In the fifth of a six-part series on the retail sector, Esther Teo discovers how a company can differentiate itself through bold and innovative retail concepts.
THE biggest fallacy in retail today is that physical stores, e-commerce and m-commerce are in competition with each other.
The reality is that very few purchase journeys are confined to just one channel. Shoppers tend to head to stores to touch and feel products they are interested in; some may also end up making purchases there for assurance of better service, observes Mr Ian Bellhouse, founder and director of retail consultancy Wasabe.
“This is why stores need to recognise the symbiotic influences within the whole customer journey, and move beyond the ‘products on shelves’ mindset by redefining their ‘common purpose’ with customers,” the consultant advises.
For example, Nike’s Running Club stores offer more than just sports products. They have transformed into fan club bases that inspire and educate the running community they serve — customers go there for personalised advice on running style, routes, events and training.
Lululemon, which espouses the idea of self-empowerment through exercise, has built a community through in-store yoga sessions, focused sports communities and categorising products by feel rather than just size. In its eleventh year, the company grew 16 per cent in overall sales to US$453 million (S$617 million).
“Consider the value of time — think about how you can help customers save time to achieve more, and spend more time doing what they enjoy.
“A human-centred design approach and rapid prototyping can also help make ideas tangible faster,” MrBellhouse says.
SooKeeJewellery is a prime example of a retailer that has reinvented itself constantly over its 25-year history to meet customers’ needs.
Starting out selling primarily gold jewellery, the company launched a more contemporary white gold and diamond collection in 1996 to match modern tastes.
SK Jewellery — a purveyor of jewellery at more value-conscious price points — followed seven years later.
In 2007, the company launched Love & Co., a bridal jewellery specialist offering bespoke engagement rings and wedding bands.
This year, eyeing Singapore’s position as a precious metals trading hub, it established SK Bullion, offering one-stop precious metal trading and storage services.
Mr Lim Yong Sheng, executive director and chief executive officer of SooKee Group, says: “Consumers are becoming more discerning and savvy in their purchases. We have to continuously innovate and provide new product offerings to create more value for them.”
Seeking new ways to appeal to young, digitally savvy customers, the company studied the customer journey.
It found that for many (especially men looking for an engagement ring), diamond shopping was particularly complex and lengthy due to the mind-boggling array of choices and combinations available on the market.
To make it easier for customers to select their perfect diamond, the company decided to develop an online digital diamond report with its partner Sarine Technologies, a leader in precision technology products for diamonds and gems.
Instantly downloadable and sharable, the online digital diamond report contains high quality images of the diamond with 360-degree rotation and over 40 times magnification, grading information, and an independent light performance report.
The project received Spring Singapore’s support under the Capability Development Grant.
Sales at Love & Co. have risen by 10 per cent since the launch of the digital diamond report. Customers say the report makes them feel more confident about making an informed purchase decision.
Says Mr Lim: “Our digital diamond report simplifies the diamond shopping process and enables customers to objectively evaluate the beauty of a diamond. Customers can access a diamond’s information through a digital link, anywhere, anytime.
“In addition, they can also share the joys of finding their engagement diamond with their loved ones on social and digital channels, making the experience more memorable.
“As the first jeweller in Asia to adopt this diamond display paradigm, Love & Co. has reinforced its position as the leader in bridal jewellery in the region.”
The company intends to continue monitoring and fine-tuning the digital diamond report to improve customers’ experience.
It also has its sights keenly set on expanding its retail presence in Singapore and Malaysia; and is working with partners to venture into the global market.
“Over the years, we have gained trust by being fair in our business dealings and being committed to deliver on our brands’ promises,” says Mr Lim.
“Success in the long run comes to those who are bold enough to take calculated risks that maximise returns. On top of identifying opportunities, it is important to do lots of research, set clear goals and checkpoints, and be willing to change when necessary, before mass implementation.”
To find out more about how Spring Singapore can support your retail business, visit www.spring.gov.sg/retail or e-mail email@example.com.
The SkillsFuture Study Award for Retail Sector encourages Singaporeans to develop and deepen specialist skills in retail management, digital marketing, e-commerce and supply chain, among others. It targets early- to mid-career Singaporeans with relevant working experience who are committed to developing and deepening their skills. Individuals will receive a monetary award of $5,000.
Visit www.skillsfuture.sg/studyawards/retail.html for more information and to apply. Applications are open until Sept 30, 2016.
WDA worked with TRAS to jointly develop the Omni-Channel eCommerce Logistics for Retail Masterclass, which will be delivered by expert trainers from DHL Consulting. To be held on Nov 1 and 2, 2016, this masterclass also includes an exclusive tour of DHL’s Asia-Pacific Innovation Centre and is targeted at companies who might be keen to explore training in retail logistics for an omni-channel environment.
Register your interest with the programme organiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.