Despite the convenience of having many supermarkets in Singapore, as well as online retail platforms such as Redmart and Rakuten, is it still possible to add more value to the consumer? Guess, there is more scope!
Launched in February this year, it sells a comprehensive range of products including home-lifestyle, mum and baby, and beauty and wellness products.
In conversation with e27, Robert Van Lith, General Manager of Uitox, spoke about the nature of e-commerce in the Asian region. Van Lith claimed that within the next two years in Singapore, retail would eventually understand that having an e-commerce gateway is a must and there would be development of infrastructure that would support this.
The Singapore-based online retailer is already gaining traction in the local market. According to Van Lith, the store receives up to 100 to 150 orders per day. Of these orders, SOSOON has achieved a 98.2 per cent hit rate, where the goods were delivered on time. Compensation is given to the remaining 1.8 per cent in the form of a S$10 (US$8) voucher for their future purchases.
The brand is targeting metropolitan areas, with its first branch in Taiwan launching last November. Branches in China and Shanghai were launched in December, before subsequently making its way to Singapore in February this year. When asked about the future plans, Van Lith said that they plan to expand to another four cities in China, and also expand to Japan in June, eventually growing across Asia and the world.
A paradigm shift in consumer behaviour
Van Lith is no stranger to the e-commerce and retail market, having spent more than 15 years in the field. He has seen how consumer behaviour patterns have evolved over the years, including in Asia. One of the trends he observes is that customers like to purchase products abroad but they want to have local fulfillment, which is what SOSOON is doing.
Although brick and mortar stores have always been the definitive experience of the retail sector all across the world, this trend is in a steady shift towards online retail as more people see the value, security and convenience offered by online shopfronts. This trend comes at a time of growth for mobile content as well.
What can SOSOON offer to consumers?
Beyond the promise to deliver within 24 hours, Van Lith claimed that consumers can trust SOSOON as there is a larger group that is backing it up, lending the online store more credibility. This would mean that Uitox Group would take responsibility on the product if it does not function as claimed, will provide a secure payment gateway, in addition to transparent logistics cost as well as delivery time.
Concisely, it serves as a gatekeeper of the quality, and provides consumers with transparent information of how much the good would cost in full before they pay. Many online retailers are following the tried-and-tested formula by online retail giants by offering a huge variety of goods to consumers. However, Van Lith believes that the issue with trust is actually a differentiator in the online retail space.
Not intending to offend, Van Lith stated that some of SOSOON’s competitors are marketplace platforms, where not all the products have sufficient quality control, letting users settle it among themselves. This results in customers being confused about the delivery time per product and the shipping cost. He stated that there have been complaints from consumers to government authorities in regards with quality control, especially with cosmetics, which may be fake or unlicensed.
Compared to these platforms, other competitors like Redmart and Zalora are more trusted because they ensure quality of their goods, and have a warehouse in Singapore. Van Lith commented that innovation in SOSOON is in terms of inventory control, where they only accept an order when there is stock. This requires a highly developed warehouse management system.
SOSOON will help save time for consumers, and has a hassle-free return policy — a total refund with the goods picked up from the point of delivery. Generally, the prices of goods are cheaper due to manpower cost reduction, though how it would be reflected in prices is also driven by the suppliers to a certain extent.
The back-end system that makes this possible
Uitox Inside is the back-end infrastructure that makes the 24-hour delivery possible; it provides a fulfillment structure to vendors who are working on bulk with no logistics infrastructure. The logistics is available to help businesses expand their operations by supporting their brands with the same infrastructure that powers SOSOON.
With the costs of warehousing and fulfillment rising around Asia, it becomes more and more difficult for e-retailers to efficiently execute the back-end of an online retail business and deliver a service level that meets the growing expectations of online shoppers.
According to Van Lith, this unique open system is the future of the online retail sector as it creates more opportunities for well-known brands to enter the online retail space and capture a larger audience without the operational and administrative hassle.