It’s well known that shopping locally helps the economy. But how exactly does it help?

Principally, local SMEs help the economy by introducing a multiplier effect. They are often owned and staffed by locals, where their earnings will flow back into the economy. But more than that, local businesses will hire local architects and contractors for building and remodelling, local accountants and insurance brokers to help them run the business, and local ad agencies to promote it.

Aside from the economic benefits, shopping local allows gives business owners and residents a chance to connect. Once you build a relationship with your local shop, you can get many tangible and intangible benefits, such as better discounts, insider deals, and a sense of community.

Shopping Local During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 period, it’s become harder to shop in person. But that should not stop local businesses from selling; and nor should it stop you from shopping local. Through e-commerce, it is now easier than ever for consumers and local businesses to connect virtually. In fact, 83 percent of consumers in Singapore have highlighted that it is important for local retailers to have an online presence. This is aligned with data showing that online channels now account for 45 percent of shopping here, growing by 1.6 times since 2019[1].

Furthermore, to help local SMEs, digital payments provider Visa has launched Where You Shop Matters, an initiative that encourages consumers to support their local businesses, while helping SMEs to go digital following the onset of COVID-19.

Visa’s initiative uses a two-pronged approach to help local SMEs tide through, survive and thrive from this crisis by rallying support for local merchants and spurring SMEs to go digital. On one hand, to encourage SMEs to go digital, Visa will be providing a Visa eCommerce Starter Kit to help them start, manage and grow their online storefronts. On the other hand, to help more than 2,000 local micro-SMEs benefit from this e-commerce boom, Visa has partnered with Shopee to feature them in the online marketplace and launch promotional campaigns to drive customers to their offerings.

To simplify this transition of going digital, Visa has also partnered with BigCommerce to provide SMEs with onboarding support and special discount rates to sign up and start selling online.

Further to that, SMEs get to enjoy a variety of offers including Office 365 business packages and cashback on Google Ads to help them get their online business up and running. For SMEs with physical stores, they can order free Visa POS signage to build trust with consumers.

Kunal Chatterjee, Visa Country Manager for Singapore & Brunei explained, “Local businesses are struggling to keep afloat amid the economic fallout. The pandemic has hit local businesses hard in Asia and the region. In Singapore, the circuit breaker period has slowed business growth due to disruptions in supply chains and with social distancing measures in place, businesses are now operating on limited capacity.”

“With a lack of footfall and spend from foreign travellers, it is pertinent that consumers in Singapore are consciously supporting local brands which have been significantly impacted by the crisis. With the Where You Shop Matters campaign, we aim to use the power of our Visa network as a force for good – sparking greater awareness in people to think about the positive impact their shopping can have on local communities. As shoppers, you have the power to make the difference and positively impact your local community. In these challenging times, every dollar spent helps them survive, thrive and this creates a virtuous cycle of giving back. At Visa, we’re committed to supporting Singapore small businesses transition to online channels as commerce shifts further into digital in the wake of COVID-19,” he added.

Looking Long-term Beyond COVID-19

The trend toward digitalisation has begun long before anyone heard of COVID-19. If anything, COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for digitalisation in businesses – both for corporations as well as SMEs.

When Singapore implemented its circuit breaker measures, non-essential retail stores were forced to close for almost two months. For local SMEs that depended solely on their brick and mortar stores for sales, going digital was no longer just about becoming an omnichannel business — it became a way of survival as online sales became their only source of income.

In describing the challenges faced by Singapore’s SMEs, Chatterjee also highlighted the opportunities that going digital gave them. “Our SMEs also expanded their customer base beyond Singapore’s borders, giving them vital inroads to the overseas market to make up for revenue lost from closing their physical stores,”

“Looking beyond the pandemic, digitalisation will also help local SMEs make sense of their business and discover more efficient ways to optimise their operations. For one, local SMEs will be able to integrate customer support solutions to their businesses, leveraging personalisation to keep their customers constantly updated and engaged through relevant content on both online and offline platforms. They will also be able to capture valuable data from digital transactions. Useful knowledge and insights can then be extracted from the data to inform business owners on how they can improve the services and products they offer,” explained Chatterjee.

[1] Digital Consumers of Tomorrow, Here Today, Facebook


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