The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to transform their offerings and move to digital formats to meet the changing behaviors of consumers. Here, we look at how Sogurt scaled back its brick-and-mortar offering to focus on one flagship concept while investing in e-commerce.
There has been a big focus on digital transformation and upskilling workers to prepare for the shift to digital, which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. This has forced industries such as retail to invest more in e-commerce in order to survive the pandemic.
A recent survey found South East Asian consumers defining themselves as “digitally curious” or “digital explorers” and look forward to brands delivering more digital experiences and services.
69% of consumers in the region reported that the Covid-19 pandemic had forced them to engage with brands digitally and they found the experience to be enjoyable. They especially enjoy engaging with financial services (63%), retail (60%) and government (42%) brands through digital means.
For decade-old Singapore-based soft-serve froyo brand Sogurt, its digital transformation started in 2017 when it closed eight brick-and-mortar stores to focus on one flagship concept called Kara Cafe & Dessert Bar by Sogurt, featuring the Sogurt bar along with all-day dining fusion foods to cater to the emerging cafe trend.
Lee Liping, founder of Sogurt, cites high rentals, operational challenges and an overall decline in the self-serve froyo trend as key reasons that pushed the brand to restructure the business and strategize a new model that would be less reliant on a physical retail space.
She also noticed an uptrend in consumer receptivity towards e-commerce, adopting a healthy lifestyle and choosing convenient dining alternatives.
“As part of the strategy, we ventured to create probiotic hard-serve frozen yogurt ice-cream – a scalable product that is ideal for e-commerce, with extended distribution channels in supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations. This came with its own set of challenges and learning curves, it being completely new territory for us and having to adapt quickly to the new environment,” she explains.
“The key challenge we faced was to execute this massive shift in business model given limited resources and time pressures. Some key insights we picked up over the years is learning to quickly recognize mistakes, learn fast, cut losses, embrace failure and reiterate – these are crucial in building a strong business.
She adds: “Another insight we learnt is that long term decisions are usually tough, but worthwhile and crucial in creating a sustainable business model.”
As part of its digital transformation efforts, Sogurt revamped its website to include an e-store for customers to purchase Sogurt online. It also expanded its online channels to e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, Oddle and Redmart, with more platforms in the pipeline.
In order to align with online trends and to stand out on online platforms, it rebranded the Sogurt brand to be more distinct, fun and appealing. This included rebranding its packaging to one that epitomizes the ‘Happy Gut, Happy Life’ motto, while making the products social media-friendly.
“This striking and fun-loving branding is also brought to life on our social media accounts and new website, creating a distinct online presence,” explains Loh Hanlin, the business development director at Sogurt who is also Lee’s husband.
“We also expanded our digital outreach by engaging media and influencers to build awareness, as well as to engage and connect with our froyo fans.”
Looking ahead, Loh says there are plans to expand Sogurt’s product offering and e-commerce platform in South East Asia and to make Sogurt a household brand with its froyo ice-cream made available at supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations in Singapore.
Sogurt also aims to continue growing its online presence via its various social media and e-commerce platforms, capturing market share in the healthier-choice ice cream segment. Research and development for new product lines such as dairy-free/vegan ice-cream are also in the pipeline.
“We are working towards building awareness of holistic wellbeing, educating customers on gut-health and the ‘mind-gut connection‘, along with the health and wellness benefits of our new hard-serve froyo ice-cream – how it fits into the ‘Happy Gut, Happy Life’ lifestyle.”