Shortly after the pandemic reached the shores of Singapore, the government implemented a Circuit Breaker for a period of approximately three months to curb the spread of the virus. Aside from tourism, the F&B sector was also heavily hit by the new regulations as dining in at F&B establishment were not allowed during Circuit Breaker, and subsequently a while after during Phase One of Singapore’s reopening. Though not spared from the effects of Circuit Breaker, local coffee chain Toast Box has since adapted with new marketing avenues and digital ventures and brand manager Dawn Tan told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it plans to achieve a year-on-year increase of 5% via its delivery and eCommerce platforms.

These platforms are currently Toast Box’s current priority as it foresees that they will become a mainstay in Singaporeans’ daily lifestyles, Tan said, adding:

This year, Toast Box spent about 35% of its marketing budget on digital avenues – a 5% increase from 2019.

Meanwhile, it currently has 80 outlets across Singapore, with 80% of its revenue still coming from its physical outlets. The shift to digital also comes as more brands look to target Gen Z audiences. Tan said that it believes in constantly innovating and embracing new creations so as to appeal and stay relevant to the younger consumers, as the Nanyang coffee and toast concept might not be as familiar to them.

“We would like Gen Z to view Toast Box as a lifestyle brand that brings people together through the sharing and appreciation of Nanyang flavours and culture. Keeping up with trends and coming up with creative and innovative content is important to capture the attention of our Gen Z audiences as they shift from trend to trend and are very adaptive to changes,” she added.  

To that end, Toast Box will collaborate with lifestyle brands, online key opinion leaders, and local illustrators to develop new products or content that would pique the interests of Gen Z audiences. In August this year, Toast Box ventured to ShopeeMall, where it offered digital products that customers can purchase and redeem later at its physical stores; thereby driving online-to-offline commerce. This proved to be popular among younger consumers, a target group that Toast Box wanted to reach out to.  

“With the pandemic, we observed a shift in consumer’s shopping behaviour where there was an increasing demand for the convenience of having goods delivered to them without the need to leave their doorstep. We saw this as an opportunity for Toast Box as we had a range of ready-to-enjoy products like our two-in-one kopi sachets, Hainanese kaya, and peanut butter spreads that could be listed on eCommerce platforms such as ShopeeMall,” Tan explained.  

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To create awareness of its online store, Toast Box leveraged its strong social media following to create tactical content to shout out on current online deals. Tan, however, was unable to comment on the performance of its ShopeeMall page as it is still relatively new. Besides Shopee, some of Toast Box’s products are also available on Lazada Redmart, Fairprice Online and Qoo10. It is also currently in talks with Lazada to explore opportunities in strengthening its presence on the platform. 

When it comes to digital content, Tan said that Toast Box’s content on its Facebook and Instagram are usually relatable, product-focused with clarity in bringing out the offers, and its new or seasonal products.

Our tone of voice has always been youthful, fun, outgoing, approachable and friendly. We would like to have a digital presence that will convey brand values and have an all-rounded communication with our audience.

She also added that ASMR is a relevant and interesting way for F&B brands to market their products. Toast Box previously produced ASMR content in 2020 too. Toast Box previously produced ASMR content in 2020, which showed how a well-toasted slice of kaya butter toast was made at Toast Box. Depending on the brand’s products or campaigns, Tan said that it would consider exploring and producing more ASMR content in the future.

While the coffee chain recognises the opportunity to tap on newer social media platforms such as TikTok to connect with its audiences and reach more potential customers for future campaigns, Tan said that it currently does not have any plans to do so but will review the platforms in due time. 

(Read also:  ASMR marketing 101: Is it for you and is your brand the right fit for it? )

Circuit Breaker a window of opportunities

The Circuit Breaker period served as a stepping stone for Toast Box and its future marketing initiatives. According to Tan, the brand had learnt to always be ready to adapt, refocus, and take advantage of new opportunities. “We saw the window of opportunities for Toast Box during the onset of the pandemic which allowed the brand to be more sensitive to the changing behaviour and demands of our customers. With the adoption of new platforms, our team and operations staff had to also be well equipped to understand and manage new digital technologies and processes,” she added. 

When dining in was temporarily suspended, Toast Box had to adjust the launch dates of some of its campaigns. To reduce the impact of the restrictions on its revenue, Toast Box also activated contingency promotions for its in-store, delivery and eCommerce platforms; such as take-home deals and family bundles for deliveries. 

Food delivery also became a key priority for Toast Box in 2020. According to Tan, the brand expanded its business coverage and worked closely with delivery partners GrabFood, foodpanda and Deliveroo to drive marketing efforts on their platforms. Tan also noted that the purchasing behaviour of consumers continued to see an upward trend for food deliveries.  

Additionally, consumer behaviour and interaction had evolved during Circuit Breaker. “While some customers are eager to resume dining out post-Circuit Breaker, many others had grown accustomed to the convenience and comfort of ordering in and eating at home. Hence, digital channels and marketing was something we had to give greater emphasis to and include in our marketing strategy,” said Tan.  

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At the same time, the brand took its chance to physically interact with its customers wherever possible. It launched the Toast Box Kopi Van during Circuit Breaker in May last year to reach and provide convenience to consumers by bringing our food and beverages to them.  

The initiative received an overwhelmingly positive response and the brand has since evolved the van concept over time to better meet its operational requirements. Tan said that the latest Kopi Van has been operating since November 2020 and continues to be well-received by consumers. Tan also noted that the Kopi Van allowed the brand to identify areas that were opportune for penetration, as it received a very good response when it operated at areas where there weren’t many Toast Box stores.  

“Another objective we had when we decided to start on the Kopi Van was to bring it to different places as part of the brand’s CSR efforts. Last year, we brought it to an orphanage to serve the staff and children and recently we also visited a vaccination centre to give out food and drinks to the healthcare volunteers there,” Tan said. 

These initiatives by Toast Box allowed it to interact and engage with the community while ensuring that it stays relevant and becomes a part of its customers’ everyday moments during challenging times.  

As Toast Box celebrates its 16th year, Tan said that it will continue to identify more brand partnerships to engage customers. Earlier this year, Toast Box collaborated with MYOJO to launch the Spiced Pork Cubes Mee Pok, as well as redemption activities for the dish. 

Additionally, Tan said that the pandemic has created the need for tighter two-way communication and quicker turn-around, especially in the fast-paced and currently volatile F&B industry. “Digital marketing also plays an important role, hence agencies need to offer valuable insight about what our competitors are doing, monitor trends that may be relevant to the brand and business, and work collaboratively to solve the problems we face,” Tan said. 

Moving forward, Tan says that trends such as virtual events, live sales, eCommerce and digitalisation will be on the rise in the marketing scene but she also foresees a demand for more authentic and human-centric marketing approaches. 

Join our  Digital esb电竞数据投注电脑版 Asia conference  happening from 9 November 2021 - 25 November 2021 to learn about the upcoming trends and technologies in the world of digital.  Check out the agenda here.  

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