Helping heartland businesses adopt more than just digital payments
Businesses’ adoption of digitalisation comes down to two things – understanding what their customers need and which solutions can help improve their operations, said Enterprise Singapore.
SINGAPORE: Even as the majority of heartland businesses in Singapore adopt some form of digital solution, challenges remain in getting them to further digitalise their operations.
About nine in 10 heartland businesses are already adopting digital payments, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI). However, going beyond digital payments has been tricky for many of them, even with government support.
The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) provides funding for businesses to implement digital solutions, but finding the right tools may be a challenge, especially for the less digitally savvy, said Mr Lai Cheng Yi, executive director of the Federation of Merchants’ Associations Singapore.
Some of the solutions listed under the grant, such as those for point-of-sale, inventory and customer relationship management, are too complicated for heartland enterprises, he said.
“They (heartland stalls) might just only need a few basic functions. So the PSG solutions may or may not be relevant, depending on their needs,” he said.
He added that the level of adoption of digital solutions among the heartland businesses is varied, given that they fall into widely different categories. To help them, the federation has launched a diagnostics tool for its business advisers to help identify gaps.
“When we really identify the gap, then we can promote or recommend some of the more suitable digital solutions that have not been introduced to them,” he said.
HELPING BUSINESSES WITH DIGITALISATION
Many of the heartland shops are manned by one or two people, and they could be elderly and not as digitally savvy as younger people, director of Heartland Enterprise Division at Enterprise Singapore Joseph Zhang told CNA.
“Besides launching the solutions, it’s about promoting awareness, it’s about helping them to be familiar with the solutions available,” he said. Mr Zhang added that it is also about going to the vendors’ locations to engage them.
He said the businesses’ adoption of digitalisation comes down to two things – understanding what their customers need and which solutions can help improve their operations.
“There's a spectrum of solutions that we're providing and it just takes one step at a time, and for those who are more ready, I think we'll increasingly introduce them to more sophisticated solutions to help them scale and grow.”
Enterprise Singapore is also working with businesses through the Heartlands Go Digital programme in areas such as visual merchandising to improve store layout, and in digital commerce to enhance their visibility on sites like Carousell.
CARVING A DIGITAL PATH
Among the shops that have tapped PSG to accelerate their digitalisation plans is artisanal butchery Carv in Braddell.
The shop, which sells meats and cheeses both in-store and online, used the grant to buy an electronic point-of-sales system to manage inventory and daily transactions, as well as a separate customer loyalty programme that offers benefits, including 3 per cent rebates.
A majority of its customers use digital payments such as PayNow and Grab.
The butchery’s co-founder Shin Wong said that the firm decided to adopt a customer loyalty system as it allows them to segment their customers and run more targeted promotions, including a paid membership programme.
“It helps us to lock in our loyal customers to become fans or even more loyal to us,” she said, adding that it also helps them capture a new customer base and retain them.
The firm’s digitalisation efforts have reaped rewards – sales have increased by 10 per cent after the launch of the loyalty programme in August last year.
Carv is also on the food delivery platform FoodPanda under the Heartlands Go Digital programme. It has an active online presence where it does digital advertising and collaborate with popular personalities who use its ingredients to cook.
Carv's next steps include integrating its various digital systems so sales and customer information can be shared across its platforms.
While 90 per cent of its sales are currently from in-store customers, it hopes to increase its online sales and expand its range of ready-to-cook items.