Hoolah: Maintaining a positive experience for staff, partners and consumers

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many ways for the worse, it has also pushed individuals and businesses to innovate in order to survive.

IDEA Communication spoke to four such industry players to find out what they’ve done during this crisis to keep their businesses sustainable, and beneficial to their target markets.

In Part 1 of our four-part series on how businesses have been impacted by the pandemic and how they’ve adapted to the new normal, we speak to Stuart Thornton, Co-Founder and CEO of fintech firm Hoolah, the leading Buy Now, Pay Later solution provider in Singapore & Malaysia.

Positive despite the pandemic

Thornton told IDEA that while the pandemic and subsequent lockdown had been an unfortunate and unprecedented event globally, Hoolah has experienced a somewhat positive outcome.

“Merchants both online and in-store have searched for ways to engage customers to either build up their online presence or buffer lost in-store sale,” he said. “Consumers have moved online to shop — especially for essentials related to working from home — and naturally, have been more aware of price and affordability. Both these factors have contributed to Hoolah’s growth.”

He added that the company has taken the time during lockdown to build its e-commerce business, which has in fact experienced significant growth despite the crisis.

At the same time, it has been able to further develop its in-store solutions by working with an experienced digital agency to build a mobile app, establishing commercial relationships with key retailers and building a go-to-market plan for the return of physical retail.

One area in which the company observed some negative impact was the expected growth of its in-store solution, which has been delayed as stores have shut down. However, as they begin to reopen and merchants look to engage consumers in different ways, Thorton believes Hoolah’s solution is well-placed to help merchants recover.

Thornton added: “We also built a business continuity team to make sure we were focused on the impact on our business both strategically and tactically. It was important to consider whether we needed to shift focus for the team to ensure momentum.

“Fortunately, however, the impact was minimal and we fully utilized the team to continue delivering on our objectives. Where we did shift was in being creative in solving the challenges at hand, and adapting to make sure we understood how to work together as a team and how to continue to engage with our merchants and consumers.”

Separated but stronger

He further said that having to work from home has had some positive impact on the company and its staff, as having to continue working together during the pandemic boosted its “team spirit and togetherness”.

In addition, productivity has increased, which has offered the Hoolah team opportunities to engage with and learn more about one another.

“Rather than close down, we have seen our international team thrive,” said Thornton.

The return of retail

Hoolah’s post-COVID plans, Thornton revealed, are “aligned with the return of retail”.

With restrictions being lifted in the coming weeks and the reopening of malls and retail stores, the company is working closing with our partners that have a physical retail presence to ensure their reopening is both safe and successful.

A successful return to retail also means Hoolah can deploy a well-rounded omnichannel solution for its retail partners, so their customers can enjoy the same online experience in the physical stores and have a single view of their overall Hoolah account, regardless of which channel they use.

Thornton said: “For the team, we will continue to work from home. Whilst the restrictions will be lifted, it will take some time before we can go back to operating the way in which we would like to — working closely, spending time together as a team and communicating often to drive success.

“The ‘new normal’ may also drive some different behaviours or requirements for people, and this is something we want to cater for.”

Helena Ma brings with her a wealth of experience and a truly cosmopolitan perspective, having lived and worked in Shanghai, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; and London, UK. Her stints in Europe and China has armed Helena with a potent blend of ancient Chinese wisdom and contemporary Western knowledge which she incorporates into business management and client project