By Jill Arul
With roots tracing back almost 30,000 years, humans have been cutting and styling hair in the name of beauty since the Palaeolithic age. Today, the beauty industry in the digital age generates roughly US$500 billion in revenue a year and accounts for millions of jobs worldwide.
As the industry continues to expand and thrive, beauty entrepreneurs must remain on top of new technologies especially in today’s digital era. In line with the services they provide, hair and beauty products distributor Synergetic Beauty System is one such company who was quick to see the beauty of embracing digitalisation.
However, as a traditional business with most of its employees in their 50s and 60s, they faced the additional task of convincing and training middle- to senior-age staff to venture into the brave new world of technology.
In this feature, employee Ms Lisa Wong shares the successes and challenges she experienced as Synergetic Beauty System adopted new digital business processes with the help of the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) SMEs Go Digital programme.
Traditional processes get a digital makeover
When Synergetic Beauty System was instructed to close down during Singapore’s COVID-19 circuit breaker in 2020, the 30-year-old company took the time to re-evaluate their business and consider solutions to adapt to society’s ‘new normal’. Realising that the pandemic would forever change business methods, the team quickly made digitalisation their top priority.
After finding out about SMEs Go Digital through social media, Director Mr Simon Lee wasted no time, quickly contacting a Start Digital partner to help the company kickstart their digital transformation. The first step? Expanding their online presence by creating new sales channels on Lazada, Qoo10 and even their own e-commerce website.
Through Start Digital that enables SMEs to try out foundational digital solutions at no cost for at least six months, the company implemented human resources and accounting solutions to improve the efficiency of their daily processes. With the help of IMDA and Enterprise Singapore’s Productivity Solutions Grant, which provides support for pre-approved solutions, they also deployed an improved point-of-sale (POS) system.
Yet these changes did not happen overnight. To learn how to operate and maximise the use of the new systems and platforms, Synergetic Beauty System’s employees underwent in-person and virtual training sessions. While the older team members initially found these sessions challenging, they eventually recognised the need to adapt.
One such employee who has reaped the benefits of digitalisation first-hand is Ms Wong, who has proudly been with the company for 24 years. “Previously, we wrote everything down on paper—from invoicing to customer addresses, but now we have a POS system and e-commerce store,” she said.
As a testament to their impact, these digital systems have saved Synergetic Beauty System’s employees countless hours in processing invoices and delivery slips. Rather than having to keep track of paperwork manually, employees can submit invoices and check records digitally with ease.
“Now, when someone asks, ‘Do you know when I purchased this?’, I can go into the system to find out when they purchased it with just one touch.”
“Last time, when it was all paper, I would have a hard time digging out everything to find their invoice.”
The tech transformation continues
Moving away from their traditional roots, Synergetic Beauty System is eager to step into the new digital age with e-commerce. So far, their e-commerce presence has led to a 10 percent increase in revenue. It’s also allowed them to reach younger and more tech-savvy customers looking for professional beauty tools and keep the interest of existing customers who prefer the convenience of shopping online amid the COVID-19 situation.
Consequently, Ms Wong has noticed changes in their physical store since the beginning of the pandemic—changes only possible with digitalisation. “Many customers now prefer contactless payments,” she said. “It’s safer and faster because there’s less handling of cash.”
While digitalisation initially seemed daunting to more mature members of staff, overcoming fear and embracing digital technologies with a growth mindset like Synergetic Beauty System’s team ultimately made all the difference. Despite her initial nerves, Ms Wong actively practised using the new digital solutions until she realised how it made her days at work easier and more efficient.
“I got scared when I first saw the POS system,” she admitted. “But over time and with practice, I learned how to handle it.” Indeed, others are also bearing witness to Synergetic Beauty System’s digital makeover. “A returning customer even told me, ‘Last time you were a very manual person, but you’re using the computer now!’”
From digital natives comfortable with technology to older employees simply looking to navigate new digital solutions at work, Ms Wong believes that with a good attitude and enough practice, anyone can reap the benefits of digitalisation.
“We can’t always stay put. We have to keep up with the technology to communicate with the new generation of buyers and customers. Everything is going digital and we have to catch up.”
Looking to make the digital leap? The SMEs Go Digital programme aims to help SMEs use digital technologies and build stronger digital capabilities to seize growth opportunities in the digital economy. Find out more about the programme here.