Click and buy

SINGAPORE - More furniture stores are offering online resources to provide a complete shopping experience. But e-commerce sites are used as a complementary tool to brick-andmortar stores as shoppers still prefer to visit the physical store especially when buying big-ticket items.

Star Furniture, which has been in business for 32 years, began offering an e-commerce site (www.starliving.com.sg) in February this year. Its group retail manager Xu Xue Ting says sales have been encouraging so far.

"More people are going online for their shopping needs, and we would like to tap on this and providemore convenience and access to our customers. But of course, the nature of furniture products is very different fromfashion, or other FMCG(fast-moving consumer goods), hencewe need to modify our online strategies to our needs," adds Ms Xu.

"Consumers can browse our online store and find something that interests them. They may then decide to purchase online or visit our outlets to look at the other ranges, or to view and feel the product. Our website and brick-and-mortar shops actually complement each other."

She adds that an online site allows them to reach out to expatriates and foreign students.

Mr Allen Lim, director, HomestoreOnline says: "The trend of buying furniture online is definitely growing, but for a small country like Singapore, growth will be limited."

Its website, www.homestore.sg has been selling furniture, electrical appliances and IT products since April last year and is purely an online site.Mr Limsays that sales have been increasing and hit a six-figure turnover after 15 months.

He adds: "The majority of the increase for online sales will be from the lower and mid-range furniture and buyers who are less particular about the feel or look, and even quality. Most of themare either buying for rental or short-term usage, or they are on a budget and find it difficult to find similar items priced the same elsewhere."

Mr Tim Luce, country chief executive officer, Courts Singapore says that most shoppers still prefer seeing and testing the actual physical product before making their purchase, especially if it is a big-ticket itemat a higher price point.

On the advantage of having an online site, he says: "With our online site, we are a true multi-channel retailer, and have taken the opportunity to introduce innovative retail concepts that integrate both our online and offline offerings.

Courts aims to provide a multi-channel experience for customersmakes it stand out. Its online store (www.courts.com.sg) was launched in 2009, and underwent a revamp last year. He adds: "We introduced Click & Collect last year where shoppers can pick up their online shopping from any of our 14 stores islandwide, and have incorporated Digital Kiosks into Courts Megastore, Courts Toa Payoh, Courts Jem and Courts Ang Mo Kio."

Customers can use Digital Kiosks in-store to navigate the store, compare prices and information, beat the queues by making payment online and arrange for delivery or pick-up. Mr Luce adds that QR codes on products have also been implemented, and customers can use smartphones to scan the codes which will take themstraight to the online store. Customers can also apply for credit online.

"We do not see our online site cannibalising existing sales in our physical stores, as consumers still like the physical shopping experience, largely because shopping is a family activity andmalls are entertainment centres," he says.

For Courts, there is a home delivery charge of $39.90 per order. For orders above $200, shoppers can have items delivered at no additional charge. From mid-July onwards, Courtswill be having a promotion where delivery charges are $9.90 for purchases below $200.

At Homestore.sg, delivery is free for all purchases above $150.Otherwise, there is a $30 charge.

For Star Furniture, delivery charges is $50 per location for purchases below $500. For purchases $500 and above, there will be free delivery to one location. Customers can also collect purchases at its warehouse.

Online stores like Homestore.sg can pass savings to customers as it doesn't incur certain overheads that physical stores do.

The store also offers secure payment and money back guarantee (seven days). To assure customers, Mr Lim says the business abides by the Lemon Law and provides six-month warranty for products sold online even when its suppliers don't.

Similarly, Mr Luce says: "Our Courts Price Promise applies to all items purchased fromCourts, whether it is fromour online or physical stores. This promise includes a 10-day hassle-free exchange policy, and we also abide by the Lemon Law. Apart from themanufacturer's warranty, we also have Courts Cover, our own product warranty and aftersales service plans, which offers coverage of up to four years."

Star Furniture accepts exchange or refund for all non-customised and regular goods within seven days from the first delivery date in its original packaging and conditions, and in an unused, undamaged and marketable condition.

This article was published by the Special Projects Unit, Marketing Divsion, SPH.

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