Singapore offers financial help for SMB retailers to go online

Singapore government says the new 'e-commerce booster package' will provide manpower support and facilitate 90% of the cost for retailers to adopt e-commerce platforms.

Singapore is offering funds and manpower to help small and midsized-business (SMB) retailers kickstart their e-commerce journey, pledging to buffer 90% of the cost for doing so. It hopes the boost will incentivise more retailers into adapting to online business models and expanding their revenue and sales channels beyond traditional brick-and-mortar stores. 

Enterprise Singapore unveiled on Thursday a new "e-commerce booster package" to assist SMBs with little or no e-commerce experience in their digital transformation. According to the government body, this is particularly critical amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when more consumers have stayed home and turned to online channels

The government agency said it was working with four e-commerce operators -- Lazada Singapore, Qoo10, Shopee, and Amazon --to offer assistance to retailers in reaching local consumers.

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SMBs that sign up to the scheme would be able to tap any one of the four online marketplaces to sell their products as well as gain access to services offered by the platforms, including content development, product listing, channel management, fulfilment services, and advertising. The e-commerce operators would also help the SMBs curate and list products for up to six months, run promotion campaigns, fulfil orders, and carry out basic sales data analytics.

Successful applicants would also receive a one-time financial payment to offset 90% of eligible costs, with the maximum amount being SG$9,000 ($5,092), for up to six months. To apply, they must be a registered or incorporated business in Singapore, have at least 30% of shareholders that are local, annual turnover must not exceed SG$100 million ($56.58 million) per year, and they cannot have more than 200 staff. 

Registered SMBs would also be able to reach overseas markets through Enterprise Singapore's existing Multichannel E-commerce Platform program, which is offering a higher one-time payment to cover 90% of eligible costs, up from the previous 70% cap. This will be available until September 30. 

In addition, registered SMBs would receive extra manpower support via the booster package, which offsets 90% of eligible manpower costs for three months. Such manpower resources can include support to retailers in identifying new sources of demand and streamlining processes to ensure online operations can be sustained in the long run. 

Enterprise Singapore's deputy CEO Ted Tan said: "It is more crucial now for retailers to diversify revenue streams by using e-commerce channels. The E-Commerce Booster Package primarily helps retailers with little e-commerce knowledge and capabilities to start using online channels. 

"Our partnership with the established e-commerce platforms both in Singapore and overseas ensures a good-sized market for these retailers to tap. We want to empower all retailers to develop long-term and sustainable e-commerce strategies that will ensure business resilience beyond COVID-19," Tan said. 

The Southeast Asian e-commerce sector is estimated to be worth $38 billion, compared to just $5.5 billion in 2015, and is home to more than 150 million online shoppers, according to the 2019 e-Conomy Southeast Asia report released by Google and Temasek Holdings. The region's biggest and fastest growing sector, e-commerce, is projected to expand to $150 billion by 2025, according to the report.

RedMart reorganises logistics to cope with surge in demand from COVID-19

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement Thursday, Singapore-based online grocery store RedMart said it has temporarily stopped taking orders to rejig its logistics and operations. A subsidiary of Lazada, which is owned by Alibaba, RedMart said it has been experiencing a surge in orders amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To cope with the increase in orders, it has made changes to its "product assortment" and updated its system to introduce several new measures. 

RedMart said: "We will be temporarily reducing our assortment range [to] prioritise daily essentials such as rice, flour, and eggs. Delivery slots will now be assigned based on your location and temporarily limited to specific days and times for each address."

It added that it would limit orders to up to 35 items, while orders exceeding 100kg would be subject to cancellation. It also plans to remove a feature that enabled customers to add items to already placed orders. 

Furthermore, deliveries would be left at the doorsteps of consumers to minimise contact, which means customers will have to stand ready to collect their order when they receive a notification SMS, especially if their orders contain products that need refrigeration. 

RedMart said it would resume taking new orders from April 4.

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