In the second of a six-part series on the retail sector in Singapore, Esther Teo finds that retailers must build an omni-channel strategy to engage consumers in more effective and meaningful ways
To thrive in e-commerce, just having an online presence is not enough.
An omni-channel strategy is needed to reach consumers right from the pre-purchase stage.
A global study by research consultancy TNS in 2014 found that nearly nine in 10 consumers in Singapore conduct some form of research before making a purchase, with nearly eight in 10 of them doing it on the Internet.
Retailers must understand the new customer journey and use online channels at the right time, across a variety of touch points — like social media, search engines and mobile applications — to engage shoppers who are researching their types of products or services, says ClickAcademy Asia’s founder AngEu Gene.
“Providing customised recommendations will also make their shopping journey more personal, relevant and enjoyable,” he adds.
Building an omni-channel strategy is a new focus for leading winterwear brand Universal Traveller.
Despite having more than 60 retail outlets and counters in departmental stores across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, the company, which has been around for 40 years, realised it could lose out if it did not get onto the e-commerce bandwagon.
Says the company’s managing director Trey Poh: “We also needed a new marketing direction as our target segment — fashion-conscious travel buffs — is young and tech-savvy.”
Utilising Spring Singapore’s Capability Development Grant (CDG), the company underwent a rebranding. Then, it embarked on a Google Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) project to strengthen its digital marketing strategy and capabilities.
Under Spring’s PACT scheme, Google has provided digital marketing support and advice to 34 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
It shows them the ropes on proprietary tools — such as Google Global Market Finder, Google Trend and Google Analytics — which companies can use to determine whether they should enter a new overseas market, find out what consumers are interested in and understand the performance of their website, apps and advertising campaigns. Google also holds free training workshops for SMEs twice a month.
While Google runs digital marketing campaigns for SMEs, it is also focused on teaching businesses how to manage these campaigns independently in the longer term, says Google’s country director Joanna Flint.
“Getting the basics right is the big thing for SMEs in Singapore. Many SMEs still don’t realise how simple it is to get online.
“Our core objective is to accelerate their adoption of digital and help them to grow their business with low-cost marketing efforts, using the free tools we provide,” she adds.
As a result of Google PACT, Universal Traveller produced two video advertisements showcasing its winter fashion collection. These were shared on its YouTube and Facebook accounts last year — to an impressive reception.
Views for the first video on YouTube shot up to 128,200 within just one week. According to a Brand Lift Study, 69.4 per cent of the audience aged 18 to 24 were able to recall the advertisement — an increase of 39.7 per cent from previous polls. And 20.6 per cent of them also expressed new interest in making purchases at Universal Traveller.
Says Ms Poh: “Google PACT opened our eyes to the huge potential market we could reach using SEO, SEM and YouTube marketing.
“We foresee that with our upcoming e-commerce capability launch end this year, there will be an even higher increase in brand recognition and business revenue.”
Google PACT has another success story in ToTT.
An offshoot of its parent company SiaHuat, the kitchenware retailer, which caters to home chefs and cooking enthusiasts, already had an e-shopfront, but its mobile platform had weak search and design features.
This was a bugbear for customers who tried to access the mobile website on their smartphones, says Madam Grace Tan, the director of ToTT.
The company tapped CDG to fund the redesign of its mobile website. It then worked with Google PACT to enhance its online user interface; improving traffic through cross-channel, data-driven digital marketing training and developing mobile and video assets.
Since the launch of its new mobile website, the company’s mobile revenue has increased by 2.5 times. The number of new website visitors has surged by 91 per cent and new visitor spending has increased by 80 per cent. Even returning visitors are spending 11 per cent more.
New-fangled technologies — such as Android Pay, YouTube’s 360-degree live streaming and future applications of augmented reality, tracking and 3D sensing — offer new ways to increase customer engagement and brand loyalty, allowing retailers to remain bullish.
ToTT intends to continue building a more seamless omni-channel retail experience, with significant backend upgrades and integration with its customised ERP and CRM systems.
In addition to expanding its current retail presence, plans to franchise the ToTT concept to other Asean markets are also on the cards.
Likewise, Universal Traveller plans to take its brand global by venturing overseas and shipping internationally when its e-commerce website is launched. It will also step up digital marketing efforts through means such as Google Display Network, YouTube and Facebook.
Says Ms Poh: “Having an omni-channel strategy is a great way to differentiate yourself and maintain a great relationship with customers.
“If our online presence is well-established, competing with the international brands is possible — we may even be able to take a bite out of them.”
The Singapore Productivity Centre (SPC) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have launched the Retail Best Practices Masterclass Series for retailers in Singapore.
It aims to help retailers capitalise on market opportunities by facilitating access to world-class tools in decision sciences, data analytics and insights to solve business challenges more quickly and effectively. Masterclass 2 on Outlet Portfolio and Maintenance will be held on Sept 5 and 6, while Masterclass 3 on Labour and Performance Management will be held on Sept 19 and 20.
The 25th annual Singapore Retail Industry Conference will be held on Sept 15, co-organised by the Singapore Productivity Centre and the Singapore Retailers Association. It promises to inspire companies to achieve greater sustainable growth through innovation and best practices through sharing international and local experts and key players.
Visit SGPC’s website for more information.