"With an online business, there are three key success factors to get more buyers and sustain them: a powerful online presence, good customer service rapport and an efficient delivery arrangement." — Ms Amanda Aida Atan, VIBES Mastery Success Academy
The double-digit growth of the digital, social and mobile usage in Southeast Asia has transformed the modus operandi of retail giants, forcing many to evolve and adopt e-commerce or be left disrupted by tech-savvy entrants.
The phenomenon is particularly evident in Singapore, which has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world.
Driven in part by a fluctuating economy and a labour crunch, the competitive retail scene has witnessed the recent exits of giant retailers Carrefour, Borders and John Little while forcing Jay Gee Melwani and Mustafa to cut retail space as mall occupancy reaches a 10-year-low.
Ms Amanda Aida Atan, a published author, business coach & sales strategist. (Courtesy of Amanda Aida Atan)
Business consultant of VIBES Mastery Success Academy, Amanda Aida Atan, recalled advising one of her clients to downsize her retail store due to her exorbitant rental.
"I told her to get a storage space to store her goods, work on digital marketing campaign and increase her online presence, along with a simple e-commerce website. It took her time to get used to a smaller retail space, but the alternative got her more sales from her website."
"Brands with significant positioning in malls today have turned online to recapture niche customers and different customers’ base via alternative verticals," she said.
According to Amanda, entrepreneurs today see it as an easy and inexpensive inroad in the online retail industry without the high rental costs.
Fortunately, the shift from brick and mortar concepts to a virtual presence, trumpeted by social media marketing, has allowed retailers to expand their clientele to include tech-savvy Millennials with high purchasing power - consumers they were previously unable to reach.
Retailers, as well as manufacturers, that have been slow to capitalise on the surging demand of online shopping have likewise begun their adoption of the likes of Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality to woo the Millennials.
Amanda believes that online retailers must focus not only in boosting sales but also in retaining repeat shoppers, as weak marketing outreach and customer relations management drive customers away.
"They are often unable to get continuous traction with customers as they are too busy handling new sales," said the author of Don’t Do Business Unless You Start It Smart!
While most marketers are racking their brains to win over every available customer, attracting the desired customers and retaining them remains one of the biggest challenges for retailers.
Amanda puts it simply: "Getting a buyer gets easier with a powerful online presence."
In addition, she shares three key competences of a successful online business: A powerful online presence, good customer service rapport and an efficient delivery arrangement.
Amanda, who coaches online business owners from mainly the fashion, health and beauty sectors, cited furniture e-mall, Forty-Two, as an exemplar which practises these competencies.
"Frequent email broadcasts, consistent web updates, interesting offers and most importantly, their online customer service excellence are reasons why I kept buying from them since 2013."
"Their products are of high quality, they adopted easy payment methods for customers and their flexible delivery arrangement makes buying from Forty-Two a pleasant experience," she added.
According to Amanda, a strong online presence for retailers would necessarily entail Electronic Direct Mail campaigns, broadcasted via social media such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct Messaging to induce impulse purchases such as product launches, holiday specials and new arrivals.
When asked about what the future of retail would be like, Amanda said, "Companies often use flash sales where limited products are sold at special prices to be snapped up within a specific timeframe, drawing impulse buys from the customers."
Amanda sees strong market potential for logistic firms as the online retail sector in Singapore continues to expand in tandem with the technological infrastructure embraced by retailers.
"At the same time, more quality and boutique brands will firm up their online presence, giving more flexibility and choices for shoppers to get the best experience. I can also see that in the near future, there will be more small online business owners who have fully adopted all the relevant eco-systems, thus making the online business industry more vibrant."