A new initiative by the Singapore government is helping stalls in wet markets go online, as people stay at home due to lockdown restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the Singapore government instituted a partial lockdown, the F&B and retail industry has been among the most badly affected with some expecting as much as an 80% revenue loss.
A survey conducted by #savefnbsg coalition with key industry players from F&B establishments, 88% of restaurants indicated that they would not have been able to survive April without assistance.
This means the livelihoods of over 220,000 people and their families supported by over 18,000 local F&B establishments are under threat. To combat this, an influx of traditional F&B and retail merchants are flocking online.
The initiative, created by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and creative agency BLKJ is currently being trialed by Tekka Market in Serangoon. Six stalls in the market will use Facebook Live to sell their products and interact with their customers.
The theme of the project is ‘Why jalan jalan (a colloquial term for going out) for your kailan (Chinese broccoli)?’ According to Rachel Chew and Christie Way, creative group heads at BLKJ, the initiative was started because a lot of wet market stalls have been around for decades and still rely on the same traditional means of selling using cash.
“As a result, many have seen their business dip as more people stay home and shop online during this period, especially with the tightening of restrictions,” Chew explains to The Drum.
“We hope that by helping them digitise, we can enable them to compete with newer, more modern businesses with online platforms, so they too can survive.
Way explains that many of the wet market sellers said they work very long hours, opening up very early in the morning and closing late at night. They said they barely have time for their own day-to-day operations and they have never considered going online. To them, selling is the easy part when it comes to going online.
She says the real challenge they faced is coordinating logistics, such as packing and delivery. As smaller wet market stalls struggle with time, manpower and capacity for logistics, BLKJ and IMDA hopes they can continue to sustain their online presence even after the initiative is over.
To do this, both parties are helping the stalls in the wet markets to garner a fan base and set up a system that they will be able to operate independently.
“Another challenge we faced was ensuring freshness and quality. People go to the wet market because they want to make sure they get the best produce by personally touching and seeing it for themselves,” explains Way.
“Buyers need to trust that what they buy online will be of the standard that they'd choose themselves. It’s why Max Kee, the veteran live stream seller who mentors our Tekka sellers, repeatedly emphasises to them that they must only give their buyers the freshest produce and not shortchange them.”
Customers can order products from the stalls during the Facebook Live video, confirm their details through Facebook messenger and make payment via PayNow, a local instant funds transfer service. Those who spend over $20 will also be eligible for free islandwide delivery and produce will be delivered to them within the day.
The Drum previously looked at how e-commerce platforms like Grab, Lazada, Shopback, Shopee, Zalora and Carousell are helping merchants onboard to their platforms.