Survival Kit of a Local SME: Cut Loss, Go Digital, Move Faster
The beauty and personal care industry was brought to a standstill ever since the COVID-induced mask mandate and work-from-home practice took place. Facing extreme pressures, the Korean skincare beauty store Wishh! has axed its retail shop to 5 outlets now from 40 at its peak. Beryl Yeung, Managing Director of Wishh! characterised by her competence, agility, energy and strong will, had adapted and transformed the company by enhancing its online market footprint, rewriting the story of the company’s uphill battle.
Cut Loss and Try Everything
Travelers’ number drop, sluggish market, supply chain delay and disruption, all these reminded Beryl of the dire situation in the last 3 years, when the company must cut cost to stay afloat. “The rent of our retail shop was about HK$80,000 / month on average, so we quickly scaled back to the bare basics.”
Seizing any possibilities to survive, Wishh! not only strengthened the online presence in owned e-shop and HKTVmall, but also enhanced product portfolio and customer service, making sure the products are latest and hottest. “A colleague decided to migrate to Japan at the time, we reckon it would help us work closer with our Japanese suppliers with our staff on the field, so the employee contract continues and we are able to bring in more Japanese brands to HK.”
The company also branches out to different markets, by launching new products linked to mother and baby care, pets and electronic accessories. “We built a loyal customer base before the pandemic, who might enter into new chapters of life, like getting married, having a baby, owning a flat, and their needs change as well.
Likewise, Wishh! has grown from a “Korean skincare beauty store” into a “one-stop shopping mall”, by uniting with Videocom branded products.”
Triumph by Surprise and Speed
Aligning and riding the wave of online commerce, the company has banked on internet influencer to sell its products amid the live commerce trend. “A young female KOL once featured our baby blue / pinky power extension sockets, and got thousands of orders in a week! The result beat many of the gadget stores, so we cut her an exclusive debut deal for other similar products and the results have been rewarding.”
Despite an important sales channel, HKTVmall can be challenging for Wishh!, which tackles each bit of problem as it arises. “HKTVmall set high standards to merchants, for example once the customers’ orders cut off by 1pm, we need to immediately pack and deliver the products to HKTVmall warehouse by 4pm, so our Mondays are usually very busy with added orders from the weekends. Penalty on merchants applies if the goods are out-of-stock, or if they fail to deliver on time. Thankfully the Wishh! team is super-efficient, so we have room enough to handle the platform orders and rarely get fined.”
Inventory Turnover Champion with Minimal Stock
Beryl takes pride in the team’s ability to bend the rules sometimes and beat others to the draw. “Our customers keep coming back because we keep our catalogue updated very fast. Say, some lady customers would order the latest lip gloss on Wishh!, even when their last one was used only partially. This quick-turnover strategy defines who we are, and there are followers who try replicate our business model.”
“Our advantages over the retail chains are agility and high CP (cost-performance) ratio. The retail groups normally take months to launch new products from overseas, from sourcing to listing onto shelves; and some retailers prefer products with high profit margin. We aim for the latest, hottest items at affordable price, ensure quick turnover and keep minimal stock. This strategy secures us a place in the market.”
Facilitating Commerce with Barcodes and Service Centric
A distinguished transformation best describes Wishh! as 70% of Wishh! revenue come from online now, compared to 30% before COVID, and barcode plays an instrumental role. “The Japanese goods we sourced usually come with a standard data format like ingredients and directions of use, what we need to do is simply translate into Chinese and identify each item with barcode. This facilitates our product listing works and helps our customers search for products online more easily.”
Beryl is considering to apply GS1 HK’s 1QR (a QR code with rich information like product spec, discounts, certifications, traceability and authentication information, etc.) onto the own branded merchandises, allowing consumers to scan and read the details in full. “I’ve also delegated teammates to manage our WhatsApp account from 9am to 11pm. Instead of chatbot, we tend to resolve customers’ problems within 5 to 10 mins, to avoid upsetting customers and losing business because of the delay.” This gives a hint why Wishh! has been honoured as a “Consumer Caring Company” since 2016: through delivering trusted and reliable products and services at all times, while ensuring incredible customer experience.
Honing Edge for SMEs Going from Strength to Strength
Hands-on, flexible, straight-forward and efficient, these characteristics sum up a typical Hong Kong merchant like Beryl. “On one occasion, an online customer ordered a product of specific colour which just happened to be out-of-stock, so I delivered a similar-coloured product with an apology note to explain, the customer turned out to be happy. Other times I would pick and pack the goods myself if the warehouse is swarmed with orders, or ask colleagues from other team who are free to help, then buy them afternoon tea later.”
As GS1 HK SMEs Advisory Board member, Beryl urges local SMEs to make good use of the Government funding to support digital transformation and bring in more opportunities. She hopes the government can provide more subsidies on outbound promotion (e.g. exhibiton) to help merchants expand abroad, which in turn strengthen Hong Kong’s role and characteristics as an externally oriented economy.