Retailers head to digital transformation to increase efficiency in COVID-19

December 22, 2021 | 13:53
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With shopping behaviour trending to online during COVID-19, retail decision-makers are heading to technology-driven transformation to improve customer experience and performance.
Retailers head to digital transformation to increase efficiency in COVID-19
Technology is being applied more and more in retail

Christanto Suryadarma, Southeast Asia sales vice president, Zebra Technologies APAC, said at the briefing with the Vietnamese press on December 20 said that the transformation is happening right now across multiple industries, including retail and healthcare. “Vietnam has a tremendous growth potential for retail, whether it is offline, brick-and-mortar, jewellery, or online.”

“We are actually seeing an acceleration in terms of how businesses are transforming. Across Southeast Asia, many businesses realise how powerful technology can be to transform business, whether they want to improve efficiency, increase output, improve customer satisfaction, or make themselves more accessible to customers and partners,” he added. “The ongoing pandemic has resulted in an exponential rise in demand for click-and-collect and home delivery options, especially as retailers begin to add new fulfilment options and incentivise mobile commerce transactions,” he explained. “To adapt to these changes in consumer behaviours, many retailers have adjusted their processes and reviewed their perspectives on the importance of technology.”

According to Zebra Technologies Corporation’s the recently-released findings of its 14th Annual Global Shopper Study, consumers are returning to stores but not to pre-pandemic shopping behaviours. Though two-thirds of shoppers plan to return to brick-and-mortar locations in the coming months, most (73 per cent) want to get in and out of stores quickly. 65 per cent are still worried about exposure to others, and not as many trust retailers to adhere to health and safety mandates or protocols in stores as they did in 2020. Some shoppers do not even want to go in a store to make a purchase.

Moreover, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) would prefer to have items delivered to them rather than pick up orders at the store or other location. Meanwhile, over three-quarters (77 per cent) say they have placed a mobile order, with over half of Boomers taking advantage of mobile commerce (m-commerce) options. As many as 35 per cent of Boomers also say they have used mobile apps for grocery or food delivery specifically.

Interestingly, shoppers are also researching product pricing (50 per cent) online before they leave home. Nearly one-third are checking store inventory before they leave home, while only 19 per cent were doing so in 2019.

George Pepes, APAC Vertical Solutions lead, Healthcare and Retail, Zebra Technologies, an explosion of e-commerce is not only in the Southeast Asian region, but also Vietnam and across the world. The main reason for that is the pandemic as consumers now spend more time online. “Shoppers do not really differentiate anymore between an online store and an offline store. They just differentiate brands.”

George Pepes added that new omnichannel shopping behaviours are taking hold in brick-and-mortar stores. “We are starting to see a lot more people move online and retailers are transforming in turn to offer omnichannel.”

As shown in the findings, about one-third of consumers say they use their mobile devices to lookup competitive prices or browse online websites for products during shopping trips. More than 70 per cent confirm they have recently left stores without all the items they wanted, with nearly half citing "out-of-stock" as the reason for not making an in-store purchase.

Consequently, 58 per cent of shoppers say it is faster to look up information on their smartphones than ask associates for help, and the majority of associates (64 per cent) agree, leaving retailers unaware of when in-store customers are contemplating m-commerce purchases, possibly with competitors. More than 25 per cent of surveyed shoppers have placed click-and-collect m-commerce orders while out shopping, with some even completing mobile orders for home delivery.

84 per cent of retail decision-makers know this “do-it-yourself” (DIY) trend is taking hold, and many are taking a closer look at how technology can be utilised to meet customers’ expectations and save sales. That is good news considering a majority of shoppers do not want to spend their money with another retailer.

In this trend, retailers are making online order processing and fulfilment more efficient. According to the findings, with retail channels blending more than ever, over three-quarters of decision-makers say increasing the efficiency of online order processing and fulfilment is a priority. Nearly nine in 10 decision-makers confirm their company is now looking at ways to improve in-store pick and pack as well as warehouse fulfilment. Over one-third of decision-makers are now converting store space into designated pickup and return locations, which could help divert traffic away from a central customer service desk.

Now shoppers tend to integrate online and offline. They want to place orders on smartphones and pick up the orders at the store – and technologies and solutions play a very big role in automating that.

“The convenience of mobile pickup orders is such that customers can easily abandon their carts while shopping in-store in favour of fulfilling their orders elsewhere,” said George Pepes. “This underlines the need for in-store associates to be equipped with mobile devices and applications that enable them to help shoppers complete their in-store purchases using alternative fulfilment options.”

“We believe that technology is a key enabler for a better understanding of not only the shopper but also the customer experience and how to build a great customer experience to keep people coming back time and time again. Now, 73 per cent of shoppers expect retailers to use the latest technology,” said Pepes.

Industry insiders said that Vietnam’s e-commerce has tremendous growth potential. Two years ago, e-commerce only accounted for about 6 per cent of the country’s retail sales revenues, but now it has increased to double-digits with significant growth.

Suryadarma told VIR, “Technology plays a key role in satisfying shoppers and the inventory in the supply chain is critical to making sure good customer experience. Technology also helps many of the transportation logistics or manufacturers and retailers manage their supply chain. Zebra technologies and solutions play a very big role in automating that.”

Tracy Yeo, country lead for Vietnam, Zebra Technologies Asia-Pacific, predicted that e-commerce would pick up very quickly in the next couple of years. In Vietnam there is a potential growth of at least 18 per cent in e-commerce – and of course, with digitisation and the rising adoption of e-commerce will drive the growth of this.

By Bich Thuy

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