“Highlighting the vibrancy of Singapore” — KrisShop CEO Chris Pok on promoting local brands

KrisShop CEO Chris Pok

“When the pandemic hit our shores last year, it became apparent that many small and medium local enterprises were struggling to stay afloat,” says KrisShop CEO Chris Pok as he discusses the omnichannel retailer’s new and ambitious partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board.

“We were immediately compelled to extend our ecommerce reach to more local businesses,” Pok adds. “We thought about what we could do to support them and one of the ways we did this was to mobilise collaborations with home-grown brands, tapping on local talents to retail exclusive items on KrisShop.com.”

As reported, KrisShop struck a three-year partnership with The Singapore Tourism Board to jointly market home-grown brands and extend their ecommerce reach. Under the partnership, content will be co-developed to profile local brands on KrisShop.com.

Pok says the partnership was born out of a collective ambition to “highlight the vibrancy of Singapore’s retail scene” and help home-grown brands take their first steps into internationalisation. 

In this interview, Pok discusses the next phase of the ambitious partnership and highlights the unique opportunity that travel retail offers to brands wanting to connect with international travellers. He also comments on the purpose and philosophy that drives the campaign and how KrisShop also prides itself on being a “uniquely Singaporean brand.”  

The three objectives of the campaign are to jointly market local brands, extend their ecommerce reach and to help them create a seamless online shopping experience

Tell us more about KrisShop’s partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board. How did it come to be and what are the core objectives?

KrisShop’s partnership with Singapore Tourism Board was born out of a collective ambition to highlight the vibrancy of Singapore’s retail scene and spotlight local brands and the incredible individuals behind them.

There are a number of key objectives behind this three-year initiative, namely, to jointly market home-grown brands and grow their ecommerce reach, as well as create seamless experiences for their local and international customers.

The partnership is slated to be rolled out in two phases, with the first phase having been kicked off with a domestic campaign this past January to raise awareness of local brands and grow demand for their products. This also complements the Made With Passion initiative, designed to celebrate local lifestyle brands and led by Singapore Brand Office and Singapore Tourism Board, in partnership with a series of retailers including KrisShop.

In the next phase, we seek to roll out global campaigns across various key markets as international travel resumes. Additionally, the collaboration entails KrisShop’s appointment as the exclusive ecommerce platform for Design Orchard – an integrated retail and incubation space that showcases the best of our local design talent in the heart of Singapore – to offer the retail showcase an additional distribution channel.

The Modern Singapore Collective is KrisShop’s extended ‘With Love SG’ concept store which features 36 Design Orchard brands
With Love SG now has over 100 Singaporean brands included in its offer

KrisShop’s With Love SG concept store gives home-grown Singaporean brands a platform to reach new audiences. What other concept stores, collections and brands are you planning to showcase as part of this campaign?

As part of the partnership, we have extended our With Love, SG concept store to house the first batch of 36 brands in the Design Orchard assemblage, known as The Modern Singapore Collective.

This tips the number of homegrown and heritage-strong brands in our With Love, SG concept store to over a hundred, with newly featured brands in The Modern Singapore Collective including gentlemen essentials boutique, The Shirt Bar, classic frames company, Rocket Eyewear and niche perfume house The Lab Fragrances.

In the months ahead, we will be working with Singapore Tourism Board and Design Orchard to further raise the profile of these homegrown brands through joint promotions, limited-edition collections and exclusive collaborations, among other marketing efforts.

We see this as an extension of our efforts to champion our local culture and talent, leveraging KrisShop.com to give homegrown businesses well-deserved prominence not just to local audiences, but simultaneously exposing their crafts to an international crowd.

The first phase is a local awareness campaign in line with KrisShop’s ‘Made With Passion’ initiative, while the second phase is a global awareness campaign

What USPs do you think these local Singaporean brands can offer to KrisShop’s international consumer base?

Beyond the form and functionality of the products that they offer, these brands carry with them traits associated with the wider Singapore brand, which include quality craft, adherence to and promotion of standards, and protection of intellectual property rights, among others.

