Businesses boosting online services to stay relevant
Gearing up for a post-circuit breaker economy, many businesses are beefing up their online services, predicting a slow return to physical stores.
Many, such as home appliance retailer Audio House, are forced to break their modus operandi to stay relevant in the shifting business environment today.
Managing director Alvin Lee, 54, told The New Paper that while in-store customers make up 95 per cent of its usual sales, his company expect to see more buyers opt for online purchases.
Employees have been provided training to take on new roles within Audio House, like cashiers rotated to help with online queries.
He plans to employ more workers to boost online services even as physical stores reopen, and allow these workers to continue working from home in the long run.
Showroom businesses are turning to virtual tours to find sales in the upcoming months.
Curtains and blinds retailer mc.2 and water dispenser seller Ruhens are using Facebook Live for showroom tours and product demonstrations.
Mc.2 founder Wilson Chew, 45, said the circuit breaker has put a stop to tours that usually see around 300 visitors each weekend, causing a 90 per cent dip in revenue.
As it is unlikely that customers will return to stores in full strength soon, he encouraged his staff to contact customers regularly to showcase products online, reaching 100 customers with each virtual tour.
Regarding its limitations, Mr Chew said: "There are some things technology can't help. It is hard to see the true colour of the product and the feel of the material."
Ruhens managing director Joel Lim, 27, said his salesmen have been sending bottles of water from its water purifiers during the circuit breaker.
Despite the delivery costs, he said the taste of the distilled water was a key part of the buyers' decision.
Mr Lim said: "Our products can cost a few thousand dollars and it makes it difficult to sell if people don't want to leave home. It is a signal that we need to change our method and go online."
"We have not laid off any workers, but we need to work differently now to survive."
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said in a webinar on May 13 that while online platforms will not replace physical shops, there will be fewer bricks-and-mortar outlets.
He said: "Online (channels) will play an increasingly important role going forward, especially for retail shops that can serve customers that way."