#AsiaeCommerceAwards highlight: How NTUC FairPrice coped with the online buying surge amidst COVID-19

 

Winning the gold for eCommerce Team of the Year is team NTUC FairPrice. The team also bagged the silver for Best in eCommerce – Supermarkets / Hypermarkets at MARKETING INTERACTIVE’s Asia eCommerce Awards 2020.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, NTUC FairPrice stayed true to its roots of being a social enterprise. A lot of NTUC FairPrice activities during the pandemic were focused on providing due support to the community. NTUC FairPrice partnered with IMDA Singapore on the “Seniors Go Digital” campaign to educate seniors on how to shop for daily essentials online, and to skip the queue by using the Scan & Go function on the FairPrice app.

A dedicated landing page with step-by-step instructional videos was developed for the seniors to easily learn how to shop online and use the Scan & Go function for a seamless omni-channel shopping experience.

Challenge

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected various industries, it has boosted others. With the pandemic changing consumers purchasing behaviours and patterns, supermarkets witnessed a huge growth in traffic and sales, and their eCommerce saw its greatest boom which most were not prepared for.

Prior to the pandemic, the entire eCommerce team at NTUC FairPrice came together to launch a new eCommerce platform in November 2019 to meet the evolving needs of their customers by providing faster checkout, improved navigation and smoother user interface. The new version of the eCommerce platform provided improved navigation, better search algorithm, more filters, cleaner promotional pages and more personalised product recommendations.

Its eCommerce platform was well received by consumers due to the decrease in the web load time by 30%, this was supported by an overall decrease of order placement time by 45% where the time taken by shoppers to make orders was improved.

However, as the pandemic progressed, consumers start to flock towards its eCommerce platform for their groceries purchases. The NTUC FairPrice eCommerce team had to challenge their creative and strategic thinking in order to redesign their campaigns to reflect the new normal. The team had to create innovative solutions to increase capacity and enhance user experience while ensuring the online business is running at full scale.

The key challenge faced by the team was to manage the surge in traffic and consumer demand as consumers were increasing their quantity of daily essentials purchase to ensure that their homes were well stocked. With the majority of the public staying at home, consumers were buying more fresh produce which resulted in the volume of orders for the fresh category to doubled in mid-March and tripled during the circuit breaker period.

The team had to identify key selling products and remove slow-moving products from the inventory to ensure that there were sufficient storage space to store products that are in demand. 

Strategy

NTUC FairPrice knew that they needed to fill  up their warehouse infrastructure to meet the surge in consumer demand during these unprecedented times. The eCommerce products team worked closely together with the marketing team to empty the storage space by running a Clearance Sale campaign. The campaign saw an uplift of 256% for orders and 86% for revenue.

With its online business running at full scale, NTUC FairPrice recognised the need to bring in more sellers to increase assortments. With the increase in the number of sellers from 72 to 216, NTUC FairPrice was able to increase the number of products from 10,000 to 32,000. Apart from increasing the number of assortments, there was a need to upgrade its online grocery infrastructure and provide additional delivery slots to ensure that as many consumers are able to order their groceries online as possible. Its tech team worked closely with the marketplace team to develop a new platform which allows sellers to self-serve in creating SKUs to be listed on its online platform within 24 hours as compared to the one week lead-time previously.

Execution

In order to cater to the 92% surge in traffic, NTUC FairPrice tech team worked round the clock to make enhancements to our platform, thus allowing more users to access it platforms at the same time while ensuring that it was stable enough to handle the influx of online activities.

The marketing and design team also worked through the weekends to ensure communication on delivery slots availability and purchase limitations for certain essential items were constantly updated via its web, app, eDMs and push notifications. Customers were kept informed on delivery slots availability based on their postal codes on their homepage. An events page was introduced to keep the customers informed and updated of all the FairPrice initiatives during the COVID-19 situation.

To meet the surge in online consumers’ demands, a decision was made to convert one of its existing stores that was less utilised into a fulfilment center for online orders which was also known as a dark store. Even though the process of converting the store was a very complex task which required coordination between multiple teams from logistics, to procurement, legal, operations and marketing, the team came together as one and managed to get the dark store up and running within a short 30 days period.

Through social listening, the team realised that many customers were hoping for a click & collect option. Therefore, to further serve more online customers, NTUC FairPrice swiftly introduced  the ‘Click & Collect’ at FairPrice Finest Wisteria Mall as an alternative shopping option for customers to have easier access to their groceries. This option allowed customers to choose between a drive-through concierge service or self-collection in the store. 

Result

Through the successful implementation of various initiatives, NTUC FairPrice managed to scale up its operational capabilities to fulfil 85% more online orders.

With the adoption of new technology and close partnership with Google, NTUC FairPrice was able to come up with creative solutions to meet the needs of their consumers. From September 2019 to August 2020, NTUC FairPrice have managed to achieve an annual sales growth of 68%, and grew its customer base by 44%.

In the same period, NTUC FairPrice’s Online unit saw spectacular results by achieving an annual year-over-year sales growth of 44%. This was made possible through the infusion of new tech talent with hands-on eCommerce experience, combined with training existing staff on cutting edge topics in digital marketing, product development and machine learning.