Tech retailer transforms for the future

Challenger's multi-channel approach means its e-commerce customers can, for instance, collect their items at a physical store.
Challenger's multi-channel approach means its e-commerce customers can, for instance, collect their items at a physical store.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Local technology retailer Challenger is stepping up its game in the light of the challenges it is facing, from high rents to rising competition from e-commerce.

The company rolled out a new multi-channel approach across its operations last year, which integrates both the online and offline shopping experiences for customers.

This means that customers using its e-commerce stores, for instance, can now choose to have their items delivered or to collect them at a Challenger store.

Both online and offline product inventories are also synced in real time, which means customers can check if a specific product is available at a certain store, saving them from making a wasted trip.

The changes taking place at Challenger fit in with those outlined in the Government's Retail Industry Transformation Map (ITM) launched last September. ITMs are a key strategy of the Committee on the Future Economy, and there are plans for 23 ITMs in various sectors in all. Six have been rolled out.

They outline how firms can innovate, pilot new technology, redesign jobs and expand overseas.

Challenger began online sales in 2000, but ramped up the service in April last year in a bid to keep up with fast-changing trends in the industry.

"From the start, we approached our online expansion differently from other e-commerce players by ensuring that our evolving business model continues to remain sustainable," Challenger Technologies chief marketing officer Loo Pei Fen told The Straits Times.

She noted that Challenger's strategies continue to be based on the company's network of 43 physical stores across Singapore and strong support from its 500,000 member base. "High rental costs and the manpower crunch remain consistent issues for Challenger, where our physical retail stores are concerned," she said.

"But our continuous online transformation has allowed us to sell more items and increase our customer reach in a way that a physical store had limitations to doing."

Singapore's retail industry has about 22,000 establishments, which contribute 1.4 per cent to gross domestic product and about 4 per cent of total employment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Tech retailer transforms for the future'. Print Edition | Subscribe