Singapore

Retailers raise the bar with trending innovations

With the evolution of the retail industry—from brick-and-mortar operations to digitising of work processes—let us take a look at what some of the current trends are and how retailers have improved their operations with new innovations. 

Experiential retail strategy

‘Experiential retail' was sparked a couple of years ago and it is where some of the biggest brands are heading today. Retailers started doing this with little additions such as free in-store WIFI access or in-store set ups such as special photobooths to give customers 'Instagrammable' moments. 

Customer experience is the key differentiator between physical and online purchases. Stores have had to make changes in order to enhance shoppers' experience. 

Sporting goods retailer Decathlon opened Decathlon Singapore Lab at Stadium Boulevard in January 2019. Covering 5,000 square metres, there is a hiking path with a gravel surface where customers can try out the products before buying, free-to-play areas next to the store, an Active Health Lab for free health and fitness assessments, and the store offers sports clinics and fitness programmes too.  

Mothercare also revamped and relaunched its HarbourFront store in October 2019, with new services as well as 'experience zones' added. Such 'experience store' is a world-first for the global UK brand. 

At its HarbourFront store, Mothercare’s customers can try out strollers on a stroller test track. There is also a Dream Nursery corner where parents can visualise the placement of essential items when creating a nursery in their home. A ‘baby wearing’ zone has also been set up where staff use weighted dolls to help parents-to-be get the right type of carrier they will need. 

Nursery advisors are stationed at Mothercare Singapore's in-store Baby Concierge to guide parents through a world of baby products, helping them to make informed decisions to buy the products they need. 

Malls with communal spaces 

Gone are the days when people walk into a mall just to shop and perhaps grab a bite too. The trend now, as seen from the opening of new malls in Singapore, is to add activities and entertainment-oriented tenants in the mix. 

The new Funan Mall has rock-climbing facilities, an indoor cycling track, and a rooftop urban farm. Jewel Changi's iconic rain vortex is one of the main attractions of the mall and other non-retail spaces include a hedge maze and a canopy park. 

313 @ Somerset houses K Bowling Club, a leisure hangout where patrons can enjoy cosmic bowling, arcade games or karaoke sessions. All these additions are examples of communal spaces built within the buildings so that a mall is not just a place to shop and eat, but to play as well. 

Improving personalised experiences 

According to Knight Frank's 2019 Retailers Sentiment Survey—an in-depth survey completed by around 40 local and international brands—about 37.8 per cent of retailers indicated that shoppers prefer to customise their purchases, and have a preference for in-store cafes (35.1 per cent) and pop-up or flash events (35.1 per cent). 

In 2019, Tiffany & Co launched its ‘Tiffany True’ campaign targeted at couples planning to get engaged. Any couple who took photographs on Tiffany’s blue benches and posted them on social media would receive free ice cream.  

Moving forward with ‘technovation’  

Retailers have also deployed technological innovations such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to improve human traffic and sales. In a 2018 survey conducted by Gartner, about 46 per cent of the local retailers said they had plans to deploy AR and VR offerings by 2020. 

Taking the lead is Golden Village’s virtual pods in Funan Mall. These pods keep moviegoers entertained with virtual reality gaming and movie trailers before they enter the cinema. 

Home-grown spa brand ‘Porcelain’ included digital touches that add to the overall customer experience. Its fourth outlet, Porcelain Origins, is already touted as Singapore's first smart spa. It features touchscreen tabletops in consultation rooms and smart mirrors in the powder room that give customers post-treatment care tips.  

Also, in September 2019, Clarins launched House of Clarins, a campaign to entice shoppers to visit their pop-up store, where they could test and find out more about the brand's products through an AR-enabled gaming experience. Many retailers have also integrated technological innovations—such as ePOS systems and Cloud-based accounting solutions—into their business models to improve work productivity and efficiency. More advantages of Cloud-based solutions are automated and streamlined business processes, management of manpower costs, as well as improved work efficiency and performance.  

Conclusion 

The retail scene is changing and brands need to be more aware of what they can do in order to entice and engage customers. Retailers today are also mindful about digitising their backend processes for smoother and more effective operations. As the retail arena continues to evolve, we can expect better service, smoother operation, and a more holistic customer experience. 

Please contact us should you like to gain deeper insights into improving your backend processes, and find out how you can outsource certain functions to free up your time on more strategic matters.

David Eu 
Partner & Industry Lead, F&B, retail and consumer products
davideu@RSMSingapore.sg
T: +65 6715 1338

Yang Li Lian 
Director & Deputy Industry Lead, F&B, retail and consumer products 
yanglilian@RSMSingapore.sg
T: +65 6594 7897