Technology, Shopify, Featured
Merchants know this: Q3 and Q4 will always be the toughest and most exhilarating periods of the year. Beyond the on-coming holidays, there are also the biggest e-commerce sales events— the iconic monthly 9/9, 10/10, 11/11, and 12/12 sales—happening in Asia. “No matter how trying these periods are, they also boast plenty of opportunities for brands to grow,” said Mr Andrew Lim, co-founder of 360&5, at a keynote at the Accelerate Peak Sales Season Growth event.
Jointly presented by Shopify Plus, Grab Financial Group and 360&5, the event saw more than 100 attendees, many of whom are local Shopify merchants and curious entrepreneurs, congregating to learn about the latest peak season trends. Attendees also gleaned practical tips from industry leaders to drive conversions ahead of the peak sales season. Hosted at Grab HQ on August 18, panellists at the Accelerate Peak Sales Season Growth event included Mr Ashley Woo (Grab), Ms Priya Lal (Shopify), Mr Lim, Ms Chachi Apolinario (Shopify), Mr Roland Utama (Thirsty) and Mr Jon Ng (PRISM+).
This is the first time the three organisations have teamed up to host the Shopify Meetup in Singapore.
Mr Woo, a lead at Merchant and Partner Sales – Payment at Grab, explained that the appeal of ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ (BNPL) is here to stay. The financial service, which allows consumers to split their payments into different segments at 0% interest, sought to empower them to make better purchase decisions. Merchants benefit from adopting BNPL services because BNPL appeals to the youth demographic, such as the Gen Zs and Millennials, who often only use debit rather than credit cards, as well as increases conversions and basket sizes. Mr Woo added: “What we realised on our end was that most of these users were aged between 24 and 40-year-olds and many of whom are women.”
He cited that one out of five Singaporeans have used the service, with a majority opting to use BNPL services, which boomed during the pandemic, again due to its ease of use. “Almost half of the BNPL transactions are about $100 or less,” Mr Woo added, alluding that merchants could consider using a familiar (and credible) BNPL service on their web stores.
Mr Utama, the founder of craft beer e-commerce retailer Thirsty, is a business maverick. His company, which opened its doors some 10 years ago, had not once used discounts, he shared at the event. “For us, we see ourselves as a curator to our customers; the craft beers we bring in are really unique and we managed to educate people about that,” he said candidly to a group of bemused and doubtful audience.
According to the entrepreneur, discounts have a bad rep and do more harm than good. He admits that while discounts do motivate customers to buy and merchants often leverage discounts to make sales during the peak sales season, all they do is “be a margin drain”. “There are ways to repackage the concept of ‘discounts’,” he shared to a small group at the post-event networking session. One is to use a quirky euphemism to replace using the word—in his case, it’s “Oops, we ordered too much!”—and pique interest. “It added personality to the brand,” he added. Euphemism can also be used to add a sense of urgency too—Thirsty uses “Last Chance” to drive traffic to seasonal craft beers. Another instance is using bundle deals or surprise boxes to regulate stocks during peak sales.
In her sharing, Shopify sales rep Ms Apolinario highlighted that traditional funnels are now increasingly irrelevant. Merchants, now more than ever, need to pivot in order to thrive in today’s competitive market, she urged. Offering customers tailored shopping experiences, whether through the use of Shopify Scripts or offering exclusive customers services, is key to retaining them.
Mr Ng, the managing director of leading electronics retailer PRISM+, echoes the same sentiments. He said: “Good customer service gives you an edge because it prompts customers to return to your brand.” Both Mr Ng and Ms Apolinario predicted that customers would likely return to physical outlets to shop with borders opening up and the pandemic easing. This prediction is precisely why PRISM+ is looking to set up more showrooms around the sunny island. “We are expanding to five locations,” Mr Ng, whose team had been busy with a new store opening on the day of this event.
Ms Apolinario is quick to add that merchants need to ensure that the way customers complete their transactions online, and offline is an oft-overlooked matter. If customers, who are accustomed to checking out their carts a certain way online, were to complete an in-store transaction differently, it might create a dissonance, she posited. Shopify merchants can thus make use of the new Point-of-Sales application to overcome this hurdle.
“More importantly, it is important to partner with experts to help build what’s best for you,” she added.
During his sharing session, Mr Lim addressed the elephant in the room: why branding is dead. He posited several reasons, including how consumers today prefer individuality over conformity (read: consumers want unique products, experiences and services) and the rise of social commerce.
“Despite living in a time of great uncertainty, customers are changing their shopping behaviours and putting an end to normal shopping decisions,” Mr Lim revealed, while citing a McKinsey report which stated that 46% of consumers are willing to switch brands or retailers and hinting at failing customer loyalty in today’s market.
He reassured that falling customer loyalty seems to be a norm in today’s overly saturated e-commerce space. “Customers are curious and they like to experiment around,” Mr Lim said. “They are always seeking new possibilities and new creations.” Some ways to circumvent this is to go all in on omnichannel strategies – that is, to understand consumers’ behaviours and desires on a granular level – and reimagine stores as social conversation starters.
Most importantly, retailers should consider designing customised consumer journeys for different groups of customers and convincing them on what is being offered on the table. “Why should customers pay for a $600-coffee machine?” Mr Lim probed. Often, good UI/UX design play an integral role in easing consumers’ journey to click ‘checkout’.
The web designer with over a decade of experience implored merchants, who are looking to improve their web stores, to address two crucial questions: Do you know your customers? Is your web store built around your customers (and how they are buying stuff)? The answers to these questions would help these merchants the parts that needed to be streamlined and pinpoint how best to leverage UI/UX thinking to bridge the gap with consumers.
Learn how you can better customise your web store here.