*NEW* Experience Driven Retail – Maximising In-Store Experiences
As the retail sector becomes increasingly reliant on eCommerce, providing the best possible experience for consumers - both online and in-store - will be a key differentiator between successful brands, and the competitors they leave behind.
The value of retail sales in Asia-Pacific is expected to reach US$11.8 trillion by 2021. As the year progresses, eCommerce is expected to double in value to US$3 trillion, making up 25.4% of total retail sales. So the Asia Pacific region is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets.
With eCommerce currently accounting for only 14.7% of total retail sales, this represents a terrific opportunity for businesses to become more involved, and accelerate a new phase of growth. But in order to do so, retailers will need to keep a close eye on prevailing and emerging trends in the market, and adapt their approaches to suit the actual behaviour of the buying public.
The Need To Deliver Better In Store Experiences And Engaging Offline Experiences
In Asia Pacific, growth in the retail sector has been largely influenced by factors such as rising income levels, and the relatively recent social experience of going to the mall as a way of spending time with family and friends in an environment where buying isn’t necessarily the main priority.
Outside China, online retail constitutes only a small percentage of sales in the region - less than 3% in Southeast Asia. With the bulk of their consumers buying offline, businesses are having to deliver ever more engaging in-store and “real world” experiences for customers, to capture a new generation of buyers.
Omni-channel is now a necessary reality for retail - and the onus is on businesses to get it right. Consumers expect retailers to present a consistent brand personality across all platforms - and inhabit the same connected and unconnected spaces that they do. They expect you to listen to them, provide memorable, seamless, and stress-free experiences, while being responsive at all times, and across all touch points.
Maintain A Consistent Experience Across Channels
In all their dealings with your brand, customers see a single journey and expect consistency in every interaction - no matter how many channels they use. For the consumer, every touch point is a conversation with the same brand - yours - no matter the physical or virtual venue, or the screen size.
What’s more, today’s consumers expect their shopping experiences to be stress-free. Transactions must be quick and painless, and your content must display perfectly across all devices. As a retailer, your systems must be able to remember who said what to whom, so that conversations may continue seamlessly.
To be successful in this environment, you have to meet customers at every touch point. What’s more, since every interaction matters, every department in your organisation will likely be involved in the customer journey, at some point. So building a good customer experience requires teamwork, collaboration, linking technology, and data.
Adapt To Trends In Customer Behaviour
To chart and sustain an enriching customer journey, it’s critical to create interactive, immersive, and personal experiences which are consistent with your brand message and consistent across the full range of channels from desktop, to mobile phone, to in-store.
As customers become used to having digital tools as part of their shopping arsenal, the lines between physical and online retail are blurring. Retailers are having to integrate technology into bricks-and-mortar stores to better impose their brand personality on the products that shoppers see, and the services they receive.
This imperative is shaping the way that retailers invest, and obliging them to adapt their retail strategies to keep in tune with trends in both the market and customer behaviour.
According to a new report by Tofugear, eCommerce platforms are the biggest investment priority for retailers over the coming year, with half (53%) intending to invest in this area. Point of Sale (PoS) systems and Artificial Intelligence were the next two major investment priorities, as retailers look toward the technologies necessary for personalisation, chatbots, image and video analytics, and machine learning as vehicles to enhance the customer experience.
In terms of customer-facing innovations, consumers in Asia can expect more retailers to adopt scan-and-go solutions. 50% of respondents to the Tofugear survey indicate that they are considering investment in this technology. Same day delivery (38%) and shoppable content devlivered via in-store screens (33%) are also high on the agenda for retail investment.
Philip Wiggenraad, head of Research at Tofugear notes that, “The good news for shoppers in Asia is that retailers are focusing on innovations that enhance the customer experience and offer increased convenience. While technologies such as drone deliveries and in-store robots might generate bigger headlines, their impact on the overall experience is currently still limited.”
Be Receptive To New Retail Models And Delivery Methods
In their bid to achieve omni-channel retail, organisations are increasingly looking toward digital initiatives, and turning to partnerships with technology companies. Nearly four in five retailers are using such partnerships - mainly to gain access to new technologies (60%), or to respond more quickly to market challenges (44%).
China currently tops Asia in the Online-to-Offline (O2O) space. Its two biggest tech giants – Tencent, makers of the messaging app WeChat, and Alibaba, China’s biggest eCommerce player - are leading the drive of online customer traffic into offline locations.
Elsewhere in Asia, non-retail players like Go-Jek are transforming the retail landscape by serving as O2O platforms. These services offer greater convenience to shoppers by enabling offline stores to go online at minimal cost. Offline retailers can offer their products online without having to commit resources to developing the logistical infrastructure that enables product deliveries.
Asia-Pacific has also been serving as the testing ground for several new retail models and delivery methods, exploring the possible future of the retail experience. Again, China has been leading the way, with tests of over ten different concepts in real-world scenarios, ranging from small-scale fridges to actual stores.
Push Mobile Up The List Of Priorities
Always on and typically always at hand, mobile devices continue to play a central role in the lives of consumers. Even if mobile isn’t the primary channel for engagement, it often serves as a secondary screen or cross-channel resource for the buyer - even in-store.
Worldwide, more than half of consumers use their mobile phones to compare prices or look up product information while shopping in a store, according to the Econsultancy eCommerce Statistics Compendium.
Treating mobile as a behaviour rather than a separate channel or technology, retailers can harness the power of mobile to enhance the in-store experience, using various technologies for intelligent contextual marketing.
For example, the German footwear brand Gabor has plans to create a Progressive Web App (PWA) called Gabor Sales Generator, which will allow customers in-store to access the entire Gabor collection on a smartphone - effectively creating an “endless aisle.”
Use The In-Store Experience To Drive Growth And Profit
In a move toward “social commerce”, shopping in Asia is now a big offline social activity, where families and friends go out to the mall to spend time together, in an atmosphere where buying products is secondary. This behaviour has had a bleed over effect into the online experience, where consumers seek the advice of their friends or dedicated forums to understand what to buy, and where they can buy it online.
Startups like Pinduoduo are emerging, to tap into this trend. The online service aims to recreate the in-store shopping experience by allowing its users to share ideas about what they like, and to get feedback from people they trust.
(Image source: Innovation Is Everywhere)
Pinduoduo acts as a group buying website and app in China, offering users discounts on a wide variety of products - especially if they buy more than one item. Its social aspect is integral to this, in a business model whereby users can ask friends or strangers to join in on their purchases via Chinese social platforms like WeChat, so that everyone can benefit from the lower prices. As a mechanism to further encourage sharing on social media, Pinduoduo also offers cash back incentives and free products to its most loyal customers.
By translating the in-store experience to the digital medium, Pinduoduo has grown to over 114 million users, making it the third-largest eCommerce player in China today.