With the recent announcement by the Prime Minister, Singapore is soon to cautiously enter the third phase of reopening. Nobody could have asked for a more positive way to bring 2020 to a close. However, the impact of the pandemic remains and will continue for years to come. There is no doubt, 2020 has tested the resilience of retail businesses in Singapore, leaving many struggling to cope with the sudden and drastic change in consumer behaviour and demand. As retailers plan their road to recovery, it is important to draw learnings from past endeavours to improve business agility and deliver better customer satisfaction, during phase 3 and beyond.
The lockdown has introduced an influx of digital consumers across the globe with Singapore witnessing a 31% rise in online transactions for food delivery during DORSCON Orange. Pickupp, a last-mile delivery company, also received an approximately 50% increase in delivery orders across all industries during the Circuit Breaker period. Together with the recent announcement of the $25b Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat to strengthen Singapore’s digital economy, more retailers will be attracted to venture online.
The opportunities online are aplenty, but so is the growing competition. To stand out from the crowd, retailers must adopt a customer-first approach and offer a seamless shopping experience. Retailers expanding their brick-and-mortar stores online will have to scale their capabilities to meet the demands of digital-savvy consumers where their needs are significantly different to those who shop at physical stores. This means reinventing the wheel to deliver greater convenience, efficiency, and flexibility.
Time is of the essence
Eliminating the need to join long queues, together with a wider selection of products, consumers enjoy online shopping today for its unparalleled convenience and efficiency. Speed is key in a fast-paced nation like Singapore and it is the differential between making or breaking your relationship with your customers.
Studies have reported a correlation between delivery times and customer satisfaction. According to a report by BlackBox Research, 39 percent of consumers in ASEAN cite delivery time as a pain point when shopping online. Delays in deliveries can be detrimental, ultimately hurting your sales. Hence, logistics should not be an afterthought but a key consideration when establishing an online business.
Transparency is important in building trust and rapport with customers. Retailers can manage their customers’ expectations by providing regular updates on the status of their deliveries. Logistics tech solutions such as 24/7 Live Tracking and automated SMS notifications should be incorporated to provide customers full visibility into their parcel location and when their purchases will arrive.
Consumers are becoming savvier
With more options available online, retaining customer loyalty will become a challenge. Consumers will be less likely to revisit your online store if their first purchase falls short of their expectations.
Digital consumers in Singapore are becoming savvier. Apart from comparing the prices of products and deliveries, as well as quality of customer service based on reviews, they are also starting to take note of the delivery offerings and services. Therefore, retailers must have a strong logistics strategy in place that enables them to be agile and flexible in this volatile business environment.
Deliver success with smart logistics
Online retailers can leverage innovations and technologies to support them in meeting the high customer demands today. Over the past year, we have seen more online retailers turning to tech delivery platforms for a reliable and cost-effective way to scale up their digital operations. Those that turn to logistics tech solutions can look to gain greater accuracy, efficiency, and eventually profitability as they can focus on accelerating sales growth instead.
Case in point – OSIM, an innovative health and lifestyle brand, was able to fulfil the increase in demand of ergonomic furniture and stress management solutions in Singapore during the pandemic by pivoting its last-mile delivery strategy. For example, since adopting Pickupp’s 24/7 Live Tracking and automated custom SMS delivery notifications, OSIM has witnessed a reduction in customer enquiries for the status of their purchases. This enables them to focus on what is important – building stronger relationships with their customers.
The shift in consumer behaviour and Singapore's growing digital economy will undoubtedly entice more established and new retailers online, resulting in a saturated environment. Fast and scalable logistics is not just a nice-to-have but a necessity for the growth and success of an online business. With the right technology and logistics strategy in place, you can look to build stronger customer relationships and capture the opportunities in the vast and competitive online marketplace.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Lee Chee Meng is the Co-Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Pickupp, a technology-driven platform focused on logistics optimization and supply chain management. The company provides affordable cross-border as well as intra-city last-mile delivery and e-commerce solutions for 3PLs and retailers. As Co-COO of Pickupp, Chee Meng oversees the business in Pickupp’s Southeast Asia (SEA)’s offices.
Prior to joining Pickupp, he also oversaw operations in Honestbee, an online food delivery and grocery service, where he gained experience in fleet management, warehouse sorting and distribution operations.