In the corner of the fair stood a Havanianas — the Brazilian flip flop company — booth. But unlike its retail store in Singapore’s shopping district, this one only had pictures of its product range on the wall; on the floor, pictures of their different sizes so buyers can find the right fit.

To purchase the flip flops, the buyer can either pay in cash or use their credit/debit card. For the latter, Havanianas will use a palm-sized Point-of-Sale (PoS) system that is connected to a smartphone: all transactions go straight to their e-commerce store on Qoo10. This PoS device was developed by Qoo10 and Bank of China.

This is Qoo10 Super Sale CNY (Chinese New Year) edition — its second offline affair. The first one was smaller in scale — held at the atrium of the Plaza Singapura shopping mall. The launch of a larger-scale fair was due to the positive feedback of merchants who participated in its first iteration, Qoo10’s Singapore Country Manager Hyunwook Cho, told e27.

The merchants who are exhibiting are Qoo10’s power sellers, meaning that they have achieved over S$10,000 (US$7,660) in sales and have attained at least a 95 per cent positive customer satisfaction rating. Also, they have to be local (Cho said that getting Chinese merchants would undercut domestic players).

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Unlike most sales fairs held at exhibition centres in Singapore — which typically focus on addressing specific consumer needs such as electronic, furniture, or food — Qoo10’s event is structured like its online marketplace — a mishmash of everything: from computer products and household appliances to cosmetics and even sundries.

Cho said that Qoo10 tried to ensure a good balance of product categories were represented, but many applicants were from fashion retailers.

“Maybe it’s a reflection of the current retail situation. Many fashion merchants are struggling now so more of them want to be here.”

And unlike Havanianas, which is the only exception in the fair, most merchants brought along their inventory.

Then, there are merchants who do not even have a booth.

All they have is a picture of their product plastered on a long wall in an area called the “Qoo10 Virtual Supermarket” along with other merchants. These are the guys who just want customers to purchase straight from their e-commerce store and are leveraging Qoo10’s offline event to get more visibility.

Customers scan a QR code via their Qoo10 app and are directed straight to the product’s page on the Qoo10 marketplace.

Effectiveness of an offline fair

Most e-commerce platforms or stores would typically choose to advertise online to attract more buyers, so why the switch to a traditional offline avenue? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having an online store? Or is Qoo10 just coming up with a gimmick?

Not so, said Cho. In fact, it can be more effective. The idea for the Qoo10 offline fair is to help its merchants maximise their Return On Investment (ROI).

“Surprisingly, the ROI from offline might be better than the ROI that we find from Google ads,” he said.

“For example, for a Yahoo front banner, we might have to pay S$10,000 (US$7,660) for 24 hours, then we might get six thousand clicks and out of that, we might only get around two hundred sales, with each sale netting us S$50 (US$40). So the earnings is very minimal.”

“An offline event is better because businesses might have to spend less. It looks like we are running a flea market here but actually we are helping merchants optimise their ROI,” he said.

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On whether merchants who exhibit via the “Virtual Supermarket” should at least have a sample product, Cho said: “If we put a sample product it may defeat the purpose of providing the same experience of buying online — by not being able to touch or feel the product — though that might lead to higher conversions than just scanning or buying.”

Some of the Qoo10 merchants accept QR code as payments, but Cho said many customers still felt that method to be troublesome.

“For this payment mode, you have to top up the money in your [QR-code mobile wallet] account, so it’s not convenient.A lot of customers, except for those hardcore Qoo10 users — felt it’s too inconvenient.”

Check out more pictures from the Qoo10 fair.

Gaming laptops.

Korean beauty products.

A mountain of shoes

Funky swimwear.

Kitchen appliances

A creative display of chairs.

Don’t think they offer samples.

Snacks galore.

Fancy some artwork?