E-retailers are pushing the store frontier in Singapore

February 22, 2019 / By  

Just over a year since the opening of its 4,603-sq-ft flagship store at the heart of Singapore’s shopping belt area in 313@Somerset, local online fashion retailer Love Bonito, opened a 3,555-sq-ft store at JEM. The move was to expand the physical platform to promote customer awareness and connection with customers. The stores allowed its female fans to attend workshops and for trained staff to advise customers on the appropriate style and right fit for various body types, with the overall aim of building new and repeat business.

Similarly Reebonz, a Singapore-based e-commerce luxury retailer, established physical and pop-up stores for product display and arrangements of private viewings to gain customer trust and to reduce friction to purchasing higher value luxury goods online. Currently, Reebonz operates a large pop-up store at VivoCity in the city-state as well as stores in Sydney and Kuala Lumpur.

E-retailers are discovering that online platforms have become extremely competitive and more saturated as niches are rapidly filled. In an effort to drive growth and expand market share, e-retailers are making a stronger push in the physical store frontier, particularly in the Orchard shopping belt and the suburban malls in Singapore. Their aim is to build brand equity and enhance sensory experience to differentiate from their competitors.

Not limited to just fashion, homegrown e-grocer HonestBee has recently launched Habitat, a 60,000-sq-ft store offering smartphone app-enabled, cashless, multi-sensory supermarket-cum-dining concept. The store showcases HonestBee’s range and quality of online offerings, interspersed with dining concepts, to build brand equity, create a unique shopping experience and differentiate from other e-grocers. Customers pay using a HonestBee app to drive smartphone app familiarity. The store also features time saving technologies, auto-checkout and auto-collection systems, controlled by the app, to enable customers to use the time saved for personal downtime or bonding. Friendly in-store staff provide assistance on navigating the app to reduce customer friction, enhance the grocery buying experience and, ultimately, drive sales to the online platform.

Homegrown multi-label online design retailer, Naiise, has similarly established physical stores to build brand equity and experience and to drive retail revenue. Recently, Naiise expanded its physical presence to include a 9,000-sq-ft retail showcase at Design Orchard and will soon launch a new concept store at Jewel@Changi, offering in-store activities and a café.

One landlord is the first mover on this shift to physical retail. CapitaLand recently established a 11,000-sq-ft “phygital” multi-label concept store, NomadX at Plaza Singapura, which offers plug & play” retail units, available on a short lease, to enable online retailers to have an in-store presence to trial new concepts and products and to respond to customer feedback in a cost-efficient way.  The units are integrated with smart technologies to encourage product discovery by customers and to enhance the shopping experience. Alibaba’s Taobao, alongside other e-fashion businesses including Digital Fashion Week, evenodd, Révolte and Style Theory, has embraced this concept, establishing their first physical outlets in Singapore at NomadX.

As more e-retailers experiment with blending the convenience of online retailing with sensory experiences in physical stores to differentiate from competitors, more online brands will emerge in the physical world.  This shift will benefit the physical real estate world.

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