MR CHEE HONG TAT, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry
Photo: Straits Times
The pandemic has accelerated the move to digital among small businesses as hawkers and retailers scramble to get online to stay afloat during the circuit breaker period, panellists said yesterday.
Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, president of the Federation of Merchants' Association, Singapore (FMAS), at the webinar, said: "Many bricks-and-mortar businesses... have been disrupted during this period, but we also see this trend of business being done in the digital space instead.
"We have seen in the last few weeks that many traditional food and beverage businesses, and even hawkers, rush to go online and create a presence."
He said that even residents in heartland areas search online before going out to buy products and they can make inquiries over social media channels, such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat noted that while online platforms will not replace physical shops, there will be fewer bricks-and-mortar outlets and they will shift towards providing an experience for the customer rather than just mere transactions.
He added that the shift towards online sales began even before this crisis, but the restrictions imposed to contain the virus will speed up this transformation.
"But they may still want to retain physical stores for people who want to go and experience that. There are customers who want to try products, ask questions or customise some items.
"The need for businesses to maintain many shopfronts will be (reduced), but they will establish more online sales capabilities, back-end logistics, delivery, e-payment and (related abilities such as) data security (to ensure customer data is safe)."
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