QR codes could be marketing weapons in Vietnam

July 1, 2023 | 03:25 pm PT
Vu Kim Hanh Chairwoman of the Business Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Products
I met Chokchai Koisrichai, CEO of the Talaad Thai wholesale fruit market, at the Thaifex international food and beverage fair in late May.

A man with dark skin wearing shabby clothes, Koisrichai spoke English fluently and conversed with everyone slowly in a soft voice.

When asked about Thai agricultural firms' competitive experience, he said it was important to distinguish between the two types of agricultural products: fresh and processed.

For fresh produce, Thai companies focus on filling seasonality gaps. For instance, Chinese consumers love cabbage: but during the rainy season in China farmers there normally lose cabbage crops and that's when Thailand exports massive amounts of cabbage to China.

Meanwhile, processed food has to have attractive packaging and it is important for customers to learn the stories behind such products.

While I was listening to what he said, I thought about my grandma and the fairy tales she used to tell me when I was a kid.

Koisrichai said that telling customers stories about the products we want them to buy is a must these days. And Thai firms have been telling such stories via QR codes.

New technology has replaced our grandmas completely: Customers only need to scan the QR code and they will know the product’s whole life cycle, from its basic ingredients through the entire process of creating it. Sometimes the QR codes lead to interesting videos.

During a seminar at Thaifex, Nguyen Thanh Huy, an official from the Vietnam Trade Office in Thailand, explained why many competitive Vietnamese products have yet to find a place on the Thai market. He said it is because they yet to tell attractive stories.

Storytelling is emerging as a new trend in doing business. It has become a core skill in marketing, Huy added. Storytelling means researching and understanding customers, and then, defining which products fit whom, and how to sell them.

He recalled that at first, only big Vietnamese firms attended Thaifex with very large booths and glorious television advertisements. Years later, more and more small and medium-sized enterprises are bringing their creative and unique products to the international fair to expand their market.

This year's fair saw the largest-ever number of Vietnamese enterprises participate, at almost 160. If each of them can tell a great story about their product, each story could be a tool to help make Vietnamese agricultural products become more competitive.

However, storytelling in the Industry 4.0 era should not be as simple as the folk tales told by a grandma. Companies these days must demonstrate their product.

For example, at this year’s Thaifex, Vietnamese food firm QP Foods displayed processed products that were as eye-catching as fresh ones.

The company invited chefs to cook Vietnamese food at its booth. Talented cooks whipped up fish noodle soup, crab noodle soup and pho from the company’s products right then and there in front of the eyes of live potential customers. From what I saw, I can say that businesspeople from Europe and the U.S. enjoyed those hot flavorful dishes very much.

Customers pick fruits at a supermarket in HCMC, June 18, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Tung

Customers pick fruits at a supermarket in HCMC, June 18, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh

At a seminar on green economics and sustainable products in Thailand, I said we could use our Thai cousins’ experiences to help build up the competitive advantage of Vietnamese products. I said joining Thaifex to display products and find new markets was just half of the workload.

The remaining work includes learning from Thai companies participating in the event, collecting information, attending seminars and meeting partner companies and distributors.

Sharing the same opinion, Jariya Chirathivat, a representative of Central Group in Vietnam, said Vietnam’s agricultural products must have QR codes that tell their stories to customers in their export markets.

Enterprises should also pay attention to marketing activities to further expand to new markets. If they fail to entice customers to try their product, they will fail no matter how good their product is.

Creating a "grandma QR code" to boost sales in Thailand or in other markets is a matter that should not be underestimated.

It is indeed a weapon Vietnamese products could use to become more competitive.

*Vu Kim Hanh is Chairwoman of the Business Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Products.

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