The Straits Times says

Ensuring GSS clicks with customers

Making the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) truly great again will require many good ideas and contributions. One that emerged recently, from the digital frontiers of marketing, is a mobile phone app named Spree. Customers can access GSS e-coupons and choose discounts through the free app. It will then compile the offers on a virtual card that can be used at designated physical stores before they expire. The app represents an effort by retailers to leverage omnichannel commerce, which can provide customers a seamless service - from scanning goods online to making final selections and purchases at stores.

Bricks-and-mortar shops can remain attractive if they offer entertaining and social experiences which breathe life into shopping activities. Instead of the solitary act of clicking "Buy" buttons on a screen behind closed doors, a shopping spree out and about in the city can be turned into a celebration of sorts. By working together, retailers can help to revive this buzz.

The technological stimulus is one of the means for the 24-year-old GSS to reclaim its former shine. By pooling efforts, the cost of new apps can be shared and the GSS bandwagon can roll into the wider expanses of cyberspace. Even smaller retailers will be able to benefit from such efforts.

A study of retail trends this year, produced by professional services network PwC, noted that omnichannel offerings give consumers the convenience of shopping on a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, or in person, while helping retailers to reduce marginal costs. The study also held up the competitive edge that showrooms can gain if they offer items for physical inspection, give advice on products and take orders for goods which are later shipped to the customer's home. In this way, companies can showcase more products without incurring inventory and other traditional costs.

Not all of these suggestions, applicable to the needs of geographically-wide markets such as the United States, are germane to Singapore. However, as another report said, the retail industry, along with wholesale and distribution, needs to come to terms with disruptions changing the nature of consumer behaviour. The retail sector enjoys mixed blessings in Singapore. The country's high gross domestic product per capita and growth prospects work in the sector's favour, but its tight labour market and rental costs put it at some disadvantage compared with its Asean neighbours. But the use of technology can help Singapore to compete better.

In the case of the GSS, attracting tourists to complement the local buying population must remain a key objective. While retail businesses might not be able to match the rock-bottom prices of low-cost shopping destinations, they can lure discerning shoppers who value expert guidance, unmatchable service and new delivery options.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Ensuring GSS clicks with customers'. Print Edition | Subscribe