#AsiaeCommerceAwards spills: How NTUC Enterprise is packing a punch in the grocery space

For the past few months, NTUC Enterprise has been adapting to the new norm and ensuring consumers needs are met during the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, one of its brands, NTUC FairPrice, said it will continue to hold prices of 100 housebrand everyday essentials until 31 December this year. The 100 items are popular daily essentials and include groceries such as rice, oil, beverages and poultry, as well as batteries, toiletries and household cleaners. At the same time, the team at FairPrice has also doubled down on its online app experience and added new features to enable a more seamless and omni channel experience. 

The team bagged gold for eCommerce Team of the Year and silver for Best in eCommerce - Supermarkets/Hypermarkets at MARKETING INTERACTIVE’s Asia eCommerce Awards 2020, a testament to its hard work and willingness to pivot its business strategy. We speak to Lyubomir Minkov, SVP marketing, NTUC Enterprise on the team's plans for the future.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for Asia eCommerce Awards 2020. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?

Minkov: We are extremely honoured to be part of the finalists among the other strong eCommerce players and humbled by the awards. With recognition comes great responsibility. We believe consumers will continue to hold FairPrice to the gold standard and watch as we continue to improve in all aspects from smooth App user-experience, convenient delivery, wide product selection and quality of service.

Customers expect from us a flawless user experience from product search to check-out. We continuously strive to improve our FairPrice online app experience and add new useful features. When it comes to digital marketing, providing relevant content is key: moving from mass to personalised suggestion. It’s also a priority for us to delight our customers providing more entertainment, exclusive privileges and engaging content.

Finally, customers want their feedback and ideas to be heard and addressed. At FairPrice, we want to let our consumers know that we hear them and through our actions that we are constantly rolling out new plans and solutions to address their concerns.

How has your marketing/your clients marketing plans shifted this year?

Minkov: In 2020, the pandemic presented us with unprecedented challenges, rendering our business-as-usual solutions insufficient. As Singapore navigated through each phase of the crisis, we continuously pivoted our marketing strategies to meet the evolving needs of our customers.

We had to become more agile by reinventing our campaign calendar to address the current needs of consumers and local SMEs. We ran campaigns that focused on immune boosting recipes and healthy ingredients. We also supported our local SMEs by running a dedicated campaign to generate awareness for their brands and to push sales for their products.

During the surge in online orders, both online and offline teams came together to accelerate our digitisation efforts. We managed to quickly respond to surge in demand and open new delivery capacity by converting one of our physical stores into a dedicated online fulfilment center. This set a strong precedence for us to be able to leverage existing physical assets to scale up quickly to support our eCommerce operations.

In order to present our consumers with more product variety and choices especially during the lockdown, we ramped up our marketplace sellers by four times, exceeding 40,000 new products. A convenient self-service management platform was also created to allow our marketplace sellers to speed up the uploading process of their inventory.

We also introduced a new app feature called Scan & Go which allows customers to skip the queue in-store with contactless payment option. The new functionality supported our efforts on social distancing and faster check-out.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Minkov: The pandemic not only showed us the enormous capacity of online groceries creating an impact in the community, but also how agile we as an organisation need to be in order to cater to the changing customer needs.

We’ve scaled operations tremendously, and worked on making internal processes more nimble and responsive to changes in customer demands. This applied to everything across operations, marketing, customer service, product and technology teams.

In terms of post-pandemic trends, we expect the demand for online grocery to stay strong. We also see some stable consumer trends. Customers have rediscovered the joy of home cooking. As marketers, we need to develop relevant recipes and content to engage these new habits.

Post-pandemic, we will continue to innovate and solve for a true omnichannel experience in order to retain and engage our customers. We need our teams to continue tracking how these evolving customer behaviours can guide the projects we work on.

We will invest more in our machine learning or AI capabilities as well as seamless integration between our CRM and digital marketing platforms. That will allow us to curate more real-time data-driven campaigns.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Minkov: What makes great marketing today - putting the customers first! Only our tools and capabilities have enhanced. With the use of machine learning, advanced analytics and integrated digital channels, we now understand customers better and can design relevant real-time engagement.

We believe that strong data-driven marketing messages to create a good mix of push and pull triggers are a good place to start. Running these efforts through rigorous testing eventually uncovers an improved understanding of what works for our customers. Ultimately, how they prefer to shop with us will guide our efforts to roll out more relatable and actionable Marketing across all touchpoints.

Great marketing also goes beyond tactical and transactional messages and delights the customer by existing as a form of entertainment through engaging content, gamification, and tailored exclusive privileges.

The tools of the game have also changed. To relate deeply with the customer and community means we need to be present on new channels and platforms where customers spend the most time on. A key component of leveraging new media channels is to also understand how our brand needs to exist in a different format, yet retain the same essence of what we stand for.

Marketing that is in harmony with the customers unique needs and shopping behaviour will continue to be relevant and create greater brand equity for all shoppers in Singapore.

How are you planning for 2021?

Minkov: Overall we expect the online grocery competition to further intensify next year. Both traditional and new players are coming into the market and there is still a lot of uncertainty about how 2021 will unfold. Hence, we will need to continue evolving and listening to our customers.

Every 30 and 90 days, we will review, learn, and adjust our marketing plans based on the changing consumer trends and behaviour. Having an agile and flexible mindset will be key next year. We will continue creating shopping experiences that are very much focused on curated, personalised user preferences across an even more extended variety of services.

Customers can anticipate an enhanced digital experience at our stores. We will focus on launching new App features to add more convenience and exciting shopping experience. Our goal is to offer the best omnichannel experience on the market with a seamless O2O integration. Finally, we are preparing an exciting 2021 campaign calendar with a lot of new product launches, great deals, new partnerships and engaging content