Driving digital transformation with HR empowerment

A Chinese medicine hall’s digital transformation journey showcases the importance of skills upgrading in revitalising traditional businesses.
By: | July 12, 2023

In an era where digital transformation is reshaping industries across the globe, even traditional businesses are realising the importance of embracing digital marketing strategies to stay competitive and relevant. Heng Foh Tong Medical Hall (HFT), a 66-year-old traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) establishment in Singapore, has successfully defined industry perceptions and rejuvenated its operations through a combination of HR empowerment and digital marketing expertise.

Prior to its digital transformation journey, HFT relied mainly on word-of-mouth marketing as a traditional mom-and-pop establishment. However, the Chinese medicine hall recognised the need to modernise and extend its reach to a broader audience. Lee Chin Siong, Vice-President of HFT, seized the opportunity to participate in the Digital Practitioner Programme (DPP) initiative by Google and Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG), the government agency championing enterprise development. The initiative is aimed to empower small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with digital marketing tools and training.

Through DPP, Lee underwent a two-month training programme and a three-to-six-month practicum, working closely with dedicated Google Specialists. The programme equipped Lee with essential skills in digital marketing, such as social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and more.

He told HRM Asia, “What really intrigued us during the programme was the use of search terms. Together with Google experts, we were able to bridge the gaps by discussing and testing what worked in the market. We also tapped on this opportunity to measure the effectiveness of various tools like Display and Shopping with our advertisements, which were closely guided by the experts at Google for optimal results.”

Armed with newfound digital marketing expertise, HFT transformed its marketing strategies to position itself as a modern and relevant business in the TCM industry. By updating their website, enabling online transactions, and using English as the main language, HFT successfully attracted customers from diverse backgrounds and races.

Lee continued, “As a result of the training and better knowledge from DPP, we implemented digital marketing campaigns which were highly effective and led to more than 165% increase in website visits, and a more than two-fold (~124%) sales growth. Through the programme we also learnt to position ourselves as a modern business and manage a younger crowd through campaigns, with sales of our new generation herbal tea, HFTea, bottles going up by a significant 290%.”

Beyond digital marketing, Lee emphasised the significance of HR in HFT’s transformation journey, and concluded, “In hopes of changing the perception that the public has of TCM, we’ve been actively working with hundreds of students from local institutions like Singapore Management University, Nanyang Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic on various TCM related projects in the last four years. Through these projects, we hope to inspire these students to share their understanding of TCM to their relatives and friends as well.” 

READ MORE: Mismatch in sustainable and digitalisation strategies in Singapore

To support more SMEs in their digital transformation, Google, alongside EnterpriseSG and SGTech, launched the Google Career Certificates (GCC) scholarship programme. In the initial phase, 15,000 GCC scholarships will be awarded to 300 local organisations. These scholarships offer SMEs the opportunity to enhance their skills in various fields, including digital marketing, e-commerce, data analytics, and IT support, through flexible online training programmes.