SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The pandemic has sped up the flight to digital, and retailers are embracing the shift online. To cater to more shoppers, Singapore’s largest shopping centre, IMM mall, went online this month. E-commerce platform Shopee now hosts a line-up of brands from the retail mall, connecting physical retailers to consumers shopping on the platform.
E-commerce platform Shopee now hosts a line-up of brands from outlet mall IMM, connecting physical retailers to online consumers (Credit: CapitaLand)
At the initial stage, the online mall will feature 33 brands, with an assortment of 19 retail brands and 14 F&B establishments. Besides the added convenience of shopping from home, digital shoppers can also claim a range of virtual shopping vouchers.
IMM, which opened in 1991 in Jurong East, houses 220 stores. Its operator CapitaLand is hopeful that the push online will “create new income streams for retailers and widen their consumer reach”. On the e-commerce platform, “IMM retailers will have access to additional online marketing opportunities to drive revenue”, says Chris Chong, managing director of retail at CapitaLand Singapore.
“Shoppers who got to know IMM online first may be enticed to visit IMM in person to discover more merchandise and deals. In some cases, shoppers can pre-purchase discount vouchers online before making redemptions in-store. This will create a virtuous circle for IMM retailers to attract more shoppers,” he adds.
Last year, 40 million people in Southeast Asia went online for the first time, according to a report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Co. With countries enacting lockdown periods and movement restrictions, consumers took to digital services to satisfy their needs. And findings show that adoption of digital is likely to stick: Some 94% of new digital consumers intend to continue using such services even after the pandemic is gone.
From left: Shopee chief commercial officer Zhou Junjie, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, group CEO of PSA International Tan Chong Meng, and managing director of retail at CapitaLand Chris Chong at the launch of IMM’s virtual mall (Credit: CapitaLand)
Online retail push
Beyond just driving sales and marketing purposes, online shopping will be able to provide players with data on localised shopper trends. This shift will “yield meaningful insights on how we can continue to innovate omnichannel retail business models”, says Chong.
In Singapore alone, CapitaLand runs 18 malls. When asked if it will launch more of its physical malls online, a spokesman for the real estate group gave no comment.
Shopee has observed that shopper habits differ across different markets in Southeast Asia. “The Singapore market has shown a greater inclination towards exclusive deals and limited-time sales, as compared to other markets in the region,” Zhou Junjie, chief commercial officer at Shopee tells The Edge Singapore. “These insights mean that businesses must be able to provide truly seamless and integrated shopping experiences, with each touchpoint adding value to the overall customer journey,” explains Zhou.
For instance, in countries like Singapore and Malaysia, live-streaming activity tends to peak on Wednesdays and is the highest from 6pm to 10pm daily, showing that consumers spend spare time after work watching and shopping from livestreams on weeknights, shares Zhou.
Retail live-streaming happens when customers purchase what they see in real-time. This allows consumers to interact with a presenter online, chatting through video call or comments on questions and concerns over the product sold. The format is engaging, and entertains while it informs.
In China, an advanced player in e-commerce, live-selling has already proven to be an established marketing and sales channel. But in Singapore, this format has lagged behind, and was pushed to adoption largely due to lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic.
Despite the popularity of online shopping, Chong says bricks-and-mortar stores will always have a place in retail. “The form of it, however, will evolve in tandem with the changing retail landscape and technologies. The focus in retail is no longer on clicks versus bricks, but a combination of clicks and bricks,” he adds.
“While e-commerce adoption has grown steadily over the past year and will likely continue to do so, spending time at shopping malls remains a popular pastime for Singaporeans,” says Zhou.
The unveiling of IMM mall online is part of a public and private partnership between the Singapore government and private companies. Under the Future Economy Council, the government is addressing potentially disrupting shifts in the economy. One of the efforts is the push towards smart commerce.
The end-goal is “to help Singapore retailers digitalise and export their brands overseas”, says Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration, at the launch of the virtual mall on Feb 5.
As part of their partnership, CapitaLand launched its first pilot with Shopee in conjunction with the 11.11 sales held last year, where it drove shopper engagement across 45 participating retailers at six of its malls in Singapore. Over the campaign period of three weeks, 37,000 shoppers flocked online.