What’s the first thing you do when you need to get the cheapest or best wine in Singapore for an upcoming dinner party? You’re probably not going to open a newspaper, look through a directory book, or give your buddy a call (unless for some reason they have plenty of time to spare, and have the memory of an elephant).
Likely, you whip out your smartphone or head to your laptop and start searching online. The company in the first search result does next-day delivery? Sold! Moving on to the next item on your to-do list…
Most cityfolk these days have more money than time – if we need something, we need it now.
Don’t care how, want it now!
eCommerce in Singapore
The word eCommerce (the buying and selling of products and services over the internet) usually brings giants like Amazon and eBay to mind: companies who have successfully dominated the industry for years. Does this mean small businesses shouldn’t get involved? Of course not! Many smaller businesses have managed to master the art of e-tailing (electronic retailing, naturally) even in Singapore – Lazada, Zalora, and Redmart, to name a few.
The concept of barriers being broken down can sound a little too theoretical or abstract, but think about it this way. The middleman is being cut out all over the place these days, as long as you know where to look.
Saw a trendy Taiwanese hair tool in shops but thought it was too expensive? Qoo10 probably has it at 20% off the retail price. Maybe you’re an even savvier buyer, with fluent Mandarin to top it off. In which case, you can probably get what you need straight from Chinese suppliers at 50% or more off the retail price!
Opportunities of eCommerce
Start up with lower costs
The greatest thing about eCommerce is that practically everyone can do it, with just a bit of know-how and a small capital sum. Even secondary school students find it easy to buy and sell things online, particularly secondhand items like clothing or textbooks. To avoid stockholding costs, many even hold “pre-orders”, whereby customers make payment for items before they are ordered and delivered.
In short, one can expect eCommerce to become the norm for just about everything in a few short years, and you had better be prepared when that day comes!
Become a provider of supporting services
Like any other healthy ecosystem, online retailers don’t exist in isolation. eCommerce gave rise to online payment methods like PayPal and contributed to the growth of delivery and logistics partners like DHL. Businesses don’t have to directly sell goods and services online to get a slice of the eCommerce pie.
In Singapore, new delivery services have sprouted up to take advantage of digital sales. At this moment, niche services like Ninja Van and SingPost’s POPStation serve ONLY a select crop of local e-tailers.
Even banks have thrown their hat in the ring, with DBS rolling out PayLah!, an easy way to make payments for a variety of purposes, including online purchasing. OCBC found a way to reach younger customers by releasing its FRANK credit card, catered to appeal to frequent online shoppers with attractive rebates on their online purchases.
Expand overseas without ever stepping foot outside of Singapore
Practically all Singaporeans have heard local shoe brand Charles and Keith‘s success story. Expanding overseas is tough, expensive, time consuming, and very risky. Thankfully, physically making a move into external territory is significantly easier with eCommerce.
With their website, Charles and Keith has been able to reach consumers in Mexico without actually setting up an outlet in the area. Even Rakuten, Japan’s “number one shopping site” sells Charles and Keith handbags. Though the company eventually plans to set up stores in South America, offering international delivery to Mexico is a much safer way to test the waters without going all in. Smaller homegrown brands like MDS are have also followed suit.
Become a new intermediary
We previously talked about 10 hyper-disruptive business models. It will become increasingly tough to compete with traditional business models, so you must find a way to adapt – and of course, you should ideally come up with your own industry-specific hyper-disruptive business model to really break new ground.
Instead of being kept on hold on Comfort DelGro’s hotline for what feels like hours, many young Singaporeans opt to use Uber or Grab‘s (formally known as GrabTaxi and GrabCar) mobile apps for a faster response and greater price transparency.
Within the F&B (food and beverage) industry, FoodPanda helped several local eateries (even vendors in hawker centres) serve customers online by providing a platform to bring their menus on board, AND providing the supporting delivery services necessary to make it all possible.
If you really think about it, the potential to spearhead growth as a new intermediary in existing industries is massive.
Greater customer insights
Medieval marketing research methods no longer work.
Surveys? People lie. Whether it’s to give socially acceptable responses or to get the survey over and done with quickly, survey results tend to be marred by half-truths and whole lies.
Direct observation? Not only would you probably be spotted looking like a creeper staring at every person who so much as passes by your product, it doesn’t tell you the full story either. Why did the lady in the green floral dress put your facial wash down after giving it a whiff, and take company B’s product instead? Are you sure she’s even buying it for herself and not her colleague, friend, grandmother?
eCommerce allows you to have greater visibility into your customers’ actions and thought process during purchasing, without being too obtrusive.
Your customer came in through a Google search for “red high heels size 36”? A smart webshop can capitalize on this knowledge to make suggestions for other shoes available in size 36, displayed in a sidebar or some other visible area.
Your customers abandoned their cart after stumbling across a banner on your website advertising a sale in 5 days? You’ll know not to make that mistake again in future.
More than one customer has searched for a particular item in your store that you don’t already sell? Bring it in! This is way more efficient and yields more honest answers than if you were to interview every existing customer and ask them what they want to see in your catalogue.
Even if you already carry a product, knowing that other customers are frequently facing stockouts or demand regularly goes up at a certain peak period, allows you to plan your purchasing and/or manufacturing cycles more accurately.
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