MANILA, Philippines–The big difference between Stores Specialists Inc.’s (SSI) new retail site and other online shopping portals is that the consumer has been experiencing SSI’s goods and services even before the site had its soft launch late last year.
Chances are, a customer who’s bought a product from any of SSI’s 600 stores all over the country is already familiar with the quality of its items.
Ordering online at www.ssilife.com.ph is neither a guessing game nor a gamble. You know what you’re getting.
To complement the online shopping experience is an SSI Life mobile app that gives updates on in-store events, promotions and other information about its brands.
SSI Group Inc. president Anton Huang calls it the “omni-channel approach.”
“SSI Life” carries a curated line of products from 17 brands including Marks and Spencer, TWG Tea, Oliviers and Co., Payless Shoe Source, Nine West, Aerosoles, Bass, Superga, Steve Madden, MBT, Oka-B, A/X Armani Exchange, Replay, High Sierra, Samsonite, Make Room & More, and Beauty Bar.
Catherine Huang, manager of SSI’s digital media office, is very hands-on with the online site.
The young scion of the Tantoco clan told Inquirer Lifestyle that “more brands and merchandise” will be added to the site “in phases, so there will always be something new.”
A browse of the site showed that other brands such as G.H. Bass & Co., Lush, Stride Rite, Wellworth and high-end beauty brands Murad, Dermatologica and Perricone M.D. are already featured.
Catherine is the youngest child of Zenaida “Nedy” R. Tantoco and Anthony C. Huang.
Nedy is the country’s retail icon who has helped define the Philippine retail industry the past two decades. She is a prime mover of the Rustan Marketing Group. She is also chairperson and chief executive officer of SSI.
So, it is not surprising that Nedy’s acumen has rubbed off on her daughter. Proof is that SSI’s newest baby is “performing as expected” although only on its soft-launch phase.
“There are several things that make our portal different from the others,” Catherine noted in an e-mail interview. “First is the design, which we feel is distinctly SSI, something our customers would expect from us. Second is our portfolio of brands. Third is that we have the physical stores to complement the customer’s online shopping experience—something which purely online players do not have.”
SSI’s track record in creating a distinct shopping experience in its brick-and-mortar stores assures it of a demographic for the online site.
Hence, the spirited move to offer online shopping and a mobile app was actually a-no brainer.
“The success of group buying sites ushered an era of shopping online in the country. Local e-commerce is evolving and there are customers looking for more convenience,” Catherine noted.
“As the leading specialty retailer in the Philippines, the SSI Group decided to launch an e-commerce marketplace… (to) give our customers the choice of shopping our brands online or through our stores—a genuine omni-channel approach,” she added.
The SSI Life mobile app was launched—first, to keep in touch with customers “anytime and anywhere through mobile devices which they carry at all times… We have found that customers appreciate the information we give about our portfolio of brands and in-store events. Some of our brands have been successful with the app-exclusive promotions as well,” said Catherine.
She added that after the SSI Life app was launched, there were customers “who want more when it comes to how they use digital channels.”
Thus the decision to develop the online store.
“Right now, our mobile app and the online store function as separate entities, but our direction is to (eventually) integrate all our channels,” she said.
Catherine acknowledged that there are customers who insist on a physical contact with goods before they buy, preferring to try on clothes and shoes first for example, before making the decision to buy.
Despite this, “we would like to send our customers the message that our online store is an extension of our offline stores,” she said.
Catherine is also confident that online shopping, while relatively still in its infancy in the country, would become a mainstream retail practice.
“The Philippines is one of the world’s fastest-growing Internet markets. As technology progresses and becomes more accessible, it is expected that more people will be connected,” she pointed out.
“These present growth opportunities for shopping through digital channels will definitely influence consumer behavior,” said SSI’s young boss.