These, alongside the eclecticism inherent within local goods as a result of the influence of our island home’s unique and diverse culture, are qualities that are increasingly proving to be attractive for our international consumer base. This supposition is doubly true in Singapore where local brands have a home-ground advantage and are progressively enjoying strong relationships with a growing party of patriots who have a deep appreciation for the made-in-Singapore trademark.

Pok says that the Design Orchard partnership serves as an extension of KrisShop’s efforts to “champion our local culture and talent” and leverage KrisShop.com to give Singaporean businesses international exposure

Singapore Tourism Board and KrisShop are also exploring new fulfilment services and channels to help local brands create seamless O2O retail experiences. What omnichannel features are you planning to incorporate?

Some ideas to be trialled — with the goal of facilitating greater convenience for customers — include self-collection for local customers at designated pickup points, such as Design Orchard and SingPost Popstations.

We are also working on integrating KrisShop.com’s existing features with Singapore Tourism Board’s official Visit Singapore mobile application, so users can shop on-the-go as purchase points become more streamlined. In addition, as part of our long-term commitment to strengthening our omnichannel presence, we are also expanding the assortment of brands and products available on our site, fast-tracking the onboarding of new partners, and reducing local delivery times so customers can receive orders at their homes as early as the same day upon checking out.

In addition to onboarding local Singaporean brands, KrisShop is also launching a series of targeted campaigns to boost domestic tourism. Could you tell us more about these campaigns?

In February, we launched The Modern Singapore Collective campaign with the goal of raising awareness of KrisShop.com’s role as the exclusive retailer for Design Orchard brands.

As part of the campaign, we launched a photo series alongside a feature video, showcasing the homegrown brands against a series of iconic landmarks across Singapore. Several of these prominent locales also served as the inspiration behind the designs of products.

From now to the end of April, we are also running a promotion that offers -10% off the purchases from local brands, to give shoppers more reasons to support local.

Quality craftsmanship, high standards, eclecticism and island influences are core characteristics of homegrown Singaporean brands, Pok says

What advice can you give to local brands looking to internationalise and how can travel retail play a role in this?

Successful internationalisation is far from a simple task given the many challenges associated with expansion, from understanding the cultural norms of a new market to adapting to individual preferences.

To even begin charting a path to a foreign field, cardinal steps to take include market research to lay the foundation, physical immersion to understand the particular market’s challenges and opportunities and soliciting in-market partners to smoothen day-to-day operations.

For local brands seeking to internationalise with finite resources and experience, a gradual approach would be the most prudent. For example, making international shipments available from the brand’s home port is a reasonable way to test the waters and gain a sense of product or even category appeal in the targeted market.

Brand owners that lack the capital or capability to scale can then tap on travel retailers like KrisShop to give them a leg-up in that process. The added opportunity that travel retail offers is that it also allows brands to connect with an international customer base in their home port as. Travellers try and test local goods in their escapades — something that we hope to see more off as the travel industry opens up.

Shop local: From now until the end of April, KrisShop is offering a -10% discount on homegrown brands on its platform
Brands seeking to internationalise need to maximise the travel retail opportunity, says Pok

How important is supporting Singapore’s local retail scene to KrisShop’s ethos as a company?

I would say that it is extremely important. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a uniquely Singapore brand, with our history of originally being the inflight duty free shop of Singapore Airlines. This is a value that is also deeply reflected in our thoughtful curation of local products across our suite of offerings and concept stores.

When the pandemic hit our shores last year, it became apparent that many small and medium local enterprises were struggling to stay afloat, we were immediately compelled to extend our ecommerce reach to more local businesses.

We thought about what we could do to support them and one of the ways we did this was to mobilise collaborations with homegrown brands, tapping on local talents to retail exclusive items on KrisShop.com. We also made it a point to feature our local brand on many of our social media campaigns, using a shared-resource approach to offer them greater visibility on a wider scale.

There has yet to be a definitive indicator on when exactly international connectivity will return in full force, though developments like the hastening pace of inoculations, coupled with progressive conversations on mutually recognised mechanisms for health codes amongst global governing bodies, could be the first signs of a turning point.

In both the short and long term, with public health being the primary and rightful consideration for the opening of borders, ecommerce will remain the optimal strategy for audience penetration – a strategy that we intend to continue bolstering for the advancement of our brand and valued partners in the evolving economic climate.

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