The decision to digitise the business came naturally to Ryan Chioh, managing director of Far East Flora nearly two decades ago. Already a reputable brand in Singapore then, Far East Flora wanted to gain competitive edge by introducing an e-commerce platform.
Setting up an e-commerce platform was a strategic move by Chioh to grow the business’ reach to seal its position as a market leader.
In 2000, Far East Flora launched its $10,000 e-commerce platform to sell flowers, hampers and gifts. It was a time when few local businesses contemplated an e-commerce website. Amid skepticism from onlookers, the e-commerce website proved to be an instant hit.
Within months, sales from the e-commerce platform proved Chioh’s decision to be right. On Valentine’s Day that year, Far East Flora received over 500 orders. That was nearly twice its record sale of 300 mail orders from preceding years.
The website gained traction very quickly. Over a short period of time, more than 60% of its online orders were from overseas consumers. Its online presence helped Far East Flora achieve a reach not only in regional markets, but even countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Following the success of www.FarEastFlora.com, Chioh launched another e-commerce website in 2006 to target consumers in Hong Kong (www.FarEastFlora.com.hk). Business took off when Far East Flora set up a physical store in Hong Kong to complement its online effort.
Chioh did not stop there. In 2010, Far East Flora launched www.FarEastFlora.com.my to target the Malaysian market. In Chioh’s opinion, it is sometimes easier and more cost-effective to penetrate new markets with an e-commerce website, as opposed to setting up a brick-and-motar shop.
In the subsequent years, its holding company Far East Flora Holdings launched an online integrated floriculture company and garden centre (www.fareastfloragarden), a wholesale flower centre (www.fareastorchid) and a landscaping, interior plantscaping and plant retail platform (www.o2plants.com.sg).
Advantages of bringing the business online
According to Chioh, the move to bring Far East Flora online brought about many benefits.
For a start, it meant that the business could enter new markets without worrying about high rentals, labour costs and initial investments. This translates into cost and time savings.
With an e-commerce platform, Far East Flora can undertake inventory, marketing and shipping more effortlessly. A notable takeaway from this is greater efficiency when taking orders and making deliveries. There were also fewer errors with automation.
Another major benefit of an e-commerce platform is a business that operates round the clock everyday.
All changes require some adjustments. For Far East Flora, it took from six to 12 months to train its staff to become adept at using the newly-introduced e-commerce platform.
Initially, they found themselves grappling with a huge influx of orders. But Far East Flora was quick in responding to increased orders.
Since technology is ever-changing, Far East Flora has to periodically upgrade its website to ensure that it is up-to-date and aligned with consumers’ expectations.
Over time, a more sophisticated delivery tracking system and online feature like live chat helped enhance a consumer’s buying journey. The result is a significant decrease in failed deliveries and a more satisfactory overall experience.
In order to cater to the rise of smartphone users, Far East Flora even developed a mobile application that allow consumers to make purchases on the go.
Far East Flora’s willingness to embrace technology contributes to the business’ exceeding growth. Today, Far East Flora continues to seek market dominance through its many online channels.
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