Here, Ng discusses with Inside Retail how the cult brand developed its online services during Singapore’s circuit breaker – and why she decided it was the perfect time to relaunch her brand.
IR: How has your business stayed competitive during the height of the pandemic?
PN: When Porcelain first started in 2009, we took the learnings from my mum’s previous [beauty] business, which succumbed to the Asian Financial Crisis and SARS, and built a solid company with strong fundamentals [across] finance, people and technology. Being blessed with ten years to create measures that best manage our risks and invest in technology, we were able to continue operating as Covid hit our shores.
Though our spas were closed during the circuit breaker, we were able to create and deploy a two-week remote internal training program within three days, as we were already fully integrated on the cloud.
Additionally, we rolled out services such as Virtual Skin Education – a virtual one-on-one consultation service aimed at educating and guiding our clients through their skin concerns from the comfort of home. Post-Covid, I believe that many wellness brands will start to explore the virtual space looking for opportunities to stay in touch and offer their services to their clients. [There will also be a] greater emphasis on hygiene and safety, which is always a plus.
IR: Porcelain recently underwent a major relaunch. What was that like during a pandemic?
PN: Thankfully we had done most of the preparations for the rebranding before the pandemic hit. However, we were not spared from the disruption in manufacturing and print production which resulted in some delays. The rebranding was slated to launch in June 2020 but had to be postponed to Jan 2021.
Overall, it was quite a unique experience to prepare for a rebranding in the middle of a pandemic! The rebranding process took several years in the making. We decided on the rebranding exercise three years ago to better encapsulate our belief that beauty was more than skin deep and that everyone deserves healthy skin as it is the bedrock of a person’s confidence.
When we reached our 10th year, we realised how the brand has evolved with the times and our customers and we needed a new way to express that.
With our expansion plans, we also wanted to present the brand in a manner that would appeal to the international audience. The first 18 months was focused on market research, where we interviewed staff and consumers to thoroughly understand the needs we wanted to serve. We then worked with an international creative and branding agency to put our concepts together.
IR: Tell us about the business’ digital transformation last year and what it involved.
PN: Before Covid, we relied more on our physical spas as a point of contact and interaction with our customers but our backend systems were all integrated online. The circuit breaker further reinforced the importance of strengthening our online presence. With that, we enhanced our website’s user experience, created virtual alternatives to our staple skin consultation service and encouraged all interactions and communications to be done via our mobile app.
Covid has also accelerated our expansion on e-commerce. Apart from our own online store, Porcelain Skincare is also now available on five other e-retailers such as Amazon, Lazada, KrisShop, Tangs.com, and iShopChangi. Our plan is to continue the expansion by making Porcelain Skincare more readily available across different retailers and markets.
IR: What do you think are the challenges and major issues the wellness industry is facing at the moment?
PN: The wellness industry is quite large since it includes anything from physical wellness, mental wellness and emotional wellness – with each including various sub-industries.
Given that we’re in the spa industry and facial treatments are an intimate interaction between the client and therapist, we have seen a bit more apprehension from clients to attend their sessions with the government’s advice to stay home.
Though we have taken ample precaution through our in-store safety measures, there is still an inevitable apprehension we must manage. [There are also] the challenges any brand faces when morphing their business to thrive in a virtual space.