atomi’s Path to Digitalisation x the Journey of a Gen-Z intern
To take advantage of the rise in e-commerce, most retail businesses had embarked on e-commerce well before COVID-19 was even a thing. When COVID-19 struck, it was a “change-or-die” decision for many retail businesses. Nobody knew much about the destructiveness of COVID-19 back then, or how long it would last.
Although we are seeing a glimmer of hope with the vaccines, the future of retail is unlikely to reverse its direction even as we get back to “normal”.
I’m sure you may have noticed some shops in your neighbourhood or the city shuttering for good – the hard truth is that as much as businesses try to pivot in time, it is not guaranteed that their business model is sustainable in this pandemic. Retail sales had been battered tremendously by COVID-19 in 2020. Even as Singapore reopens safely, we’re not completely out of the woods yet for the retail businesses. Singapore’s retail sales declined by 6.1% year-on-year in January of 2021.
Shuttered businesses and the lucky ones who are surviving cite the changing consumption preferences of Millennials and Gen-Zs as a key to declining businesses at storefronts: their embracement of technology has nurtured a greater propensity to shop online.
The Story of atomi and A Gen-Z’s Take on the Future of Retail
Not too long ago, Chan Bi Jing, 20, embarked on an internship journey at atomi, a Japanese lifestyle and furniture store located in Mandarin Gallery. Bi Jing owns a small online art business, cutelittleprint. Bi Jing was always keen to work in a start-up and understand the art of running a retail store as she aspires to have her own store someday. Her time with atomi gave her the sweet and bitter sides of the retail industry, and she is especially inspired by Andrew Tan, the co-founder of atomi who could firmly steer the company amidst this great toss-up of the economy caused by COVID-19. Digitalisation of operations to adapt to the changed preferences of customers was a key lesson she learnt.
At atomi, Bi Jing had the experience of cataloguing atomi’s furniture products on its website to establish a mobile-friendly and convenient shopping experience for its customers. Being a tech savvy Gen-Z, online shopping was no stranger to Bi Jing, and she always found herself thinking in the customer’s position and applying those demands on the design of atomi’s website. Bi Jing identified that product visualisation is key for online shoppers and she went ahead to feature videos of atomi’s products. While tourists and customers have dwindled at atomi’s storefront as a result of the pandemic, atomi recognises the value of e-commerce and the need to pivot towards it to continue thriving in this industry.
Bi Jing shares that currently, atomi has plans to utilise augmented reality (AR) to enhance the product visualisation experience by allowing potential buyers to visualise how atomi’s furniture would look like in their homes.
Technology and the Future of Retail
As atomi continues to enhance the retail experience for customers, it is particularly keen on adopting the smart glasses technology, where customers can browse the store products virtually at the physical store, less having to walk around. The videos and product details will appear automatically when the customer picks up or comes close to an item. This technology overcomes the difficulties brought about by the “new normal” and overcomes any possible manpower crunch at the physical outlet.
With transitions going on, Bi Jing shared that her time at atomi gave her the opportunity to interact with customers. The satisfied smiles on her customer’s faces bring her utmost satisfaction.
The Future is Now.
For many, it’s time to change, or risk being obsolete. atomi is confident that it is well poised to take the challenges that may be ahead, emerging stronger from the pandemic to achieve its goals. Bi Jing expresses that she has gained tremendously from this internship experience at atomi – from getting personally involved in the operations and understanding the challenges first-hand, to “cracking heads” to innovate out of the box. She is optimistic after her stint with atomi, ready to embrace the uncertainties of the future.
Digital transformation is set to revolutionise the way we live, work and play. For workers, identify skill gaps where necessary, go for relevant courses to bridge the gap.
You probably have heard of the strong nation-wide manpower and skills upgrading initiatives. To avoid the risk of being replaced, there is really no shortcut than to constantly identify and plug your skill gaps.
At the Smart Nation & U 2021 Let’s Talk Panel Session with fellow panellists yesterday, NTUC Secretary General Ng Chee Meng, discussed how digital and technology tools can be used to augment our work, businesses and lives.
“To do so, we need the hardware, software and equally important, human ware – our workers must have a stake in this so that they are assured digitalisation and technology will not take away their jobs. Thus, what we need is a convergence of interests among our companies, workers and unions, Government agencies, education institutions and other stakeholders in our digitalisation and technology transformation, so that we can all work together for a common goal,” the passionate Labour Chief shared.
Well, you already heard it from the Labour Chief himself, what excuses do we have to remain stagnant?
Mr Ng Chee Meng has also given his word!
NTUC will help workers and companies go digital, as well as adopt technology to seize training and transformation opportunities.