SINGAPORE: As technology continues to disrupt how people browse and buy things at brick-and-mortar shops, one of the segments affected – small Housing and Development Board (HDB) retailers – are turning to new ways of doing business.
Specifically, they are riding the e-commerce wave to help garner new customers and sales beyond the neighbourhood they have set up shop in.
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One such business is Avyan Steel, a shop selling steel products at Oasis Terraces in Punggol.
Owner Deepika Jindal told Channel NewsAsia that she started her business in the first week of November, but one of the concerns she had was relying only on her physical store to get customers.
As such, she was one of 15 retailers at the new-generation HDB neigbourhood centre to sign on with e-commerce platform Lazada to hawk her wares online.
“Having a physical-only store limits who we can reach out to,” Ms Deepika said in her email. “By going on Lazada, we’ll be able to extend our reach to practically everyone in Singapore regardless of location.
“Additionally, customers want to touch and feel our products before purchasing. We are responding to the customer’s evolving shopping behaviour by offering essentially the ‘showroom’ and ‘webroom’ experiences,” the budding entrepreneur said.
The Lazada tie-up is a pilot programme with HDB announced on Friday, which would give these HDB shops a dedicated online marketplace.
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As at Nov 15 this year, half of the 30 retailers, excluding those in food and beverages and service, at Oasis Terraces, have come onboard. Other participants include Hockhua Tonic, Cristofori Music, Venus Beauty and Kim Able Household Enterprise, the HDB factsheet stated.
Beyond bringing traditional retailers to the World Wide Web, HDB also said a new experiential collection lobby at the neighbourhood centre was designed to give shoppers a better experience. It features parcel lockers for people to pick up their purchases from, as well as charging points for electronic devices so people can test their buys on the spot, the factsheet added.
PHYSICAL STORES STILL AN ADVANTAGE
Since going online for the past two weeks, Ms Deepika shared that she is “seeing more than one order per day on average”, which she said is encouraging given that she is new to the platform. She expects to see more orders coming through as she establishes her shop’s online presence.
But it is the combination of online and off that would bring the benefits, said the Avyan Steel owner.
Local online retailers that have a physical presence “offers more credibility” and helps them engage customers in more creative ways than online-only businesses, she said.
“This is especially true for HDB retailers since busy customers are shopping online more,” Ms Deepika explained. “Online will be the first touchpoint, and interested customers can visit us right in the heartlands at their convenience.”
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HDB’s tie-up with Alibaba-backed Lazada is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at rejuvenating HDB neighbourhood shops.
In July, for example, Kampong Glam was showcased as the first digitally enabled retail neighbourhood, featuring things such as the ability to search for shops on mobile apps and delivery services for purchases.