As we transition out of the circuit breaker and reflect on the first half of the year – COVID-19 has deeply affected life as we knew it. From economies and markets to our meals and family-time, the pandemic has challenged all set ways of work and life. And while we grasp the changes as individuals, businesses are not spared either with the sudden shift in demand patterns, increased regulations, and disrupted supply chains.
Amidst the struggles of the pandemic, we took away some learnings and uncovered opportunities as trends of the new normal set in. I would like to share some of these observations that could help businesses in Singapore navigate in the short-term and thrive in the long run.
Globalization is here to stay as markets further entwine with cross-border opportunities
The early days of COVID-19 raised fears and uncertainties as the virus rapidly spread across interconnected shores. However, the relationships built through decades of globalization also led to the timely exchange of solutions, healthcare supplies, and donations to tackle common challenges we faced amid the pandemic.
With the reopening of borders, it is important that we take a long-term view in realizing the advantages of globalization. Customers are curious to explore new products and brands during this period. Selling online will allow retailers to meet the evolving market demands and bounce back more quickly. Retailers preparing to regain sales post-COVID can expand their footprint online to reach consumers across geographies.
Since selling online is an investment at least in time, often also in budget, it is key to build a strong foundation from the start to plan for global scale. To succeed, retailers need to bring in quality products, price them correctly, and ensure safe and timely delivery at the customer’s convenience. Retailers can tap on e-commerce providers who have existing logistics and infrastructure processes in place to overcome operational barriers and enable cross-border shipping. I believe that the plethora of cross-border opportunities will accelerate our path to recovery post-pandemic.
Online shopping as a safe and convenient option
Customers have sought online shopping as a safe and convenient option during the pandemic and expect brands to be available beyond opening hours, regardless of movement restrictions. Nielsen’s Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behaviour (March 2020) survey reveals that 37 per cent of consumers in Singapore have increased their online shopping activities since the pandemic began, and 76 per cent indicated that they will not return to pre-outbreak levels.
As consumers turn to online shopping for daily needs and household essentials, there are lots of opportunities for businesses to explore – but doing it all by oneself may be hard. To address this gap, we collaborated with Enterprise Singapore on the E-Commerce Booster Package, to onboard small and medium businesses to sell on Amazon.sg. Retailers that are part of this programme will have dedicated support (product listing, fulfillment channels, etc.) and access to over 200 tools to help with innovation and managing operations cost-effectively.
Online or offline, customer experience is king
Retailers have often relied on foot traffic and physical events to drive sales and attract customers. The new normal will see fewer people heading to physical stores as many continue to restrict outdoor movement and avoid crowded spaces. With in-store interactions reduced, retailers will need to explore new ways to engage, retain, and grow customers.
Adopting online sales channels can create room for new consumer experiences and thus, more revenue opportunities. In Adobe’s Digital Trends 2020 report, just 7 per cent of APAC organizations consider themselves mature in customer experience compared to 11 per cent globally.
To offer and improve personalized customer experiences, retailers can leverage digitization through e-commerce. For instance, they can introduce feedback channels to address consumer concerns promptly, anticipate and cater to consumer preferences, and offer improved product recommendations to encourage repeat sales.
Consumers are faced with choices aplenty today. In the crowded landscape, retailers need to build a differentiated offering to attract and retain customers. They can stand out by investing in virtual tools that empower them to be more accessible and connect with consumers meaningfully, improving their overall consumer experience.
In this regard, Amazon has teamed up with OCBC to offer the first 200 eligible OCBC SME customers who sign up with Amazon through the E-Commerce Booster Package, S$1,500 in Amazon Web Service (AWS) credit, which they can use within six months of launching on Amazon.sg. AWS offers reliable, scalable and inexpensive cloud computing services. Retailers can utilise the AWS credit for hosting mobile application or product landing page on Amazon.sg to drive further eCommerce growth.
Plan towards 2025, skill up talent for the long run
With COVID-19, any plans for 2020 have long been turned upside down. In Prime Minister Lee’s recent address on Singapore’s future in a post COVID-19 world, the government expects the new few years to be disruptive and difficult for all of us. Business owners will need to make difficult decisions about manpower and operations to sustain through the challenging period and stay afloat.
In planning for the future, business owners have two options: tackle the short-term challenges and hope things go back to the way they were or take this opportunity to reflect and reshape strategies for long term growth. Retailers should consider which skills they should prioritize to tackle future challenges and re-evaluate their needs to grow the business sustainably. For example, if opening an e-store is new for retailers, they may need to learn about new tools to effectively manage an online business. Business owners can encourage their employees to join online courses and participate in online events to upskill their e-Commerce knowledge. There exists many free online resources today that retailers can choose from to overcome such hurdles and leverage upcoming trends.
Nurture a support ecosystem for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs)
The government has recently announced the Solidarity Budget, Unity Budget, and Resilience Budget while Singapore banks are offering more affordable financial help for affected SMBs. Such industry-wide measures are a timely reminder of how we can channel resources to preserve and grow the capabilities of local businesses.
E-commerce businesses, government agencies, and industry associations should continue synergizing so we can offer complementary tools to fuel the growth of SMBs and local retailers. The support will go a long way in helping SMBs strengthen their strategies, respond to changes, and maximize opportunities in a cross-border ecosystem.
Amazon is here to support small and medium retailers for the long term, not only to empower business owners to start an online store, but also to help retailers seek new sales channel opportunities within Singapore and out of country. Seller success is our success. I look forward to having more retailers join us in serving millions of customers in Singapore and around the world!