Making jewellery has always been a passion for Jenny Kwang, Founder and Creative Director, J&Co Jewellery, and a commitment to reasonable prices without compromising quality inspired the founding of her company. Starting off on a US marketplace, J&Co today has customers visiting their website from all over the world, including Japan, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands and Singapore.
Serving a global clientele has its challenges, particularly in logistics. To this end, they have partnered with FedEx, which has supported them consistently before and during the pandemic.
SMEhorizon speaks with Jenny Kwang on her company’s founding, their international expansion, and weathering the challenges of the pandemic. Eric Tan, Managing Director, FedEx Express Singapore, also weighs in on how SMEs like J&Co can succeed in the burgeoning e-commerce marketplace, and the technology available to support their logistics needs.
Starting off with inclusion in mind
“Making jewellery has always been my passion,” shares Kwang, who saw the potential to make a difference when she realised how expensive it could be for customers. “I want people to be able to afford them by ensuring that prices are reasonable without compromising the quality. Thus, I decided to start a store on a US marketplace for handmade jewellery.”
Although the two countries are geographically distant, Kwang does not see any notable differences between Singapore and international customers. “Our vision has always been to create an inclusive community. All of our jewellery pieces are designed and priced so that everyone around the world can enjoy them.”
Aspirations like Kwang’s are increasingly achievable in today’s world, where e-commerce has opened up new opportunities, even during the headwinds of the pandemic. In fact, Tan notes the great resilience displayed by small businesses across the region who have reinvented their operations and found ways to pivot to e-commerce to capture growth.
“While many small businesses ceased operations in Singapore at the start of the pandemic, the number of new businesses that were set up outnumbered those that closed down in the last two years, based on data from the Singapore parliament,” he says.
“An average of more than 5,000 new firms were registered each month over the last two years.
“This provides an optimistic outlook for the economy and the SME community and can be attributed to businesses pivoting their strategy, and looking inwards to better target domestic audiences and embracing changes to their business models as needed,” he adds.
“SMEs had to swiftly transform and upgrade their skills and resources to not only survive, but thrive in the digital economy.”
Logistical challenges to doing business globally
Compared to other SMEs, J&Co had the advantage of starting online from its very beginning. “We started from an international US marketplace and subsequently expanded our online footprint to Europe and the rest of the region,” shares Kwang.
“Through word of mouth and wonderful reviews by customers, all over the world, the business grew rapidly.”
With its success, however, came the challenges of keeping up with its expansion. “Logistics was a challenge for us, as our biggest consumers, both retail and wholesalers, are in North America and Europe,” recalls Kwang.
“Meeting customers’ expectations and delivery requirements has to be a priority – ensuring our products will arrive on the delivery date, within the correct time window, and reach their rightful owners securely.”
Many SMEs seeking to participate in the global economy face similar challenges. Tan notes that based on a survey conducted by Salesforce for SMEs in Singapore, the high cost of adoption is the top challenge SMEs face in implementing technological solutions.
“The capital involved in setting up the required infrastructure for operations, logistics and warehousing does not come cheap,” he states. “Amidst this set-up, there is a need to provide SMEs the control they need for their logistics needs with fast, convenient, and cost-effective delivery solutions.”
With the resource constraints SMEs face, he continues “there is an opportunity for logistics providers to differentiate themselves by providing personalized experiences for customers at the fulfilment and last-mile delivery stages.”
Technology bringing capabilities further
Fortunately, new technologies have spurred the possibilities in the logistics sector. “Triggered by the global pandemic, logistics players are optimizing operational efficiencies,” observes Tan, “from warehouse management and automation to last-mile delivery, to cater to the soaring demand for e-commerce products, seasonal peaks, and consumers’ heightened expectations for fast and secure delivery.”
According to Tan, the net result of technologies such as AI and IoT are increased visibility into supply chains, and enhanced last-mile delivery services which better serve the needs of the e-commerce space as more businesses move online.
Indeed, having partnered with FedEx in order to support their operations, J&Co has been able to ship their deliveries quickly, punctually, and accurately. This was true even though the pandemic. Kwang shares that her business, like everyone else’s, was heavily affected during the initial stages of the pandemic when lockdowns were in place and shipments were affected.
“However, FedEx has kept in constant communication with us and showed that they cared about our company’s operations during the pandemic. We appreciate the service they give us while maintaining its fair prices,” she says.
Looking towards the next delivery
Commenting on the outlook for the logistics sector, Tan observes that with “the trajectory of e-commerce adoption in the region, and evolving consumer trends, the use of e-commerce platforms as the preferred means of purchases will continue to revolutionize the logistics industry as providers find different ways to meet changing consumer needs.”
Providing quality customer experience and integration with e-commerce technology platforms will also be significant for logistics providers such as FedEx and others.
These developments promise to support companies like J&Co, who have emerged from the pandemic with their sights on growth. “We are in the midst of shifting to a new place which is seven times larger than our present premises in Ang Mo Kio,” shares Kwang.
“We are also mulling over setting up a physical store in Singapore with the goal of becoming a household name for accessories.”
Reflecting on her company’s journey, Kwang advises other Singapore SMEs to stay nimble.
“Being flexible, adaptable to changes, and taking new opportunities when they present themselves. Also, never stop thinking about how to go the extra mile for your customers,” she concludes.