New tool to help more than 2,000 SMEs set up online stores

Merchants hit by challenging retail landscape will be able to a reach wider range of customers

The mobile phone-based solution is expected to benefit traditional merchants who do not have the know-how to move their businesses online while their physical operations are affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Once the virtual store has been set up, c
The mobile phone-based solution is expected to benefit traditional merchants who do not have the know-how to move their businesses online while their physical operations are affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A new mobile commerce solution will help more than 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) set up their own virtual store and have access to a wide network of customers.

The initiative, which aims to help SMEs such as heartland merchants deal with challenges in the retail landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic, was announced by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat during a webinar yesterday.

The initiative, jointly developed by Nanyang Polytechnic's Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (NYP-SIRS), payment services group Nets and tech firm SCash, is supported by Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

The mobile phone-based solution is expected to benefit traditional merchants who do not have the know-how to move their businesses online while their physical operations are affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Once the virtual store has been set up, customers can make orders through a URL or by scanning a QR code at the physical store.

After customers make their first purchase, retailers can engage with them through the likes of loyalty rewards or discount vouchers.

Nets is waiving service fees upon sign-up, while SCash is not charging merchants the monthly service fee until the end of the year.

NYP-SIRS is also providing a one-day workshop to help merchants sustain their business operations after the virtual store has been set up.

Ms Megan Ong, director of NYP-SIRS, said the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on physical shops, while digital orders have increased during this period, which emphasises the need to help SMEs transition to digital solutions.

The workshop conducted by the institute will be tailored to the needs of SMEs of different trade backgrounds, she added.

 
 
 
 

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises vice-president Ang Yuit told The Straits Times that while it is good to have more digital options for SMEs, it is important to make sure that e-commerce solutions can be integrated with other platforms which enterprises are already on and address the pain points that firms have.

"SMEs face different challenges - some in sales and marketing, some have technical difficulties like setting up digital platforms, while others need payment solutions.

"It's good for e-commerce solutions to be (compatible) with other platforms and solutions, since most SMEs usually take a multi-channel approach," he said, citing how retailers usually have multiple shops across e-commerce sites such as Lazada and Qoo10.

Last Wednesday, Enterprise Singapore announced an expansion to its e-commerce booster package to support SME retailers in strengthening their digital marketing capabilities for e-commerce.

The package includes a one-off 90 per cent support for digital marketing advisory services for three months, which include capabilities to analyse digital business models and assets.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2020, with the headline 'New tool to help more than 2,000 SMEs set up online stores'. Subscribe