Singapore fashion retailers are going digital at a pace like never before, driven by government incentives as much as the constraints of the pandemic. But the journey can be confusing, frustrating, and sometimes result in missed opportunities.
Retailers who are new to the game often struggle to define what digitalisation should look like. Those already underway with it start energetically but can find it hard to maintain the pace. They are overwhelmed by the varying costs of implementation, and the pressure to get to grips with data and analytics. But it doesn't have to be difficult, and the right eCommerce partner can make all the difference.
A simple setup changes everything
In fashion, products can change hands in seconds, and retailers have difficulty keeping up with their inventory, not to mention responding to enquiries manually across different platforms. This is where omnichannel retailing comes in.
Omnichannel retailing essentially means controlling everything, including inventory, payments, owned online channels, physical stores and social media assets, from a single dashboard. Taking this step can reduce costs as well as errors.
As much as possible, retailers should aim to automate their processes. Live stream shopping tools have proved popular because their AI technology helps merchants crunch performance statistics such as viewer counts, viewers' actions of adding products to shopping carts, and the number of live sales.
Of course, digital tools can only get retailers so far. It's often said that creativity is the key to success, and this is especially true for fashion retailers. Merchants play an essential role in differentiating one brand from the next. An inspiring brand story, well-designed catalogues and an understanding of visual merchandising can make a huge difference.
Retail is a people business, and no one is an island — so it pays to learn from others, and it's never been easier to access resources such as free webinars with Q-A sessions. Keeping an eye on merchants in other parts of the world can also be a significant source of inspiration.
Merchants often assume shifting online means guaranteed revenue. But the investment does come with a certain level of responsibility. The most versatile merchants are open to adopting an integrated approach, meaning they are willing to spare a part of their budget on digital marketing like social media advertisements.
Merchants should also look into fresh approaches when pushing out new products to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In addition to their day-to-day tasks, monitoring consumer data is vital to predict and manage inventory.
Finding the right partner defines the journey
Working with local fashion retailers on the ground opens our eyes to their specific needs. Unfortunately, some merchants may think it's an either-or situation when it comes to going digital. They pick between setting up an online website and opening a store on an online marketplace — not realising that these channels can be integrated somehow and that they can all be managed simultaneously, as long as they understand how it works. The best part? All of this can be done at a low cost.
A smart commerce enabler offers merchants ease and comfort throughout the digitalisation journey. It helps them manage their own sales channels in an organised and cost-efficient way, providing the same benefits of large-scale logistics players and marketplaces without working directly with them.
It is estimated that the Southeast Asian eCommerce market nearly doubled in 2020, from US$38 billion to $62 billion — and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. The region is also growing increasingly competitive, and organisations should compare the various digital solutions out there and speak with the representatives on the ground to find a suitable one.
Cost will always be a barrier for merchants on their digitalisation journey, and solutions providers have a duty to price their services fairly and explain clearly what people are paying for.
Ultimately, omnichannel retail need not be overwhelming. It is here to stay, and — with the right approach, technology and partner — will prove to be a great ally for fashion retailers.