Food For Thought: Kent Teo Explains Why Shilin Night Market Is Making A Return This June…But In Digital Form
Shilin Singapore returns this June with a twist – it’s going digital. With the intent to recreate the mood and atmosphere of the famed online world. Over two weekends (12th -14th and 19th -21st June), festival-goers can explore Digital Shilin Singapore’s four online zones — Eat, Shop, Play and Fun — that will be home to captivating performances, engaging virtual hangouts, and live streams of products and delicious food that can be purchased and delivered straight to consumers’ homes.
Considering how Shilin in Taiwan has always been seen and known to be a physical market, the decision might strike some as odd. But in these extraordinary circumstances, that decision was all but necessary for organisers Invade, as they sought to bring back the festival for a second edition, following last year’s physical version at the Singapore Turf Club.
“Even with COVID-19 happening, we felt that we couldn’t just sit at home and not do anything,” says Kent Teo, founder and CEO of Invade. “There are so many ideas we came up with on alternative ways to make Shilin happen, and we wanted to make sure we executed it well despite not having a physical space, and use our platform as a way to support local businesses.”
Having been at the forefront of Invade for over 10 years now, Kent has had plenty of experience working across a range of events, including being responsible for pop-ups and flea markets such as Artbox Singapore and MOX. But despite having so much experience, the digital realm remains unexplored, and poses as an opportunity to experiment and push the idea of a market to new limits. “With COVID-19, there were a lot of changes, and the turnaround time was very short,” Kent explains. “DPM Heng says to try new things during this time in an effort to transform. It’s a level playing field, and I’m wondering what are the different ways to develop the business whether it’s with the variety of retailers, or to try out new models. Most of all, it was important to just kick start the whole process.”
With COVID-19 proving to be a major setback for local retailers and F&B businesses, Shilin saw healthy sign-up rates due to originality of a digital festival format, the flexibility we can give to our stakeholders and the avenue they provided to generate revenue. Featuring close to 100 local and regional digital pop-up stores, Digital Shilin Singapore spotlights local businesses and artisans who embody creative Asian flair and flavour across the F&B, retail and entertainment industries. From cult favourites and under-the-radar artisans to established local names and personalities, there will be plenty to experience at Singapore’s largest online festival. Expect an immersive experience including easy-to-follow cooking segments, as well as delivery of signature dishes like lu rou fan (Taiwanese braised pork rice) and crowd participation in variety shows hosted by established content creators.
Under ‘Eat’, a plethora of traditional and creative Asian flavours awaits, with the best of Taiwanese flavours, local favourites and trending fusion dishes that are cooked-to-order for delivery. Many vendors are also offering Shilin Singapore-exclusive menu items, as well as their signature dishes on dedicated live streams, which include cooking shows. Customers can tuck into bowls of luxurious truffle lu rou fan from D’bun, or snack on Taiwanese pastries from Chia Te Bakery and Yu Jan Shin, paired with refreshing teas by Playmade. Other highlights include East-meets-West casual dining outfit The Masses’ decadent Iberico Pork Lu Rou Fan and Truffle Roast Pork Buns, as well as famed Korean-American-inspired joint Egg Stop’s spicy Mala Chicken Sandwich.
Shopping makes night markets go around, and with Shilin Singapore, they’ll also be giving you the opportunity to do online shopping alongside real-time auction-style live streams to buy souvenirs from well-known brands and handcrafted artisanal wares. Organised in close partnership with Shopee, Digital Shilin Singapore seeks to bring festival-goers a curated selection of homegrown brands. Customers will be directed to Shopee’s e-commerce platform or mobile application to place all local retail orders. To help those in need, homegrown artisanal perfume label, Scent by Six will be selling special Care Packs that include a hand sanitiser, effervescent Vitamin C, and face masks. 10 percent of proceeds from these packs will be donated to The Courage Fund, a relief scheme that helps individuals and families who struggle with caregiving duties and obtaining essential items during the pandemic.
There’ll even be fun and games you can experience at Digital Shilin Singapore, when you play various digital games and stand a chance to win prizes, and even play around with special filters created for Digital Shilin Singapore. Guests can try their hand at GOMO’s “Stack-A-Mo” game, where the aim is to stack as many boxes in line as possible, and vie for a place in the Top Three to win exclusive prizes and vouchers. Plus, stay entertained with musical performances, comedy acts and more, with a main stage hosted by Lee Teng and performances by local bands and singers. Some of these performers include Cha Ban Sheng (插班生), Nat Wu, Yokez, Marcus Lee and Jay – CIRCO. Taiwanese singer Caryson 黃譽韶, will also be doing a special set, while festival attendees can also tune in to shows like “The Dumb and Dumber” by SGAG, or “Fill Your Guts”, as special guests taste test exotic bubble tea combinations inspired by user-nominated GOMO Characters.
“Besides bringing the ‘live’ experience to guests via food delivery apps, we’re considering how we can use the digital space to further help our tenants, even after the market itself,” adds Kent. “We could continue to allow them to process orders via our platform for example, and it’s so much more convenient since you can order and checkout in one go. Even in future, we’re hoping to leverage on the digital state of the market, and continue to empower the stalls. It’s important to support people like the home bakers to find a way of earning alternative income during these months, and we intend to maintain these relationships, and continue working with them in future.”
All local F&B orders will be fulfilled by Pickupp, the Official Delivery Partner of Digital Shilin Singapore, which launched their ecommerce platform, Shop On Pickupp, earlier this year. “This is the first time that a traditionally brick-and-mortar big-scale event has been moved entirely online. As a technology-driven company, we want to be the pioneers in supporting such events as we can expect a potential boost in the digitisation of events in the near future. This digital festival format is a highly creative and refreshing concept during this period of social restrictions, which also fits with Pickupp’s objective of always finding innovative ways to add value for our users.”, says Lee Chee Meng, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Pickupp.
Shop On Pickupp was built by leveraging on Pickupp’s expertise in delivery, with the aim to offer users not just a seamless shopping experience, but also the ability to have greater flexibility over the last-mile delivery of their purchases. Pickupp’s affordable services could potentially also be a sustainable option for many local retailers who do not have the necessary e-commerce and delivery infrastructure to adapt online. By offering affordable islandwide deliveries, free listing fees, and a seamless set up process, businesses can utilise the platform to earn revenue at minimal cost, and can apply here.
To make all this possible, Invade did their best to innovate, using tech that was already readily available on the market rather than developing their own, to bring their ideas to life, with the hopes of seeing about 600,000 visitors taking part. “Invade is an events company, not a tech one. Our site is powered by Squarespace, while our livestreams will be on Twitch and YouTube, and we’re supported by Shopee for retail, as well as supported by the Taiwan tourism bureau,” says Kent. “Most importantly, I wanted to capitalise on my team’s strengths in planning a full suite of content for our programming, showcasing local talent through our entertainment sections, as well as local brands and tenants.”
“Shilin has a lot of clout in Taiwan, and started off as a ground-up initiative. We want to bring that same energy and culture here, and show the locals that there’s nothing stopping us from achieving the same in Singapore,” says Kent. “That being said, we can’t wait to come back to physical festivals again, and in future editions, apply the knowledge learnt during this period, and create an even more robust version of the Shilin we know and love. This isn’t a disruption, but the start of something new.”
The first 3000 users to order via the Pickupp app when the festival goes live on 12th June can enjoy $3 off their first purchase using promo code SLYS3OFFPICKUPP