Fashion retailers in Singapore are opting for digital solutions quicker than ever, driven by government incentives in times of constraints brought forth by the pandemic. The journey can be confusing, frustrating, and can lead to missed opportunities.
Retailers who are new to the game often grapple with defining how and what digitalisation should look like for their businesses, with energetic beginnings leading to difficulties down the line in maintaining the pace.
They often find themselves overwhelmed by the varying costs of implementation, as well as the pressure to get to grips with the data and analytics. But the process doesn’t have to be difficult, and the right e-commerce partner can make all the difference.
Establishing the foundation
In fashion, products can change hands in seconds, and retailers have a hard time keeping up with their inventory, not to mention responding to enquiries manually across different platforms.
This is where omnichannel retailing comes in. The term sounds daunting, but it becomes less so when you realise that it essentially means controlling everything including inventory, payments, owned online channels, physical stores and social media assets, from a single dashboard. Taking this step can reduce manpower costs as well as errors.
As much as possible, retailers should aim to automate their processes. Many of our clients decided to come to us after operating independently for nearly a decade. As their business grew, they could no longer keep up with manual inventory updates and found they lacked the necessary manpower to fulfil fast delivery orders.
For example, we helped a retailer build brand awareness while building a platform to manage customer information and orders and enable easy purchases. Where operations had been scattered and fraught with delays, the all-in-one platform made things easy and intuitive, which is key to running and scaling a sustainable business.
Live stream can provide valuable data insights
Live stream shopping tools have proved popular because their AI technology helps merchants crunch performance statistics such as viewer counts, viewers’ actions of adding products to shopping carts, and the number of live sales.
Live commerce is growing rapidly: Shopline Singapore saw transaction volume grow 20-fold in the first five months of 2021 from brands and sellers who sought to connect virtually and deepen engagement with their customers. The total hours streamed on online marketplaces such as ShopeeLive grew almost 200% between February and June in 2020 in Singapore and Malaysia, with Shopee observing a 40 times increase in the number of live streams from brands and sellers in Singapore alone.
Of course, digital tools can only get you so far. You often hear creativity is the key to success, and I say this is especially true for fashion retailers. Merchants play an important role in differentiating one brand from the next. An inspiring brand story, well-designed catalogues and an understanding of visual merchandising can make a huge difference.
It’s also important to remember that retail is a people business, and no one is an island. It pays to learn from others, and it’s never been easier to access resources such as free webinars with Q&A sessions. Keeping an eye on what merchants in other parts of the world are doing can be a big source of inspiration too.
Merchants often assume shifting online means guaranteed revenue. But the investment does come with a certain level of responsibility. The most versatile merchants are those who are open to adopting an integrated approach, meaning they are willing to spare a part of their budget on digital marketing like social media advertisements. Thirty percent of our merchants opt for digital marketing solutions and in return, they experience a six times uplift in returns of ad spend,
Working with local fashion retailers on the ground opens our eyes to their specific needs. Sometimes, I find myself chatting with merchants who think it’s an either-or situation when it comes to going digital.
They pick between setting up an online website, opening a store on a marketplace like Shopee and Lazada, or opening a social media account to sell their products, not realising that these channels can be integrated in some way and that they can all be managed at the same time, as long as they understand how it works. The best part? All of this can be done at a low cost!
Merchants should feel ease and comfort throughout their digitalisation journey when they partner with a good, smart e-commerce enabler. It should allow them to manage their sales channels and understand data in ways that are organised and cost-efficient, and provide the same benefits as large-scale logistics players and marketplaces without having to work directly with them.
It is estimated that the Southeast Asian e-commerce market nearly doubled in 2020, from US$38 billion to $62 billion. This trend shows no signs of slowing down.
The region is growing increasingly competitive, and it’s advisable to compare and contrast the various digital solutions out there and speak with the representatives on the ground to find one that matches your needs. Cost will always be a barrier for merchants on their digitalisation journey, and solutions providers have a duty to price their services fairly and explain clearly what people are paying for.
Ultimately, omnichannel retail need not be overwhelming. It is here to stay and, with the right approach, technology and partner, will prove to be a great ally for fashion retailers.
Jeff Lim is the General Manager at Shopline Singapore