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The Battle Between Traditional Stores & Ecommerce Sites

The winner in the battle between physical retail stores and online e-commerce websites could very well be someone who lies in between.

In the midst of what is retail’s most exciting time of year, the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) serves to highlight some of the great innovations that Singapore is contributing to the world of shopping.

Faced with a rising Singapore Dollar and the inevitable resulting slump in tourism, this year’s GSS figures have been predicted to be disappointing, but one good thing that has arisen from such a challenging retail environment is that brands are pulling out the stops to get ahead of trends and keep customers engaged.

How is Singapore innovating?

Unsurprisingly, much of the notable developments occurring within the retail industry at the moment involve brands making the transition to digital. In fact, it is no longer even necessary for a store to have a physical presence in order to be successful. This is reflected in the fact that, of the seven most popular stores in GSS 2015, four are operating exclusively online with no physical presence in Singapore whatsoever.

However, what’s new this year is that a seamless integration of online and offline options are becoming equally important to shoppers, who now crave the choice to shop freely across a variety of different channels at will. Innovation is no longer about simply ‘going digital’. In fact, we’re seeing a rise in the importance of brick-and-mortar stores with technology driving innovation.

Rocket’s Zalora is leading the way in this area, having recently made the transition from an online-only brand to one that offers flexibility across a variety of different channels including ‘clicks to bricks’ pop-up stores at Bugis+ and ION Orchard.

Clicks-to-Bricks and Bricks-to-Clicks

Zalora’s recent omnichannel venture has certainly got the ball rolling in terms of retailers integrating online and offline shopping options. Online retailer Inverted Edge have just gone one step further with the announcement of a new collaboration with Qlik Technologies involving a fully interactive digital in-store experience that benefits customer and brand equally.

Shoppers are invited to post pictures of purchases they make, tag them on social media, and the images will appear on digital touchscreens in store that fellow shoppers can browse and draw inspiration from. As a highly personalised shopping tool, this not only generates product hype, but allows the brand to use data to better understand their customers.

Similarly, huge stores that have traditionally operated exclusively offline have begun to take the necessary steps to move into the digital world. Supermarket retailer NTUC FairPrice has just announced it’s going digital, working with IT developers Cognizant in order to provide a multichannel shopping experience for its customers – including a ‘Click & Collect’ option where shoppers are able to make purchases online then collect them from a store at a time that suits them.

Great Singapore Sale mobile apps and coupons

Mobile shopping is really changing how shoppers experience a retail festival like GSS. The new GssGO! app alerts shoppers to where sales are taking place all over Singapore, making the whole process of finding sales that interest each individual a whole lot easier. Geo location technology can also be used by shoppers to find sales within their vicinity at all time.

As well as the official GSS app, malls like ION Orchard also have a GSS deals tab on their mobile app, and have a daily-updated page of GSS coupons and sales.

iBeacon Technology

Although location-based marketing is still in the very early stages of development in Singapore, a few brands are taking the first steps in integrating iBeacon technology – which is set to thoroughly integrate the mobile shopping with the experience of shopping in stores.

iBeacons function by sending out bluetooth signals which are then picked up by passing shoppers, alerting them to in-store promotions and even offering discounts and reward points for simply setting foot in stores. Not only does technology like this get shoppers back into malls, but it offers customers the privilege of shopping online and in stores simultaneously.

Why Physical Stores are here to Stay

The below infographic visualises some recent data which suggest omnichannel shopping trends are nurturing the growth of physical stores as well as online. Interestingly, now that most brands have gone digital, the real success stories are those brands who use digital to enhance the whole in-store shopping experience, and vice versa.


Katie Paterson is a Researcher for global money-saving platform, Analysing digital advertising and marketing trends in Asia and Oceania, Katie works with a strong focus on social network, e-commerce and m-commerce trends. Originally hailing from Scotland, she spent the last three years living, working and completing a Research Master’s in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She has published topics associated with global e-commerce trends, consumer behaviour, and the future of shopping.