Businesses die when they don’t innovate. Reinvention, in a quest for a better customer service is the guiding mantra for entrepreneur Alan Lee, Chief Visionary Officer of Singaporean lifestyle brand Klosh. It’s served him well as he built his company from a small retail outlet to a complete lifestyle solution across Singapore.
Alan, who started his business over a decade ago, initially operated a franchisee model. His company represented larger brands from East Asia, reselling products with an exclusive import license, in a traditional brick and mortar play.
Alan soon found the franchisee model to be far too restrictive for his liking. The brands he represented were well-entrenched in the minds of Asian consumers and therefore generated robust sales. However, he didn’t have the flexibility to make business decisions on his own accord and had to wait for top-down approval from partners before committing to new opportunities, like omnichannel commerce.
“It’s difficult to convince the franchises [...] we couldn’t sell anything online,” he explains.
Klosh emerged onto the scene a few years ago when Alan decided to part ways with his previous partners and branch out on his own. He flipped the business model, hired an in-house design team, and proceeded to own the entire creative, logistics, fulfilment, and retail functions.
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One of his earliest realizations was the critical need to balance offline and online business requirements.
An omnichannel marketing strategy is now synonymous with modern methods of retail sales. Despite all the billions pouring into ecommerce and the likes of Amazon and Lazada sweeping away competition in their home territory, the fact is that 85% of consumers still prefer to shop in physical stores.
It’s not enough simply to optimize either the offline or the online experience of buying through your store. Consumers are continually demanding new experiences; that’s why online-only brands like Pomelo are investing in popup stores and retail outlets, and traditional fast fashion labels like Zara are investing in multichannel touchpoints.
According to Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, moving ecommerce offline is a critical component of new retail strategies. He adds that the spirit of new retail is embodied by a “relentless focus on customer experience” and “extreme attention to details.”
Alan was prescient enough to realize the changing desires of modern consumers from an early stage. He’s a firm believer in traditional brick and mortar - his company will be opening its seventh physical outlet in Singapore by the end of the year - but hastens to add that all customer touchpoints need to be given importance.
One of the first innovations he wanted to implement was the induction of a customer loyalty program. But existing point of sale (POS) solutions weren’t nimble enough to meet his needs as there was no way to synchronize his physical outlets with Klosh’s web presence. What he wanted was for the loyalty program to recognize if the same customer shopped both offline or online.
“We were looking for a platform that can serve both brick and mortar and ecommerce and have them integrate together but it was very difficult. We were very frustrated as nothing was working,” explains Alan.
One of his friends recommended that he try Shopify. At the time it didn’t offer a standalone POS system so Alan was hesitant. But none of his independently contracted developers was up to the task so he decided to give the Canadian company a shot.
“I was surprised by how easy it was to use. I can create webpages pretty fast and upload and download images and data seamlessly. When Shopify introduced its POS, I saw there were lots of features and apps. I tried it, I was happy with the results and one by one I converted it into all my stores,” says Alan.
“In business we have to constantly try and see what works for us and what doesn’t. If it’s not working well we consider other options. Both ecommerce and omnichannel are very important.”
As I talk to Alan, I quiz him on what he considers to be the future of Klosh. After all, he took the bold step to part ways with his previous partners and change a relatively successful business model. How will he continue to raise the bar for his company?
He starts by elucidating the vision for Klosh; describing it as a “multilabel gift store that delights customers and enhances their lives by embodying the spirit of giving.” He believes humans connect with one another on an emotional level by giving and receiving gifts as it is testament to the closeness of the relationship.
But building impeccable products is just part of the equation to keep Klosh at the top of consumers’ minds. Alan thinks retail technology enhancement is a key unique selling point and the perfect way to harmonize the relationship is by syncing offline and online.
“Although ecommerce is something that people are doing now, I feel it’s still important to have a brick and mortar business. You just need to do it differently. I can sell both online and offline and as long as I create a nice experience for them as well as creating convenience for the business, it should be okay,” he affirms.
Klosh has introduced some nifty product innovations in the recent past. One of them is the option for customized gifts such as mugs, notepads, and more. Alan is happy with the response they’ve elicited but adds that most Singaporean customers are still, to a degree, price conscious. Adding customizability increases the overall price and not everyone’s happy paying more. Yet, he’s confident about the future and believe there’s robust demand for his products in general to continue to invest in new retail experiences.
His common methods of marketing include targeted ads on Facebook as well as influencer marketing campaigns around new product launches, stores, and promotions. He declines to comment on what his most popular campaigns were or the ensuring return on investment, but adds that digital channels are an important element of the marketing mix.
Shopify, he feels, will be an important partner in growing his business going forward.
“Whenever we work with a company, we have to rely on it to come up with new features and upgrades. If it goes down and stops innovating, there’s nothing we can do. I think Shopify is a forward looking company; there is a lot of effort to build an ecosystem and help merchants. I can find marketing apps, accounting apps, and the Shopify POS works very well. I am very satisfied,” he explains.
—Written by Osman Husain