destination-representatives for its business model, the company reportedly lost 80% of its business in just 8 weeks.

A portion of the CEO’s letter to staff on May 5, 2020.

When you’ve asked me about layoffs, I’ve said that nothing is off the table. Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce. For a company like us whose mission is centered around belonging, this is incredibly difficult to confront, and it will be even harder for those who have to leave Airbnb. I am going to share as many details as I can on how I arrived at this decision, what we are doing for those leaving, and what will happen next.

While Airbnb stands as a single example of thousands, there is a very clear and complex problem/solution being presented that points back to a need to pivot and engage differently via digital. While this multi-billion dollar company uses digital as its key sales location, they are being forced to make significant adjustments to their online strategies.

A recent article by Globes titled “Isracard profit halved as Covid-19 bites” expresses the significance in lost revenues by retail outlets – many brick and mortars. What can be done for these on-location purchasing establishments? Digital marketing.

The Practicals of Successful Digital

The creation of a proper digital ecosystem is a skill that has helped hundreds of Israeli companies to pivot, survive, and even thrive during COVID. A very clear industry that Israel has witnessed “go digital” is that of events and tourism. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem quickly developed and marketed their  “The Museum is closed, Come in!” campaign, allowing children and parents to take virtual tours of key exhibits. This was a big win for the museum, allowing them to maintain their purpose and brand presence in the relevant markets.

For retail stores, on-site service businesses, and everything in between, e-commerce is the proper positioning for customers. While there exist a number of options for presenting products and values for customers, many of our clients have taken the time and invested resources to build out online shops with top of the line analytics to understand consumers – as closely as they could see and hear their usual clients who walk into their stores.

The other portions of the ecosystem are social media, search, and email marketing. Within each of these verticals exist a number of doors into a seller’s platform, as well as methods for driving purchases and subscriptions. The vocabulary that CEOs are being forced to adopt are words such as social media marketing, campaigns, automation, conversion rates, cost-per-click, drip campaigns, funnels, and influencer marketing.

Conclusion

Israeli businesses need your support. Shopping online with your favorite local and international Israeli business is the greatest support that can be given to these thousands of small and medium business owners. Engage with brands on social media, cheerlead your favorite brands to keep them going, and refer friends to buy with the companies that you wish to still be around after COVID comes to its hopeful end.

About the Author
Jake Fichman serves as international Media Advisor to the Prime Minister's Office and is Founder and CEO of Goldfish Marketing Agency in Israel. Originally from the USA, Fichman specializes in international communications and strategic messaging.
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