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Seah Kian Peng – NTUC FairPrice

Seah Kian Peng – NTUC FairPrice

Seah Kian Peng, CEO of supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice, says innovation is key to staying relevant


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NTUC FairPrice CEO

How would you describe the Singaporean supermarket sector?

Today’s consumers are spoilt for choice.There are a myriad of supermarket retailers to choose from, comprising major chains like ourselves, along with several independent players including disruptors with new ways of doing business. Apart from this, renowned foreign online retailers have also entered the local market, so consumers here stand to gain from greater competition.

Is declining consumer loyalty a trend?

Brand building takes a long time. We are a 45-year-old supermarket retail chain and are a trusted household name in Singapore. Being customer centric is the focus. We recognize that each customer has their own shopping journey – from pre-purchase planning and deciding where to shop to how they pay and receive goods.

Retailers have to look again at how we engage customers. The same customer will visit multiple bricks-and-mortar stores and online platforms, which makes capturing wallet share and retaining even harder. For us, one of the important things, beyond high standards of quality, value and services, is that our customers trust us. We started out with a social mission to moderate the cost of living in Singapore and we remain committed to this brand promise. How an organization makes its revenue and profits matters. Sustainability is a much more important issue and a brand that doesn’t act responsibly and contribute positively to the community and environment, risks losing relevance and diminishing its value.

Why did you overhaul your online shopping platform earlier this year?

Technology is always improving and we wanted to improve our user interface from a customer journey point of view. How can we make that journey more interactive? More seamless? More enjoyable? But it is a work in progress. We also had to recognize the e-commerce trend. If you look at it as a percentage of our total turnover, it is still less than 5 percent but it’s showing triple digit growth. If you want to stay in the game, you need to invest to keep up with the times.

How do you encourage innovation?

You want to do it at all levels. One part will be on the shop floor – it could be hardware, fixtures and systems. We invest in payment systems and service. All FairPrice stores now have electronic shelf labels. Half our stores have self-checkouts. We’re always improving the design to make them more shopper friendly. We also think of ways of raising productivity, and use analytics to launch promotions for particular sectors.

You have piloted an unmanned, cashless convenience store. Is this the future?

We have two of them now. Not all of our stores will be like this, but there’s a place for this format. We want to serve everyone so we need to be in all spaces. Every shopper will probably have a primary mode of shopping – and many secondary modes. If it’s all within one group, the retailer can extract synergies and be relevant. Whoever makes this journey as seamless and enjoyable as possible will be the winner.

What is the rationale behind your recent agreement with Tesco?

It’s a relatively new, exclusive partnership. Any Tesco products sold in Singapore can be found in NTUC FairPrice. Tesco is not in Singapore but they know there are consumers here who like Tesco products. We are not competing against each other. We are both open to the concept of partnerships for both organizations to grow.

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