Singapore retail brands that went online had the opportunity to learn what customers have come to expect from them as consumer shopping habits changed in response to the pandemic.

What’s next for retail given that digital and ecommerce are so important to so many companies?

The theme of Stridec’s ninth live webinar on digital transformation, which took place on July 29, was a conceivable future for many organizations.

Stridec asked Bryan Liu, Ecommerce and Business, as a guest speaker to describe how his firm was affected by the pandemic – and why channel technology and processes have been chosen as their cornerstone approach moving forward.

Liu is in charge of the Penshoppe Group’s IT division as well as the ecommerce companys end-to-end value chain. He’s also working on the Group’s attempts to develop “real, seamless channel experiences” for its six brands: Penshoppe, Oxgn, Memo, ForMe, Regatta, and BOCU, which operate over a thousand fully owned brick and mortar locations.

Liu graduated from the University of Sydney with a Commerce degree with an extended major in Marketing and has experience in social media, digital strategy, and ecommerce.

Accelerated Digitization: Setting the Stage for channel

Penshoppe had noticed that its customers were evolving through social media well before the pandemic, and well before channel became a buzzword.

Penshoppe was in desperate need of a digital presence. You’d say back then, “Okay, you’re not on social media, that’s OK.” “However, you say that now, yet you don’t exist,” Liu pointed out.

The Liu family, proprietors of Penshoppe, had noticed the convenience of purchasing online and picking up in-store or obtaining personal delivery on their travels abroad. The Penshoppe Group also looks to successful channel players like Zara for inspiration.

In terms of online ecommerce and digital transformation, the Penshoppe Group had a head start. As a result, when the pandemic struck, focusing on the company’s online operation was not as challenging as beginning from scratch, according to Liu.

“It did accelerate and reprioritize a lot of the things we had to do,” said Liu, who recalls some Penshoppe employees bringing their computers home on the eve of the 2020 lockdown, and having to close all of their stores to comply with government regulations.

A Significant Increase in Online Sales

Penshoppe’s online sales tripled over the course of 2020, demonstrating the success of their efforts.

This online success came with its own set of difficulties, the most significant of which was keeping up with rising demand. “Because we weren’t used to that level of traffic,” Liu explained, “our fulfilment capabilities had to increase up when we encountered the rush.”

Penshoppe announced a cooperation with Aptos, a retail technology firm, in the middle of 2020 to address some of these challenges and further its channel goals.

People often ignore the human component of going digital, according to Liu, and change management is an important part of the process.

It’s “more than just stating ‘I’m going digital,'” according to Liu.

He stressed that Penshoppe’s employees are the ones who have pushed the company to become digital.

Getting to Know our channel

For various people, channel might signify different things, according to Liu. Penshoppe’s long-term goal is to “meet the natural consumer behaviour that has evolved to using both physically and online,” according to the company.

That’s why Penshoppe thinks channel is a good idea. “We are still predominantly a brick and mortar-driven firm,” Liu explained, “so for us, channel means marrying and blending both our online and offline worlds.”

Penshoppe aspires to provide the finest buying experience possible to its primary target markets, Millennials and Gen Z-ers.

This includes shopping on marketplace platforms like Shopee and Lazada and allowing customers to return and exchange items at any of their physical locations.

“We came up with that and are now selling it to our customers.” “We understand that online and offline should not be in competition,” he remarked.

Customers’ preferred method of payment is still cash on delivery, which is a big area for many merchants like Penshoppe.

“From a retailer’s standpoint, we’re sending out an [advance payment] for a product that hasn’t yet been paid for.” As a result, we have a freight cost vulnerability,” Liu explained.

“I do believe, though, that we may be able to skip right over the credit card phase and go straight to mobile payments,” Liu added.

Maintaining The Brand

Bernard San Juan, Stridec Managing Partner and webinar host, posed the following question to Liu: How does a company go about transferring its brand’s integrity from the physical to the digital realm?

“The offline appearance of our stores must be extremely similar to the internet appearance of our stores.” He added, “You can’t have various visual marketing signals and colours.”

“It’s the same with the way our brands sound, both online and offline; it has to be consistent.”

There have been numerous appealing and tempting decisions to make in terms of product, channel, or building new outlets, according to Liu.

“But, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t answer the question, ‘Does it give our clients a better experience?’,” he continued, “we tend to walk away from it.”

Is  Marketing Right For Everyone?

“Sooner or later, it’ll cease and move behind us,” San Juan said.

“Will remain the best option after that?”

“Yes, and that pretty well sums up what we think of,” Liu answered. We believe that channel retailing is the way of the future.”

He is optimistic that people would return to the malls and go shopping again in the near future.

He is, however, ready to wager that the expectation of being able to shop or perform window shopping online, if not really purchase something, will persist.

It all comes down to purpose for Penshoppe. “We just question ourselves which one will deliver the better experience or customer,” Liu adds when the company is picking between two possibilities.

Players who work across many platforms

“I don’t think there are any leaders in the retail fashion area in the Singapore,” San Juan said.

Liu sees a chance to establish a name for himself in the local retail market. “We had a picture of what meant for when we decided to embark on our journey.” “We want to shape the future retail experiences in the Singapore as part of our vision,” Liu said.

“We don’t Singapore know if it’s 100 percent correct or 100 percent incorrect. I mean, we’re quite sure about it. However, our long-term goal is to be able to affect how people shop in the Singapore.”

You may view the entire replay of this webinar on our Stridec YouTube website, and you can also learn more about previous webinar sessions on our Stridec page.