E-retailing : easy come, easy go

It’s easy to avoid the Great Singapore Sale crowds – with a click of the mouse you can get what you want online. But is that good news for shoppers and retailers alike?

By Melody Tan

Shops are no longer confined to brick-and-mortar operations – they also make their presence felt in the borderless Internet realm.
In fact, the Internet has given the phrase “window shopping” a whole new meaning. You can have one window open at Amazon.com, looking at the New York Times’ Best Seller list, and another window at Victoria’s Secret.com, picking out lacy lingerie.

Perks of e-shopping
In the past, when you could not locate an item in the local stores, it was simply a case of “too bad”. With the advent of the Internet, your marketplace now transcends geographical boundaries. Missed a copy of your favourite magazine or seeking an out-of-print book? Amazon.com will not disappoint. Online sites also allow you to make better buying decisions by being able to compare prices quickly and easily.
Clearly then, e-shopping has added a whole new dimension to the ways we shop.

Complementary services
Many shops now have online sites to complement their businesses. For instance, Cold Storage has its e-Cold Storage portal, where you can do grocery shopping online. “It is so convenient,” says Mrs Annie Ong, who is in her late 40’s. She makes orders via the portal to stock her office pantry. “There’s no need to queue, they deliver to your door-step, and you can even set up shopping lists with items you buy frequently”, she gushes.

Similarly, most florists also accept online orders, and even offer exclusive online promotions, especially during festive seasons and other special occasions such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Bigger players like Far East Flora allow shoppers to have fresh flowers, hampers and other gifts sent all over the globe with just a click, while smaller outfits boast same-day delivery for online orders.

A new marketing channel
Advertising in traditional media is very costly, something which small start-ups cannot afford. However, with the Internet, small or home-based retailers can maintain their market presence for close to no additional cost.

Emilyn Lee, 30, who conducts knitting and crochet classes from home, uses Blogger.com as an informal avenue to advertise her classes. This proves to be highly effective, as most of her new students come to know of the class through her blog, and the rest by word-of-mouth referrals.

Similarly, Tiramisutra.com tempts you with pictures of tiramisu and other delectable desserts, while orders are placed via telephone, rather than actual buying through the site. Without a physical store, their website serves as both a virtual shop front as well as an advertisement.

Actual online stores
Eschewing the hassles of seeking shop space and worrying about rental, some retailers have gone fully online.

Jason Lee, 21, buys accessories for his iPod Nano and digital camera from iStyles.com, a local online store selling accessories for tech gadgets. “I like it because I can order when I’m not in camp, and receive it by the time I book out again”, says the full-time National Serviceman. He values the convenience offered by e-retail, although he has gripes about paying extra in the form of delivery charges.

On the other hand, Kooshi.com, which retails sleepwear and lingerie, takes orders through its website, via the phone or the mail-in order form on their catalogues. However, to increase its presence, it also has retail partners in the form of brick and mortar shops.

“I like their designs, but I don’t feel comfortable [with e-shopping] because it’s better to feel the garments or try them on first,” says Chiam Yihui, 24, who prefers to buy Kooshi merchandise from Blush! boutiques online. “It is so convenient,” says Mrs Annie Ong, who is in her late 40’s. She makes orders via the portal to stock her office pantry.

“There’s no need to queue, they deliver to your door-step, and you can even set up shopping lists with items you buy frequently”, she gushes.

Similarly, most florists also accept online orders, and even offer exclusive online promotions, especially during festive seasons and other special occasions such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Bigger players like Far East Flora allow shoppers to have fresh flowers, hampers and other gifts sent all over the globe with just a click, while smaller outfits boast same-day delivery for online orders.

A new marketing channel
Advertising in traditional media is very costly, something which small start-ups cannot afford. However, with the Internet, small or home-based retailers can maintain their market presence for close to no additional cost.

Emilyn Lee, 30, who conducts knitting and crochet classes from home, uses Blogger.com as an informal avenue to advertise her classes. This proves to be highly effective, as most of her new students come to know of the class through her blog, and the rest by word-of-mouth referrals.

Similarly, Tiramisutra.com tempts you with pictures of tiramisu and other delectable desserts, while orders are placed via telephone, rather than actual buying through the site. Without a physical store, their website serves as both a virtual shop front as well as an advertisement.

Actual online stores
Eschewing the hassles of seeking shop space and worrying about rental, some retailers have gone fully online.

Jason Lee, 21, buys accessories for his iPod Nano and digital camera from iStyles.com, a local online store selling accessories for tech gadgets. “I like it because I can order when I’m not in camp, and receive it by the time I book out again”, says the full-time National Serviceman. He values the convenience offered by e-retail, although he has gripes about paying extra in the form of delivery charges.

On the other hand, Kooshi.com, which retails sleepwear and lingerie, takes orders through its website, via the phone or the mail-in order form on their catalogues. However, to increase its presence, it also has retail partners in the form of brick and mortar shops.

“I like their designs, but I don’t feel comfortable [with e-shopping] because it’s better to feel the garments or try them on first,” says Chiam Yihui, 24, who prefers to buy Kooshi merchandise from Blush! boutiques.

On a more positive note, Winston Tay, 31, used the dot-com boom of the early 2000s to start his own graphic design firm. He operated from home before renting a small office space after about 18 months in business.

“Your business becomes more credible when you have your own office,” he explains. “It’s difficult to convince the big clients when you’re just working from a HDB flat.”

How viable are e-businesses?
Before you decide to abandon your current job and set up an e-business, it is important to consider the feasibility of your proposed venture, and if it can really be sustained.
How realistic is it to use the Internet indefinitely as a shop front? Businesses selling tangible products like apparel and electronics may face inventory problems.

In addition, one of the greatest drawbacks of e-shopping is that it robs shoppers of the tactile experience of shopping. Would your product or service be able to withstand these limitations?

“At the end of the day, you need to be prepared to go beyond being an e-business,” says Winston. “But that requires capital, so it helps to plan ahead.”

Click here for jobs in Retail/Supermarket!

Comments

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.