Tech firms help SMEs sell food, products online

Mr Andrew Tay, 58, owner of hawker stall Urban Smokeshack, which sells smoked meat and seafood, preparing food for customers to collect. His stall is one of the firms using the CIRCL app, which enables restaurants and merchants to accept online order
Mr Andrew Tay, 58, owner of hawker stall Urban Smokeshack, which sells smoked meat and seafood, preparing food for customers to collect. His stall is one of the firms using the CIRCL app, which enables restaurants and merchants to accept online orders for takeaway. PHOTO: CIRCL

Tech businesses are helping traditional heartland shops go digital so they can lift their revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some small and medium-sized enterprises have been reluctant to embrace technology, but the hammering they are taking in these bad economic times is changing minds fast.

E-commerce site Carousell offers a CarouBiz Booster Package to help firms with no digital experience go online.

About 1,000 packages are available, with Enterprise Singapore covering 90 per cent of the $720 cost, which includes subscription and in-app advertising expenses.

Packages are available until the end of the year.

Carousell Singapore managing director Ng Chee Soon said: "While many retailers have considered... moving to e-commerce solutions to cope with the challenging environment, many heartland merchants are still struggling due to their lack of e-commerce experience.

"Their business models also may not be suited for the larger e-commerce websites."

He added that Carousell has tools to allow merchants to upload video listings, categorise products, add a profile cover photo and receive monthly analytics for insights.

Consumer electronics and lifestyle retailer Polaris Network is one firm that has taken up the Carousell package.

General manager Desmond Tang said: "Our experience so far is promising. We are able to communicate with our customers on the app, enabling us to quickly address questions and matters that they have concerns about, such as warranty, weight and box size.

"By answering on the spot, we are able to close sales, collect the payment within a short period of time, and arrange for delivery on the same day."

 

Last month, Enterprise Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore launched an initiative to get businesses to work with digital platforms ConnectUpz, Dei and Fave to set up ready-to-use solutions such as loyalty programmes and payment methods.

Tech platform CIRCL is also teaming up with firms hit by the pandemic, especially food and beverage outlets. It enables restaurants and merchants to accept online orders for takeaway and dine-in when the situation allows.

CIRCL had 180 firms on its mobile app before the pandemic and is in discussion with a few larger chains and restaurant groups.

Fees to get on board the platform are being waived and there are no other fees if merchants collect payment in person, but they pay a monthly cost if they upgrade to accept online payments.

CIRCL founder Timothy Lee said: "Setting up an online ordering app and website requires a budget of a few hundred dollars just to hire someone to help... plus (there is) continued maintenance (of the website) as menus and dish availability change."

CIRCL helps restaurants by managing all customer interactions, from the initial marketing to feedback and reordering, Mr Lee added.

He noted that people with no tech experience can go online instantly with the app, with a full set of capabilities.

 
 

Urban Smokeshack, a hawker stall selling smoked meat and seafood, got on CIRCL the day after the circuit breaker started on April 7.

Owner Andrew Tay said: "After the circuit breaker started, we were contacted every day asking if we're open, if we have a menu online.

"Now, when customers order, the CIRCL app rings and the orders print - just like the delivery apps. The big difference is our customers pick up (the order) themselves, which they are happy to do, to help us save the 30 per cent to 33 per cent commission that delivery platforms charge us."

Ms Sandra Leonardi, director of Salads & Wraps, added: "With CIRCL ordering in place, takeaways are easier to manage and because it's paid via app, we do not need extra manpower for our cashier, and this also reduces contact."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2020, with the headline 'Tech firms help SMEs sell food, products online'. Print Edition | Subscribe