Updated: Aug 20
We speak to Henry Low, Country Manager at Amazon Singapore, on e-commerce, digital solution adoption as well as how Amazon sets themselves apart from other e-commerce platforms by focusing on the customer.
Q: It’s predicted that by 2023, the e-commerce industry in the region will be a $53 billion industry. Where are we in that timeline? With the disruption this year, has it shifted faster?
What we have observed and what I can say is that we’ve observed a shift to online shopping and in fact with the pandemic, as you’ve observed, has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and digital transformation for many many businesses and I think what we have found, and the feedback from our consumers, they’ve found that online shopping is a safe and convenient way of getting their household needs and getting what they want.
One of the interesting fun facts is between March and June, we’ve seen Singaporeans fall back in love with the kitchen and cooking. So you would see cooking utensils, equipment, baking flour flying off the shelves and you know this is very different from the earlier days of this year, where customers were focusing on the bare essentials.
Q: One of the things we heard very recently, even the bigger operators, retail operators, are complaining about the cost of rent in Singapore, for example. Do you think that’s a legitimate concern at this moment?
I think retailers have traditionally relied on physical space and physical events in order to drive sales and to showcase what they have and what you’ve seen, I think, the events over the recent months have shown that there’s reduced foot traffic into these physical spaces and therefore retailers will need to find different ways in order to continue to engage and I would highly encourage retailers, sellers and vendors in order to explore adopting online channels.
Why? Because this allows us and allows them to be able to find different ways in order to offer a different customer experience, engage customers and also open up different revenue streams, and it also opens up the possibility of not just relying on who walks through the door but also who lays eyeballs on your site, not just here in Singapore but also internationally.
Q: With Amazon being dominant, especially in the US right, and in Singapore you have other e-commerce platforms as well. How do you set yourself apart?
The focus remains on the customer and for us, we firmly believe, and we obsess over the things that customers care about, and we believe that customers care about being able to shop and giving them the selection that they need at competitive prices, as well as fast and convenient delivery.
In fact, being able to offer digital content is important and what we found was that our Amazon Prime program, it’s a holistic offering for our customers and besides fast and free online shopping with both Prime Now as well as amazon.sg, we offer unlimited streaming with Prime Video and on top of that, we also offer Prime Gaming for which you get access to free online games every month.
Q: For Amazon, what sort of R&D efforts do you put in to have the right services there for your customers?
We believe that establishing the brand with customers is very much about establishing trust with customers, and a big part of establishing trust with customers, it’s also about understanding what is it that they want and for us to be able to invent on behalf of customers. So we have a process where we start off with identifying what are the customer’s needs and customer’s main points, and then we work backwards from there.
And it’s through that process that we are able to invent new solutions as well as bring new products. Take for example our two-hour delivery. So, many years ago, even just next day delivery was considered a pretty awesome thing and we’ve seen that it’s pretty commonplace nowadays, and we’ve decided to take that further and again, realising that customers appreciate speed and that’s where we first started, realising that customers will require, want speed, and love speed, and making that possible and building the technologies for it.
Q: There are platforms out there that will tell customers that we can deliver your product between a longer period, a longer window of time to be more responsible, environmentally responsible, but if you’re delivering at the convenience of the customer, does that take it the other way around?
Being able to reduce the sources of man-made climate changeis a big priority for the company. There are concrete steps that we’re taking towards this. One very clear example that we’re taking is reducing and optimising the amount of packaging that we use.
We have programmes such as Ship in own container, as well as Frustration Free packaging where we’re working with vendors and sellers in order to make sure that the products that they ship to us, it’s in the most optimised packaging that reduces waste.
We are not a company of A or B, we want to be able to do both and we firmly believe that it is possible to contribute towards saving the environment as well as delivering for our customers.
Q: So with these kinds of mentality inside Amazon, is it easy to find people to work who have the same values?
We love attracting people who love fixing problems. You must love to fix problems, you must love to scale the solutions that you build to a lot of people. There are always going to be emerging challenges and emerging problems and conundrums for us to fix, and as I tell my team, we have to focus, we have to prioritise and a big part of it is figuring out what are the three biggest fires for us to fight.
Fight those three fires and move on to the next, and that’s how we continue to build this engine and that’s how we continue to drive, and to improve lives of our customers and of our team.
This content is brought to you in collaboration with BMW Asia.