As part of our Resilience Special this month, we speak to the captains of industry about their response to the Covid-19 pandemic and future challenges.
James Chang is CEO, Lazada Singapore (RedMart).
“In the past few months, we witnessed how Covid-19 became a catalyst that triggered a rapid shift in consumer mindset and shopping patterns, as physical distancing measures funnelled more consumers online. The spike in demand for online groceries since early February has been out of the ordinary, but we were quick to adapt to the changing needs of our community, and are now focusing on essentials and daily necessities for RedMart’s assortment.”
Serving the community and nation
“Because consumers are staying home during this Circuit Breaker period, we started to fulfil deliveries by area, instead of doing time-based deliveries which involves dispersing our delivery fleet across the entire country each day. This was an important move that allows RedMart customers to get orders delivered once every three days.
We’ve adapted our operations, and developed new processes to support the community. We’ve scaled up our workforce through temporary hires, including tapping on displaced workers. To show our support for healthcare workers in the frontlines, we also started a priority scheme setting aside RedMart delivery slots for them.
When the IT Show was postponed in March, we knew many participants would be affected and dedicated a campaign to offer them our platform as an alternative retail channel to continue sales, as many of them had already set aside inventory for the offline event. The resulting campaign saw 50 percent more participating sellers more than last year’s.
We are also working with Enterprise Singapore to provide subsidies to new Lazada sellers, as more retailers digitise and diversify their sales channels beyond traditional brick-and-mortar during this challenging period. This is a priority for us because local businesses need to be able to continue operating in this landscape in order to keep our local economy alive.”
“With the new measures in place, shopping safely from home has become the new normal and we knew that our immediate goal was to be able to adapt, and to serve as many customers as possible. With our data forecasts showing a fast-growing number of consumers relying on us to get essentials and daily necessities, we knew we had to recalibrate and reconfigure our operations to be able to continue serving our community and nation. It was also important to focus on supporting sellers and local businesses because they need to be able to continue operations so that our local economy can stay alive.
Since adapting our strategy and operations to cater to the evolving situation, we have been better positioned to meet the needs of consumers. Traffic surged by 11 times in the first weekend after changing RedMart’s assortment to focus on the essentials and daily necessities, and we were able to accept four times the number of orders we normally do on a normal weekend. We also continue to see steady business growth since implementing the changes, which is very encouraging.
Retail events and campaigns remain a crucial lifeline for sellers, and we were encouraged by the take-up rate of our campaigns. Hence, we will continue to hold sales dedicated for local businesses and SMEs to participate in.
We’ve received feedback from healthcare workers who are thankful that they now have easier access to groceries. There are brands, sellers and retailers who were previously ambivalent about tapping on eCommerce but now recognise the business model as a means of sustaining their operations.”
“Covid-19 has reshaped the retail landscape as we know it. In a way, it has really accelerated eCommerce adoption across the region and made the future happen faster. At Lazada and RedMart, our focus has always been clear – to innovate in the eCommerce space to serve our consumers, and support more businesses to digitise and diversify their retail strategy through eCommerce.
Even when the situation normalises, we will continue to support businesses by providing them access to resources and tools to market and manage their online business. Of course, we will also continue to refine our strategy to adapt to the evolving demands of our community, as we did with RedMart during this pandemic.
It is important to plan a strategy with business resilience and entrepreneurship support in mind as during this pandemic, we saw how swiftly a virus can disrupt industries on a global scale, and drastically alter consumer behaviour and lifestyles. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of a community and their survival will have an impact on the country.”