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Singapore's largest supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice has launched a refreshed ecommerce platform called FairPrice On. The new platform provides an elevated user experience and uses robots to fulfil online orders. 

Enhanced customer engagement

The revamped online portal and mobile app will provide a more intuitive experience for shoppers. For example, shoppers will find it easier to find products, choose a delivery slot and make payment. FairPrice On offers over 13,000 products and has over 400,000 subscribers. The platform will use data analytics to send targeted personalised communication based on their profile, interest and shopping habits.

Automated fulfilment system

Robots will help fill orders at AutoStore, an automatic storage and retrieval system at NTUC Hub. It uses robotics to provide high density storage and computerised retrieval. The AutoStore can handle 3,000 orders a day, working four times faster than the old manual picking method.

NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Ping said, “This system is like a huge vending machine that is able to automatically store and dispense thousands of products. We are able to pick up to 220 products per hour, compared to about 50 products per hour via the traditional picking method."

Source: NTUC FairPrice

Get SCORE for free delivery

The retailer and ride-sharing platform Grab have launched a subscription programmed that offers rebates and discounts for consumers who pay an annual fee. Members of SCORE subscription programme can enjoy one free FairPrice On delivery a month. Other benefits include rebates on purchases above SGD100 (US$76), membership to NTUC’s Warehouse Club and 1,000 Linkpoints for new subscribers. They will also receive discounts and special members only access to Grab events.

Shop and Donate

Shoppers can donate groceries directly to their beneficiary of choice through FairPrice On. The website shows the groceries that each organisation needs, shoppers can then choose the items they wish to pay for and add to their cart. Delivery fee for the donation is waived.

What do we think?

NTUC FairPrice is one of the first supermarkets to launch an online store in 2002 in Singapore. We believe that there are huge opportunities for the retailer as the growth will continue to build momentum. Retailers investing in improved online shopping experience, more personalised offers and robotics are in great positions to make online grocery channel work for them.

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Tan Soo Eng, Senior Research Manager, IGD Singapore
Based in Singapore, Soo Eng focuses on the role of hypermarkets and supermarkets in the Asian grocery market.

Singapore supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice and on-demand transportation/mobile payments platform Grab have signed a memorandum of understanding to embark on a joint initiative.

Complements online-to-offline

The new service, currently under development, will cater to the evolving needs of the community by providing better value, convenience and access to goods and services.

Anthony Tan, Grab Singapore group CEO/co-founder, says “With both supermarket and transport services as part of this initiative, we are thrilled to provide greater cost savings and convenience.”

Growth of omni-channel retailing

With more consumers indicating that they are likely to subscribe to such services, retailers are recognising this growing segment by providing targeted solutions and services.

Consumers opting for the Grab/FairPrice subscription service will be offered exclusive savings, rebates and access to services on groceries and transport. It is targeted for launch in Q1 2018.

Singapore has been the centre of retailer innovations and store openings recently. We visited a retail testbed for innovative technologies called “living lab” by NTUC FairPrice, a Tesco Finest shop-in-shop, the first unmanned Cheers convenience store, and a revamped Shell forecourt store. Here are some highlights from these visits.

NTUC FairPrice “living lab”

This is a technology-driven store newly opened at SingPost Centre on 9th October. 

Mr. Seah Kian Peng, chief executive officer of NTUC FairPrice said, “It is designed to showcase and test new retail technologies in a real-world environment. The aim is to provide greater convenience, boost productivity while also providing customers with a glimpse of what the future of supermarket retail might be.”

 
     
Some of the features being tested include:

  • 100% self-checkout counters. As a backup, some counters can be converted into a regular serviced counter when the need arises. 
  • SCAN2Go system that allows shoppers to scan their items with a handheld scanner as they shop. This is integrated with the self-checkout system for speedier checkout.  
  • A mobile app that helps shoppers locate products at this specific store. It can also plot a route route through the store to pick a shopping list of products via the shoppers’ smartphone camera, using visible light communication technology and a navigation system.  
  • Personalised promotions sent to each shopper as they browse for products.
  • Experiential corner for brand owners to test new point of sale materials and engage shoppers. Its first partner, Unilever has put up a virtual kitchen where shoppers can try out various products through an augmented reality headset.
  • Refrigerated lockers are piloted for Click and Collect.

Tesco at NTUC Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza

We were impressed with the showcase of Tesco products featured using a shop-in-shop concept in the FairPrice Finest store in Bukit Timah Plaza. 

