On an overcast Wednesday evening, the open-air rooftop at the Hive in Clark Quay provided the perfect backdrop as Shopify kicked off 2019 with their first Official Meetup event of the year.

Many e-retailers face the same problem: consumers adding items into their shopping carts (Initiated Sales), yet fail to have the shopping carts checked out (Abandoned Transactions). Perplexing as it is, many have frequently wondered how else can they do to reduce such abandoned transactions? The solution, as introduced by hoolah’s CEO Stuart Thornton on the Wednesday evening, lies in sales conversion.

There were many nods as Stuart began introducing the concept of “Conversion” at Shopify’s first official Meetup event of the year, which was graced by several of Singapore’s established and new start-ups. The Meetup also adopted a more interactive and engaging approach by featuring two fruitful panel discussions, rather than the mundane presentational-format.

It was great to see several locally established merchants sitting on the first panel. Beckie Liu, the Founder of homegrown swimwear brand Haikini; Quanda Ong, the Founder of local accessories brand Gnome & Bow; Luke Furler, the Director of Singapore’s leading activewear brand Base Athletica; and Fabio Miceli, the Founder of state-of-the-art mattress distributor Sonno, all had a fruitful and wonderful time discussing the triumphs of their start-up, and sharing their valuable experience and insights in driving conversion.

While the latter held greater interest and garnered more discourse, one thing was unanimous amongst both audience (myself included) and panellists: the importance of a healthy pool of recurring consumers.

Indeed, consumers often form the rudimentary blocks of a company’s founding story. A rich founding story is one that has withstood the ebb and flow of time, and one that will continue to tell the triumphant tales of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In many cases, recurring consumers promise companies with returns that encapsulate the possibility of newer innovations. Which makes it all the more essential for companies, both the new and old, to focus on establishing good rapport with consumers.

The exchanges amongst the panellists and audience were engaging. Yet, an unforeseen question caught all the panellists by surprise: “How do you stay strong enough to avoid giving discount?” Much to the audiences’ amusement, the panellists admitted that they still use/used to provide regular discounting to churn more sales.

One suggestion the panellists brought up was to leverage on the festive seasons (such as CNY, Christmas) to minimise the usage of discount. Another was to adopt changes and improvements onto the products during the lull periods before pushing out sales during the peak season (such as Valentine’s Day or 11.11 💕💕).

With that interesting finish, and after a quick break, it was back into it with a panel made up of the CEOs from a few industry partners: Prashant, CEO of logistics company Blu; Cameron, CEO of inventory management darling Trade Gecko, Xavier, CEO of one of the leading Shopify agencies in Southeast Asia, Jumpstart Commerce; and again Stuart from hoolah.

Throughout the conversation, it became apparent that the sharing session was a passion-driven one, with many panellists offering honest market outlook, sharing realistic stories, and even solutions to common problems. Of course, few key points stood out in the two panels on driving conversion. Here are the key takeaways:

1. Pop-up stores 🏪🏪

Compared to retail outlets, pop-up stores are relatively cheaper to rent. While they may be smaller in size, a well-timed and well-located pop-up, more often than not, is able to reap profits too.  Authentic engagement between consumers via consumer-brand and consumer-product interactions is still a crucial experience to deliver. According to the panellists, companies should leverage on the intimate face-to-face interaction to engage consumers with product demonstrations or product interaction. For only then will consumers be exposed to freshly launched products and find answers to any questions.

2. Community building 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

Building rapport with consumers has become one of the hard rules to follow. After all, evangelism marketing and brand loyalty are some of the most efficient ways to let more people know about your brand and increase sales. The panellists wholeheartedly agreed that giving thoughts into consumers’ feedback and ideas is a good step forward. For Haikini, the have launched an exclusive user-generated content, Haikini Sisterhood, that provide real recounts to share the brand’s products. By keeping consumers engaged and committed, you don’t really have to dish out discounts on a frequent basis.

3. Consumer insights 👀👀

In the robust era of e-commerce, it has never been more impertinent today for companies to adopt methods to analyse consumer behaviours. The panellists were generous in recounting their experience of how data analytics and insights helped them improve their businesses. Fundamentally, these inputs not only allow company owners to improve the aesthetics of their websites, enhance the delivery and services provided, but also ensure a committed communication between brands and consumers.

4. Use of third-party platforms 🖥️🖥️

The use of third-party platforms to increase sales conversion is not a new discovery, but it is becoming increasingly popular globally. Sales conversion is all about the entire user experience, be it from enticing customers to your websites to getting them to browse your catalogues, and eventually winning their hearts with quality service and products.

Business owners can work with industry partners, such as blu to manage fuss-free parcel collection or Trade Gecko for inventory management. And if consumers are facing affordability issues, they could opt to use hoolah!

hoolah provides an installment payment solution at 0% interest for consumers. It enables merchants to maximise their working capital with fluid stock flow as consumers are now able to easily afford the products of their desire. It really appears to be a no brainer for all concerned, especially when hoolah takes all the risk and settles the funds quickly.

And if you do not have time to integrate all of these, you can always work with Shopify experts such as Jumpstart Commerce which can easily help you to setup.

So, if you are a merchant, who often contemplates giving huge or frequent discounts, it’s time to think again. After all, you don’t always have to dilute your brand to attract more customers. 🥂🥂