Courses change retailers' mindset about e-commerce

How do you say "Open Sesame" to the hidden riches of online retailing?

Nearly 600 people have tried to crack the code by attending e-commerce training programmes for Singapore retailers launched in November last year by Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) together with China's Alibaba Group.

Participants can choose from five short courses of at most six days conducted by the polytechnic's Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS), with Alibaba Taobao University. These cover topics from the technical aspects of how to establish a presence on Alibaba Group's e-commerce platforms, to what foreign brands can do to succeed in China's e-commerce market.

The courses are conducted in Mandarin, some by Alibaba trainers at SIRS with the support of local lecturers and others at the Alibaba campus in Hangzhou, China.

English programmes will be rolled out next year.

The courses target a wide group, from professionals to business owners, senior managers and operational staff. Each programme has new intakes two to eight times a year and charges fees of $4,200 to $7,500 before subsidies.

ONLINE STORE ESSENTIAL

After coming back to Singapore, I thought that having an online store is a must. You can expand your business without even having to rent additional space.

MR ELTON PAN, owner of furniture store Full House Home Furnishings, who attended the Alibaba course for business owners in April and hopes to launch an online store for his company by year-end.

Ms Shermaine Wee, 42, owner of Klosh, a company selling gifts and home decorations that has three retail stores here, said that going on two study programmes this year has "changed her mindset" about the role of e-commerce in her business.

"We used to think of e-commerce as just another sales channel. So if we don't see sales coming in, we shouldn't spend so much time and energy on online platforms," she said.

But she now makes it a point to update the store's online catalogue when new items arrive at the physical stores. "The online and offline experience should be seamless; now, we also get customers from the United States and Australia."

Mr Elton Pan, 44, owner of furniture store Full House Home Furnishings, said going on the Alibaba course for business owners in April opened his eyes to "how much Singapore lags behind" when it comes to online retail.

In July, he engaged vendors to set up an online store for his company and hopes to launch it by the end of this year.

"After coming back to Singapore, I thought that having an online store is a must. You can expand your business without having to rent additional space."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Courses change retailers' mindset about e-commerce'. Print Edition | Subscribe