 
           
The display of popular Tesco Finest products such as wines, traditional British biscuits and fair-trade certified coffees is right by the store entrance, providing great visibility. The partnership will expand to more packaged and chilled foods in the future.

The products are available in 60 NTUC stores, NTUC online and Honestbee, an online shopping concierge. 

First unmanned Cheers store 

We went to the first of the two unmanned Cheers store, operated by NTUC FairPrice. It is at Nanyang Polytechnic campus, in collaboration with the school as students run the back-end systems. The store has been opened for about two months, and the retailer is happy with the result. 

 

              
Shoppers will need to download an app to enter the store with a QR code. Self-checkout counters and vending machines are key features to reduce the number of staff. It saves 60% of manpower, 180 man-hours for this store, so the students can focus on data analytics and supplier management. They have developed data analytics tools that Cheers will roll out in other stores to give the store managers more information on the shoppers.

Shell’s station of the future

The revamped Shell station is a “mobility oasis” which serves motorists, cyclists and residents looking to recharge between journeys. It is strategically located within the Tampines cycling network, dubbed as Singapore’s first cycling town.

The station has a Shell-owned convenience store Shell Select, and its own food label Deli by Shell. It serves an assortment of pastries that are freshly baked daily, a new range of ready-to-eat meals inspired by local favourites, and an exclusive selection of ice cream in collaboration with Walls.


 

Building on the station’s convenient offering, McDonald’s operates the first 24-hour drive-through in a petrol station here. It is a new format that focuses on drive-through only.


 

Other facilities include a bicycle bay with tools for cyclists which also serves as a rest stop, self-service lockers for collection of online shopping, ATM machines and vending machines.



Shell is ending its partnership with 7-Eleven by the end of this year and it will be rebranding all the outlets to Shell Select in phases.

What do we think?

The grocery landscape in Singapore is evolving rapidly with online players like Redmart and Amazon competing keenly for customers. We believe that technology has a role to play in providing brick-and-mortar stores with a level-playing field by enhancing in-store experience.  

Convenience stores are also changing to serve more shopper missions. They are providing reasons for shoppers to go regularly with more food options and services. In particular, forecourt stores are moving from basic top-up shops to retail destinations. This is an emerging trend in Singapore, as well as other Southeast Asian countries.

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Tan Soo Eng, Senior Research Manager, IGD Singapore

Based in Singapore, Soo Eng focuses on India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as the role of discounters and supermarkets in the Asian grocery market.
 

NTUC FairPrice, the leading multi-format retailer in Singapore, has launched the country's first unstaffed cashless convenience store under their convenience banner Cheers at the Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) campus today.

How it works...

The unstaffed Cheers store has self-checkout counters for customers to make purchases via NETS, credit cards, EZ-Link, mobile and contactless methods. The store also features vending machines to offer customers ready-to-eat meals and snacks. Data and video analytics will be used to analyse shopper habits to customise and support its auto-ordering stock system.  

The fact that Cheers utilises cashless self-checkout counters means that monetary reconciliation can be automated. This reduces manual tasks and boosts overall store productivity. A unique QR code is required to enter the unstaffed store and this is obtained via their 'Shop It Yourself' mobile application. This innovative store also acts as a training facility for NYP's School of Business Management students to gain invaluable experience of running a business.

Unstaffed stores appearing around the world...

Earlier this year, it was announced that the leading Japanese convenience store operators, (including Seven & i, Lawson, FamilyMart UNY, Ministop and East Japan Railway) will use RFID technology allowing self-checkout counters to scan items in a basket. This move is strongly backed by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and will be tested in stores located in large cities next year, and fully integrated into over 50,000 convenience stores across Japan by 2025. 

Lawson in Japan recently announced that they will launch a self-service and unstaffed mini convenience store called 'Petite Lawson' this fiscal year. In May, 7-Eleven introduced their first convenience store without any staff at Lotte World Tower, Seoul. And most recently, Auchan opened its first unmanned store in China this month.

--- Outside Asia

Many retailers are turning to technological advancements to drive and sustain growth. We have seen stores with innovative store concepts across many different markets, with particular focus on unstaffed and automated stores. Amazon announced their check-out free experience in U.S last year via Amazon Go. In Sweden, Näraffär are testing an unmanned store through a smartphone ID application.

--- FairPrice and future

NTUC FairPrice are moving quickly, with plans to open another unstaffed Cheers store in Tampines by the end of next month. We should expect to see other retailers looking to utilise similar innovative concepts outlined above and across different markets. 

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