Forum: Create shopping experiences that stand out to draw customers back

With the Singapore Government's recent announcement that it will spend $500 million on the tourism sector (Singapore to pump in almost $500m to revive tourism sector, April 7), it is also time for bricks-and-mortar retailers to urgently reinvent themselves to get shoppers back into stores.

This is especially so given the ever-increasing business challenges and competition from online retailers.

What does the future hold for physical retail? And how can we successfully address the needs of locals and tourists alike, and re-establish Singapore as a shopping haven?

The focus of physical retail is shifting from price and product superiority to customer experiences and giving more detailed product information to customers.

Certainly, it is crucial to have a wide range of products under one roof that customers can physically see and touch. But today, shoppers are also looking at the total retail experience rather than just products.

Therefore, it is important that retailers ensure that service excellence tops their corporate agenda, to better attract shoppers into their stores by giving them a VIP experience.

Service excellence is at the heart of physical stores' business. It is a critical factor that retains customers, develops customer loyalty and builds brand preference.

Front-line staff are the retailers' vital ambassadors as visitors form an opinion about the shops based on the encounters they have with staff - for better or for worse. Friendly and cheerful staff add to the vibrancy and liveliness of shoppers' overall experience.

Partnerships with creative teams to organise exciting public events also help give stores an edge over the competition. For instance, engaging artistes for on-site performances, fashion shows or live music, especially during festive periods, weekends or selected evenings, could bring about an atmosphere that online retail can never provide.

Today, it is no longer just about shopping; it is also about creating experiences that stand out. This will give shoppers more reasons to come out in droves to physical shops, instead of sitting at their desks and letting their fingers do the buying.

Melvin Nicholas Tang

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