Singapore Tatler Best of Singapore
FINDING A BALANCE
Shopping in virtual reality has its attractions and benefits, but there are still plenty of reasons to make a trip down to the stores.
THE TOUCH OF EXCLUSIVITY
Aimee Bennett, executive director of retail marketing at Marina Bay Sands, feels that while digital platforms now co- exist harmoniously with brickand-mortar stores and shoppers can often find better price comparisons online, “nothing offers the personalised high-touch service, authenticity, and immediate gratification that physical stores do”.
“At the end of the day, customers still want to be romanced through moneycan’t-buy experiences that can never be replicated online,” she says. “They appreciate that personal touch and sense of recognition— which could take the form of theatre tickets for later that day, a hotel stay, a dinner for two, or simply a bottle of champagne as a token of appreciation. These and other rewards can also be tailored according to their individual lifestyles and personalities.”
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, being an unrivalled collection of over 170 luxury and premium boutiques (15 of which are stunning duplex spaces), is clearly designed for and set to deliver such experiences—but Bennett reveals that there’s more. “Another compelling reason for shoppers to make a trip down is first-hand access to an extensive collection of Shoppes exclusives, which are limited- edition items brought in by renowned brands that are only available at Marina Bay Sands.”
THE BESPOKE EXPERIENCE
“For over a decade, we have watched attempts by young entrepreneurs at web-based tailoring,” observes Alvin Lin Zhi’en, boutique manager at The Prestigious. “We view these as helping to nurture an appreciation for and demand for apparel ‘made specially for me’. Many users of web-based tailors are probably exploring the value gap between getting something tailor-made versus an off-therack purchase.”
He feels that as these buyers grow in lifestyle expectations, a majority of them are likely to transition to more traditional, brick-and-mortar tailors, and perhaps, to premium bespoke tailoring houses such as The Prestigious.
The moat that bespoke products enjoy arises from “the nature of our product, coupled with the life stage our patrons are at”, Lin notes. “When patronising a bespoke tailor, one is not simply seeking apparel, but a relationship with a House that knows his preferences, needs, and past purchases without even speaking of them. There is a joy and increased appreciation in seeing one’s commission slowly take shape...knowing fully that each stitch and adjustment is the work of painstaking, time-consuming focus and energy.”
Acknowledging the fact that “exquisite fabrics” can be sourced online, Lin nonetheless says: “Would you rather go to a House that works with them on a daily basis, or get someone who rarely touches high- end quality to work on your commission?”
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Toys are tactile products—they’re designed and made to be handled, so real-time physical interaction with an actual product is an essential experience in a customer’s decision-making process. And Kristin Papasolomontos, marketing director at Brix Star, which runs Bricks World, is keen to point out other benefits of the in-store experience.
“Nothing can beat the eye candy offered in-store. We facilitate product interactions with accessible product displays, play tables, mosaic building walls, curated play events for customers, and our augmented reality tool— customers can hold a LEGO set up to an interactive TV ( Digibox) to view its contents in 3D.”
Papasolomontos feels that visiting the store and interacting with staff and fellow LEGO enthusiasts still makes a trip down more than worthwhile. “Parents, in particular, are often keen to find ways to distract children from digital toys and the LEGO store provides a great environment for that,” she says.
“Customers see the same thing through different lenses when they are online versus when they are in-store, so the key is to…have a strategy that aligns with consumers’ needs regardless of where they buy,” says Shafinah, retail and marketing executive at The Better Toy Store.
There is also a huge emotional payoff in shopping physically, she explains. “It may mean unwinding after a long day, hanging out with friends, or in our context, a very valuable opportunity for adults to interact and bond with their kids.” Despite the popularity of online retail platforms, “these highly emotional aspects of shopping maintain the appeal of buying in person”, and in fact are what The Better Toy Store keeps in mind as it continues to shape its physical presence.
“We still believe that toy shops should remain a part of a child’s growing-up memories,” Shafinah says. “And that physical experience of being…wowed by magical displays that transport you to other worlds will continue to be a challenge for online stores to replicate.”
Trudy Fawcett, general manger at Supernature, notes that with the increasing popularity of online grocery retailers and the convenience they afford, an omnichannel approach is necessary for bricks-and-mortar stores to survive.
She explains that the Supernature team are “passionate about what they do and sell”, and that face-to-face interaction gives them an understanding of their customers’ preferences and needs, allowing them to dispense immediate and accurate advice about relevant products. “Many of our customers come seeking dietary solutions to health issues. They might be newly diagnosed with diabetes, or their child might have developed a dairy allergy, or they’re cancer survivors. The chefs at our cafe understand allergies and intolerances, which is rare in Singapore. And our in-house nutritionist and naturopath regularly offer talks and workshops to help broaden and deepen our customers’ knowledge.”
Supernature sells online, and because customers already know and trust that Supernature sources products “direct from the manufacturer” and is “meticulous in ensuring that all products are authentic”, customers can be assured of the quality of the products they buy. The Supernature team is genuine in its desire to “make a difference in people’s lives, and enable them to live well”.