One of the world’s largest e-commerce websites, Taobao, which has played a key role in disrupting the retail scene, has opened its own brick-and-mortar store in Singapore.
Owned by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, Taobao launched its first physical store in South-east Asia on Sept 4 at the recently opened Funan mall, in collaboration with Virmall, its authorised local partner.
At 6,000 sqf — one-tenth the area of a football field — the Taobao store displays about 300 items “specially curated for Singapore shoppers”, the firm said in a press release.
Close to 80 per cent of the products on sale at the store are home furnishings, household items and kitchenware.
In an interview with TODAY, Taobao’s business development lead in Singapore, Ms Charlene Zhang, said that the home and living category is its fastest growing segment among Singaporean shoppers online.
Taobao said its own data indicated a 50 per cent jump in the value of home and living products it sold in Singapore in 2018, compared to 2017.
The decision to set up a physical store for the long term came about after two earlier temporary pop-up stores in Singapore received positive feedback from customers, who said that they “enjoyed the experience” of being able to “see and touch” the items, said Ms Zhang.
When asked how the prices of the items sold at the physical store compared with those online, Ms Zhang and Virmall’s general manager Mr Sky Chen did not give a direct answer, except to say that the pricing is “competitive”.
Based on TODAY’s checks, the items on the Taobao website are generally cheaper than those in the Funan store.
A pair of dishwashing gloves is selling for between SDG3.90 and SGD7 online while the store is selling them for SGD7.90. A make-up storage unit is selling for SGD22.90 online but the one in the store is going for SGD28.90.
A rocking chair online is priced at SGD229.70, while the same item in the store is at SGD333.
WHAT CUSTOMERS CAN EXPECT
While customers can buy and pick up some of the smaller items on site, bigger items, such as a sofa or a bed frame, can be purchased only online and delivered.
Items stocked in a local warehouse can be delivered between one and five days after purchase, said Mr Chen, compared to two weeks if it is being shipped from China.
Customers who buy Taobao items online can also collect their orders from the Taobao store.
Given that “new products appear on Taobao every day”, Mr Chen said there are also plans to regularly change and update the items being sold at the store, though that will depend on feedback on the ground and data they have collected on offline customers’ preferences.
Customers can also submit the floor plans of their home to a software programme available at the store, where an interactive digital mock-up will be generated. They can then pick various Taobao furniture pieces, place them in the mock-up and visualise how their space would look.
Virtual reality equipment is also available for customers to get a better sense of how their space would look with various products.