Bridging brick-and-mortar and digital

Creating better experiences: Fong says Brick-and-mortar stores should look into offering unique retail experiences in-store.

Creating better experiences: Fong says Brick-and-mortar stores should look into offering unique retail experiences in-store.

POS provider finds opportunities in filling the gaps in retail experiences

THE shift in retail trends toward e-commerce will provide cloud-based retail management system provider StoreHub with ample opportunities to tap into as it looks to further grow its reach in the region.

StoreHub co-founder and chieftain Fong Wai Hong says there is a role for the company to play in helping small brick-and-mortar retailers not only transition to the online space, but also create unique retail experiences by leveraging on their existing physical model.

While the prospect for brick-and-mortar businesses is not great, Fong suggests that physical stores will never really go away.

“Those that will survive and thrive are those that can create unique retail experiences in-store. Our mission is to help them turn transactions into relationships. You cannot just wait for someone to come into the store and transact anymore.

“The question is, how can you, as a retailer, create better experiences that are unique in-store that the online space cannot do. These are some questions that we are trying to solve for SME retailers,” he says.

Some of the biggest frustrations for consumers shopping online include not being able to get their products immediately upon purchase. Additionally, there may be instances where products are out of stock.

However, Fong notes that these are factors that brick-and-mortar stores have yet to consider in transforming their businesses.

“One of the experiences we can do is to create immediacy for physical stores that are also selling online. If you are buying from a local store close to you, and the store has a fully synchronised inventory in-store, you can buy the product online and go pick it up from the store or have it delivered to you because they are nearby,” he explains.

He also notes that increasingly, stores are using their space as showrooms for customers to see the products physically before going home to purchase the product online.

As such, another way for retailers to marry the brick-and-mortar model with online is by enabling customers to make an immediate purchase online while browsing in-store.

StoreHub currently has over 3,000 retailers across South-East Asia under its portfolio. Its customers are mainly in the retail and F&B segments.

StoreHub’s system consists of an iPad point of sale (POS), intelligent inventory management, customer relationship management and business analytics.

Fong says its POS is a good basic offering to connect with SMEs before moving them forward with its other products.

“This fear of online is very real. And the small guys have been traditionally hard to serve. They are usually not as tech-savvy and are not willing to pay a lot for technology. But we are really focused on small brick-and-mortar shops.

“Providing them with a simple POS and digitising their inventory is merely a starting point. And since we have already digitised their inventory, their e-commerce presence is there. And we help them leverage digital marketing and platforms that support brick-and-mortar retailers.

“So these are the opportunities we see in the retail space where we can actually help shift people into some of our other product features,” he says.

The Malaysian startup secured RM20.2mil in Series A funding early this year, led by Vertex Ventures. This will help the company grow into more markets in the region and solidify its position in Malaysia.

Although the regional landscape is competitive with many other system providers, Fong believes that providing solid customer service sets StoreHub apart.

“Competition doesn’t faze us. Everyone is focused on products and nobody focuses on service enough. It’s a tough space to win. But at the same time, the opportunities are massive. About 50%-70% of retailers in the region don’t have a POS.

“Not a lot of players have the resources to engage smaller customers. And this is the segment that we are in. And I think this opportunity will last for about three years before it gets significantly harder to get into that market,” he says.

Fong is looking to grow his team from 80 currently to 200 over the next few months to cater to its growth needs. He is targeting 100,000 stores in five years.

But Fong doesn’t just want to grow for growth sake.

“I prefer sustainable growth over just high growth,” he says.

Retail , StoreHub , startup , Wai Hong Fong , POS , retail