Why an omnichannel strategy is now table stakes for SMB success

Koren Wines, Managing Director, Asia for Xero

Over the last few years, we have seen seismic shifts in consumer behaviours and expectations in the wake of the pandemic and its related lockdowns. As COVID becomes endemic, we see life resuming with some sense of normality and a renewed interest by people to do more in-person.

The incredible growth that many early benefactors, like online retailers, saw has begun to slow. Earlier this year, e-commerce giant Amazon saw its share price plunge to its lowest in 16 years off the back of slowing revenue growth.

With consumers no longer limited to shopping online, experts predict an uptick in bricks-and-mortar business, with offline retail sales projected to increase by 5.5 per cent in Singapore this year. With this in mind, the relationship between online and offline channels is critical.

According to an EY report, 54% of Asia Pacific consumers use both online and in-person channels to shop for groceries. With an evolving macro environment, consumer behaviours are ever-evolving and can shift rapidly.

Staying afloat amongst changing tides

To cater to this combination of online and offline preferences, businesses should adopt an omnichannel approach.

The Fun Empire is a great example. Since launching six years ago, it thrived on bringing people together for team bonding – which became a huge challenge with lockdowns and social restrictions throughout COVID. They pivoted by converting their existing in-person offerings into virtual home experience kits, delivered to their client’s doorsteps.

Over the course of the pandemic, they created Singapore’s first virtual escape room as well as the world’s first virtual travel experience – ‘Icons of Singapore’. These online experiences paid off, with The Fun Empire seeing a 15% month-on-month increase in virtual event bookings in the second half of 2020.

Even as restrictions eased, The Fun Empire maintained an omni-channel experience for their events, incorporating elements of online experiences into physical events. With this in mind, they launched Merlion Feast, a hybrid puzzle hunt adventure exploring Singapore’s vibrant and cosmopolitan food scene in-person, while solving interesting virtual and physical puzzles along the way based on in-person clues.

Similarly, wellness consultancy SgFitFam, adopted an online approach when the pandemic hit. Pre-pandemic, they offered training sessions to private and corporate customers, but restrictions forced them to close their gym and stop in-person training sessions. This prompted SgFitFam to shift its training and fitness classes online.

With its virtual offerings, they were able to expand their reach beyond Singapore’s borders to include customers from Malaysia, Australia and even the United States. Today, SgFitFam still provides both physical and online classes to a global audience.

Digital tools key for successful omnichannel rollout

Despite the incredibly challenging operating environment for businesses traditionally serving customers in person, these companies successfully pivoted by developing new and innovative ways to create and deliver their offerings.

Both The Fun Empire and SGFitFam credit digital tools for providing them with the visibility and intelligence on their business along with the additional time saved from automating their business and finance processes to enable them to focus on innovation and customer experience. The Fun Empire cited the ability to leverage data and insights to quickly identify what was working and what needed to be cut, enabling them to shift course as needed.

Digitising core business processes is key for SMEs looking to adopt an agile, offline-online business model.  Cloud accounting tools have the added benefit of seamlessly integrating with other digital tools in their ecosystem, to create holistic, customised and scalable business solutions.

For Singaporean SMEs interested in beginning their digital transformation journeys, the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) is an outstanding resource to tap into. The PSG provides up to 70% funding support to adopt digital solutions. The grant can also be used to implement IT solutions, equipment and consultancy services that aim to improve business productivity.

Small business owners can seek out advice from their accountants and business advisors on the advantages digital tools can bring to their business’ operations and planning, including on how to leverage government support and grants like the PSG.

Many accounting practices offer professional advisory services, to guide and support their clients through digitisation journeys with cloud accounting tools and other connected apps. This enables them to provide faster, more accurate and informative advice on their financial situation based on real-time data and help them make data-driven business decisions.

Adopting an omnichannel strategy and diversifying revenue streams, enabled businesses to stay resilient and often grow, even in challenging times.  An omnichannel strategy along with the right cloud solutions to streamline workflow and facilitate collaboration across teams, can be incredibly valuable to position SMEs for success in uncertain times, and even in certain times.