Taking on COVID-19 with an innovative streak

Audio House has responded to the crisis with a slew of innovative measures to keep the cash registers ringing

With a 10,000-square-feet showroom that displays a wide range of televisions, washers, fridges, kitchen appliances and more, home appliances retailer Audio House would typically offer its customers an opportunity to personally view and test its products before making a purchase.

Yet, like many retailers in Singapore, the company has had to shut its physical store as a result of circuit breaker measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

With strict social distancing measures in place, the retailer has had to adapt and respond to the changes quickly. It managed to set up online channels such as Zoom meetings to engage with customers and even launched Facebook Live sessions to introduce new products and specials to potential customers.

We speak to Audio House Managing Director Alvin Lee on how the retailer is navigating this unprecedented disruption.

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19?

Before the circuit breaker measures were implemented, we were not as adversely impacted as we are a stand-alone store and not a tenant in shopping malls. Customers would still come to shop for essential appliances like fridges, washing machines, televisions and more. However, when the circuit breaker measures took effect, we were forced to go online completely. That impacted our sales.

Alvin Lee, Managing Director, Audio House

What measures did you have in place to deal with COVID-19?

Audio House was the first to introduce a cashless electronics retail channel in Singapore back in 2017. There are no cashier counters at the showroom. All our products are tagged to unique QR codes whereby customers can scan and make their purchases through their mobile phones or laptops at the showroom via the Audio House online platform.
As such, our customers did not have to queue, allowing them to observe social distancing.

Since February, we had been conducting temperature checks for all staff and customers before they entered our store. And now, our delivery personnel are also required to wear masks at all times and have their temperatures checked and hands sanitised, before they can enter customers’ homes for delivery and installation.

What new measures did you have to then implement when the circuit breaker measures were announced?

We had only four days to respond and prepare our team from the announcement till the commencement of the circuit breaker period. All our staff had to adjust and adapt to using online platforms for internal meetings and customer interactions as quickly as possible. We even had a crash course on how to use Zoom.

We also launched our Audio House Online Concierge Service, which enables our sales team to approach customers personally via WhatsApp messages, voice calls or emails, depending on customers’ preferences. This service allows us to serve new customers who are unfamiliar with our existing platform, or e-commerce as a whole, with a personal touch.

What were some of the challenges in implementing these initiatives?

Our online concierge team had to invest more time on customers who were less familiar with online shopping, walking them through the purchasing process.

Another challenge was having to coach our staff within a really short time on how to use digital platforms like Zoom for staff meetings, calls and discussions.

Can you elaborate on your Facebook Live sessions? How did it work and what was the response?

We conducted our first Facebook Live session on 22 April, through a live bidding format so that our viewers could have fun bidding for the products they wanted. These products were greatly discounted. The session garnered a very good response, with more than 22,000 views and 7,000 comments. Our viewers had a great time, and while we did not make much profits, we were glad they enjoyed the savings.

What else do you have planned during this extended circuit breaker period?

We have been conducting a lot of time-based sales online, ranging from two hours to 36 hours. We will continue to run these sales as our customers have been very receptive towards them. We will also continue organising Facebook Live events every Wednesday, 8pm.

How has the business benefited from these initiatives?

Before the circuit breaker measures kicked in, online purchases took up less than five per cent of our overall sales. This move towards online has boosted our sales team’s confidence in e-commerce, and it may well be a game changer for our industry. We will definitely continue our e-commerce efforts post-COVID-19.

How do you think this challenging period will transform Audio House post-COVID-19?

While COVID-19 has posed many challenges to our business, it has also given us the opportunity to explore new ways of selling and marketing our products. This experience will transform the way we operate in future. We will also be forming a new e-commerce team to take care of our online shoppers moving forward.