Prior to the current circuit breaker period, how active was your online sales channel?
The only presence we had before the Circuit Breaker was on Instagram where we would post static pictures of merchandise available for purchase at our physical store fronts at The Centrepoint.
How quickly did you have to pivot to online and what were some of the challenges you faced?
Once the Circuit Breaker kicked in, we immediately launched IGTV for both our businesses, LuxLexicon and LuxCollate, where we post daily videos of our merchandise. Since transportation is considered an essential service and still available during the Circuit Breaker, we are able to fulfill our orders through managing customers' enquiries through the WhatsApp messaging platform, receiving payment through internet banking and fulfillment via local delivery or international shipping. And yes, we brought most of our merchandise home in order for our businesses to function as normal. We had to plan all these during the three-day lapse between the announcement and implementation of the Circuit Breaker. So we did what we could do given the limited time and resources we had. We also rolled out weekly Facebook Live streaming for our customers to participate in live bidding of select merchandise. These efforts not only help us maintain a level of normalcy, they also help to generate sales and keep our customers engaged and entertained when they are unable to visit our stores. The main challenge for us is changing the mindset of our staff that our business needs to re-pivot in order for us to adapt and be more digitally engaged with our customers. Thankfully, I have a very motivated and committed team. I also had to overcome my shyness and fear of the camera to be captured on video for my daily IGTV. It takes some getting used to.
How different is running an online channel from retail? And how did you overcome those differences?
As we run authenticated luxury consignment platforms, the average ticket price of our handbags are high, so most customers prefer to touch and feel or to try on the bag prior to making a purchase. Given the limitation of touch and feel online, it can be hard for buyers to decide if a bag is suitable for them, size and colour wise. So our LuxCollate IGTV will see our presenter doing modeling videos for buyers to decide if the size and fit is right before buying. The WhatsApp messaging platform is also lacking in intimacy and personal touch but we had to make do given the current circumstances. And for our preloved handbags which customers need to judge their condition, we had to take detailed pictures of all our bags for them to make an accurate judgement on the condition before buying.
Has your company been able to tap into any of the Budget measures so far?
The government's job support scheme immediately benefited us. Our landlord is also offering us rental rebate which offer some respite in such uncertain times.
What are some of the key takeaways you've learnt from transitioning to online?
The key takeaway from transitioning to online is businesses have to dedicate sufficient resources to maintain a consistent physical and virtual presence. You can't just have a website without a dedicated and competent staff providing content management, fulfillment and customer service. What is worse than not having an online presence is an ill-managed online presence. Our advice for those who haven't done it yet? There is no better time than now. People are connected online all the time and it's time businesses put digital at their core. And internet transcends physical boundaries. That means you will suddenly find your business reaches out to the entire world instead of just your local neighborhood or Singapore. And the growth in reach will compensate the drop in local demand for now.