Entering fresh markets with technology

Photo by Sora Shimazaki

eFreshMe started during the pandemic with a diverse product range that addressed the pressing issues of the time, as well as personal care items. As the pandemic subsided, the company adroitly recognised the shifts in consumer demand, and strategically focused their offering on beauty and skincare.

Their mission involves harnessing the power of technology to connect people with brands, and these technologies, achieved in partnership with Shopmatic have allowed them to streamline their operations and international transactions, as well as obtain data and insights to bring their business further.

SMEhorizon speaks with Derek Fong, Director at eFreshMe, on how technology has improved his company’s operations and expanded its reach. Nicole Poon, COO of Shopmatic, also shares on the technological trends in the eCommerce space, and how SMEs and small retailers can harness these capabilities.

Meeting the challenges of global ambitions

While an online presence meant the potential for a global reach for eFreshMe, various hurdles stood in their way. Fong recalls that “as we sought to expand eFreshMe to wider markets, one significant challenge encountered was the sheer cost and logistics of cross-border shipping.

“International shipping expenses, especially for beauty and skincare products which require specialised handling or packaging, proved to be high. This made it difficult for us to offer competitive prices to international customers while maintaining our desired profit margins.

“While there was also a growing interest and demand for our products, the absence of a viable platform or opportunity to sell internationally constrained our potential to reach international clientele.”

While these barriers meant that eFreshMe initially focused on consolidating and growing their domestic market in Singapore, new technological capabilities provided a way forward. Poon highlights the merging of embedded finance and digital commerce as a significant step for businesses seeking to expand. “It eliminates the need for users to switch between different platforms or apps to complete financial transactions,” she explains.

“This streamlining of processes simplifies payments, reduces friction, and can lead to faster and more efficient transactions. Users  are also privy to a more comprehensive and convenient set of services to their customers. This can lead to increased market share and customer loyalty.”

Through this integration, businesses can “exercise precise control over their expenditures, gain deeper insights into their operations, and potentially access quicker and more streamlined loan processes.”

At the same time, through all-in-one e-commerce platforms like Shopmatic, businesses are now able to create and manage their online stores more easily. Poon shares that with Shopmatic Pay, businesses can easily integrate payment solutions into their online stores to provide customers with a seamless payment experience. At the other end, integrations with banks allows merchants to secure funds through the platform and establish digital banking accounts, making the platform a one-stop solution for their accounting needs.

“Companies are able to generate a wealth of data on consumer spending habits, which can be leveraged to gain insights into customer behaviour and tailor marketing and product offerings accordingly, leading to more targeted and effective strategies.”

These advantages were leveraged by eFreshMe in their partnership with Shopmatic, who have been

able to adopt a leaner operational model, cutting down on redundant tasks and overheads. “This not only made operations more efficient but also allowed us to pass on the cost savings to our customers, offering them better value for their money,” says Fong.

Continually refreshing for greater reach

Fong shares that eFreshMe takes a forward-looking vision which “continuously drives us to adopt innovative approaches, ensuring an enhanced and personalised customer experience.” The company is looking into using AI to “assist users in pinpointing and addressing their skin concerns with precision.”

“By analysing individual responses and preferences, customers will be offered tailored product recommendations. Our goal is to reduce the friction and overwhelm customers often feel when navigating the vast world of skincare, guiding them towards choices that align with their unique needs and profiles.”

These front facing developments are matched by the company’s decision to incorporate robust backend systems. “We are in the process of integrating an Enterprise Resource Planning System to streamline business processes, complemented by a Warehouse Management System to enhance inventory and warehouse management,” shares Fong.

How can other SMEs effectively leverage embedded finance to realise their own success? Fong highlights that agility is a priority . “The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and businesses that can adapt quickly to changes are the ones that thrive. Speed is of the essence, not only for implementing new strategies, but also in recognising when something is not working and pivoting accordingly.

Alongside this, he also advises a culture of continuous learning. “Fostering a culture of continuous learning is crucial. The digital world brings with it a plethora of tools, platforms, and methodologies. While it might seem daunting at first, it is imperative not to shy away from these innovations.

“Finally, always stay at the forefront of technology. While it is not necessary to jump on every new trend, being aware of emerging technology and discerning which ones align with one’s business goals can be a game-changer.”

Poon agrees, and elaborates what the discerning SME owner should look for in embedded financial services. Firstly, they should be customisable. “A one-size-fits-all approach may not suit their unique financial requirements,” she says. “Customisation and flexibility in financial solutions are crucial, and it is important that these solutions are easy to implement and enhance a customer’s journey.”

Security is another key consideration. “With the many data breaches we encounter these days, it is important that embedded financial services comply with regulatory requirements,” she reminds. “SMEs should ensure that the embedded financial services provider adheres to industry standards and employs strong security measures to protect sensitive financial data. Such breaches can ruin a company’s reputation, which affects sales and consumer confidence.”

Lastly, she advises that embedded financial services should enhance the overall customer experience. “I’d recommend selecting services that offer convenient and secure payment options, contributing to improved customer satisfaction, and fostering loyalty.”