Singapore and Sydney

“The biggest challenge in independents is investing in technology. You need so much money to be able to invest in it,” says Guy Warner, owner of Cotswolds-based Warners Budgens and member of the Independent Retailer Owners Forum, which organised the study tour to Sydney, in Australia, and Singapore. 

With restrictions on the number of foreign workers in Singapore, the government is giving retailers subsidies to help them counteract staff shortages with technology.

In Sydney, technology is being used to offset the high cost of salaries – the minimum hourly wage is $19.49 (£10.86) – and free up staff time to work on improving customer service. 

Here, Louise Banham looks at three examples of how retailers  in Singapore and Sydney are using technology, and offers seven tips for your stores from both locations.

Three ways tech is playing a part in retail

1  App-based shopping 

Technology is at the heart of Habitat by Honestbee, which bills itself as the world’s first tech-enabled, multi-sensory grocery and dining destination. Shoppers touch into the shop via an app, choose the products they want to buy and leave their purchases at an automated checkout. They’re encouraged to grab a coffee or food, and once the shopping is ready, the shopper is alerted through their app. 
Consumers can also select what they want through the app while in the café area and have staff shop for them, while those with fewer than 10 items can scan their items and leave without passing a checkout. The store also offers home delivery free of charge.

2. Transparent pricing 

Iuiga started online, but opened a store so customers could see and feel the products before buying. It sells products for less than its competition and heavily promotes its transparent pricing on a screen in the store. Shoppers can choose a product from the shelves and wave it in front of a screen, which gives a breakdown of its cost, including raw materials, tax, transport and Iuiga’s margin. 
While it’s almost impossible for independent convenience retailers in the UK to adopt transparent pricing for their whole store, it’s an interesting idea for giving more information on local produce, and the screens are a great way of telling a story, sharing recipe or wine-pairing ideas, and communicating to customers.

3. Smart stores

In April in the south-west of Sydney, supermarket group Woolworths opened a ‘smart store’ that has embraced technology. Coinciding with its opening, the store began trialling a helpful robot that roams the aisles to notify staff of potential hazards and make the shop safer.
Cameras built into iPads at the self-checkouts are used to monitor the items being scanned by shoppers to crack down on theft.

Seven tips from Singapore and Sydney retailers

Flag up your bestsellers
1. Flag up your bestsellers Make it easy for shoppers to easily identify products that you know are popular with ‘top seller’ flags or PoS material. In food to go specifically, it will help customers make informed choices when there’s a lot of food to choose from.
Promote healthier choices
2. Promote healthier choices The increasing focus on encouraging consumers to eat more healthily means doing your bit to promote healthier lines, which will improve your responsibility credentials with the public and help shoppers choose food that is better for them.
Communicate your strengths
3. Communicate your strengths Whether you use it to shout about the quality of your products or how you work with your local community, marketing your business through in-store messaging and branding can make a huge difference to sales.
Offer self serve
4. Offer self-serve The pressure on packaging is growing and self-serve is becoming a bigger part of stores’ ranging. Whether it’s pick and mix, cereal or nuts, shops in both Singapore and Sydney are encouraging their customers to help themselves.
Broaden your base
5. Broaden your base Attract more customers, particularly a younger demographic, with an appealing ‘food to eat now’ offer. This will not only bring more shoppers in, but keep them in the store for longer – increasing your opportunity to sell to them.
Showcase fresh, quality food
6. Showcase fresh, quality food Don’t underestimate the appeal of a standout display of fresh food. It can attract more people into your shop, encourage them to increase their basket spend and improve their perception of the whole store.
Stand out with theatre
7. Stand out with theatre Create fixtures that your customers can interact with. The ‘Breadfall’ in the flagship Harris Food Markets store in Bondi, Sydney, allows shoppers to pull on a lever to select their loaf, before wrapping it and paying at the checkout.