Up Close & Personal
Heard About the Durians that went Online?

Story by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat/ Photos by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat and The Durian Story

Photo Credit: The Durian Story

Mao Shan Wang, Wang Zhong Wang, D24. 

For durian aficionados, these are the magic words for dreamy gastronomic visions – prying open the thorny shell to marvel at a pungently aromatic fruit that is invitingly creamy. Indulging in the ‘king of fruits’ can get messy, but that’s all part of the experience. 

However, beyond the moments of sinful indulgence, many fans have shared how difficult it is to find quality at good value, especially for the highly sought after Mao Shan Wang varieties. 

 

Reaching Customers in New Ways

Photo Credit: Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

An opportunity to fill that void for customers saw durian lover Jonathan Tee, 30 enter the fray with The Durian Story.

While the business started in a brick-and-mortar store, it quickly evolved to meet the changing needs of consumers. Limited by location, it soon expanded operations to include a delivery service as a means of reaching out to more customers who may not have personal transport or wanted the convenience of having their favourite fruit sent to their doorstep.

“The aim has always been to share quality durians at value-for-money prices. This helped us build a reputation that can then be spread by word-of-mouth,” said Jonathan.

Recognising changing consumer habits, such as turning to Facebook and Instagram to seek out food recommendations, the business also moved online.

“We started the social media platforms ourselves and would craft the posts and take pictures on our own. We later started boosting the posts after being introduced to the function. I did some reading up online and via YouTube to learn how it worked and then started by spending just a few dollars a day to boost our Facebook posts and reach out to more people. It has made a difference in allowing us to reach out to more people,” said Jonathan.

It is now common to have customers who are locals and foreigners who come from Indonesia and China. They are enticed by the photos and posts as a motivation to travel from all over Singapore to their store in Serangoon North.

He estimates that an online presence has helped increase business by over 50 per cent.

 

Embracing Technology

While the business of sourcing for suppliers remains rooted in having a good relationship with supplies across Malaysia, Jonathan and his Operation Manager Jovias Tan, 31, have also explored other opportunities to enhance their business with technology.

One of these initiatives was the use of a point-of-sales system that allows them to better network and engage with their customers as they earn cashbacks from their purchases. Jonathan shared that while they weren’t sure how the system would work at the start, it was an interesting proposition that has been very popular with customers since it was implemented at the start of the year.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

Not one to rest on their laurels, they are currently developing a new integrated digital platform to make their business more accessible for customers. Concurrently, they are also developing new durian product lines, such as fresh durian ice cream and confectionary.

“Technology has allowed us to be more transparent in our business. By publishing our prices online, customers can also make more informed decisions. We can also interact with them quicker and update them on things like opening hours and availability of durian varieties. Most importantly, we can have a personal touch with our customers and communicate with them through the messaging functions to address any queries or resolve issues they may have,” said Jonathan.

“These touchpoints allow customers to make reservations and delivery orders too. This allows us to better plan our stock orders instead of taking chances. We have better quality control and stock control because durians may not keep very well,” added Jovias.

Admittedly, social media is not without its downsides. “There may be customers who may be nasty and leave bad reviews. One bad review could bring down our brand ratings on social media. This is why we still have to maintain our value of being honest with our customers. We try to minimise such problems by bringing in the best stock.

“Ultimately, everything plays a part. There is no point having a good social game without a quality product to match. It can backfire on you,” shared Jonathan.

Photo Credit: The Durian Story