Retailers are now expected to provide a seamless shopping experience to their consumers in one unified platform
by NURUL SUHAIDI / pic TMR
THE retail industry has experienced significant changes over recent years, particularly with the exploding online shopping phenomena.
With the rise of e-commerce platforms and the growing preference of online shopping among consumers, retailers have had to adapt to meet the latter’s changing needs, habits and expectations.
One of the most notable changes has been the shift towards a more personalised and seamless online experience.
Consumers now expect retailers to provide them with a seamless experience that is tailored to their individual needs and preferences in one unified platform.
These include buying online and picking up offline, buying online and returning offline, try offline and buy online, online payments for offline purchases, from the start of the purchase until the product arrives to the end consumers.
This shift of trend in the retail space also calls for retailers to leverage technologies and optimisation, such as omnichannel for their online commerce store to enhance their digitalisation aspects, operational efficiency, inventory turnover and customer experiences.
According to Anchanto founder and CEO Vaibhav Dabhade, the Malaysian e-commerce market is now mature enough for more businesses to experiment with omnichannel retail, which is still in its developing stage.
Anchanto is a technology company specialising in solutions to simplify e-commerce operations.
Potential in Malaysia
“Omnichannel is not a new concept in Malaysia or even in other countries. Just like in the Asia Pacific region, omnichannel is growing in Malaysia because consumer demand for better shopping experiences and conveniences is increasing,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
However, the fragmentation of online and offline retail and limited connectivity within business ecosystems are still challenges causing omnichannel e-commerce’s slow growth.
The Covid-19 crisis have also led to brick-and-mortar as well as small and medium businesses closing temporarily or permanently, bringing the realisation that Internet platforms are now more important than ever before.
“Despite that, the pandemic also accelerated the implementation and experimentation with omnichannel retail because people still wanted to see, touch and feel the products. The convenience offered through this strategy is essential and is expected even post-pandemic,” he said.
Therefore, Dabhade added that to accelerate omnichannel, educating businesses about the availability of supportive technology is a must.
“In addition to that, finding the right blend of omnichannel to enrich buyer experience and boost revenue, a sound support system founded on reliable technology is essential,” he said.
According to a PwC report, businesses that take on an omnichannel strategy will notice that their customers have a 30% higher lifetime value and a 90% higher retention rate.
However, this will only be achieved with a seamless and robust system in place to support backend operations, for example, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology that can simplify operations by providing complete visibility over online and offline business activities in real-time fashion.
“SaaS solutions with real-time integrations further help connect the online and offline shopping journey of customers and allow them flexibility and ease when interacting with brands,” Dabhade told TMR.
Nonetheless, the changing trends in the online retail experience have created both opportunities and challenges for retailers.
In Malaysia, as more businesses enter the e-commerce space, there are some challenges that hinder an easy transition.
“Malaysia has a growing young population with buying potential, but broken e-commerce infrastructure in a fragmented market,” he said.
This is especially a challenge because to thrive in the digital space, businesses must work with other businesses.
“No business can function in isolation while doing e-commerce. To work coherently, using technology platforms with ready integrations are a must for smooth functioning,” he added.
With the recent re-tabled Budget 2023, Malaysia is dedicated to increasing its digital economy, which is expected to contribute 25.5% of the nation’s GDP by 2025 under the Malaysia Digital framework.
Businesses can utilise incentives such as the SME Business Digitalisation Grant 2023 which is funding RM5,000 for businesses that are looking to apply business digitalisation and automation technology.
“In my opinion, this is a great move that encourages businesses to the right path of digital transformation as all commerce is now becoming e-commerce,” Dabhade said.
Digitising retail will enable companies to manage and track their efforts, resources and performance accurately, therefore, businesses may embrace an omnichannel strategy to ensure profitable operations.
Advantages Of Omnichannel
While implementing an omnichannel approach may seem daunting at first, there are many tools and resources available to help small businesses get started.
Irrespective of the business offerings, omnichannel retail works well for a variety of businesses across the beauty, fashion, fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceutical and electronics industries.
It widens up the sales factor and new revenue streams through new customer segments as compared to only using a single sales channel which will impose several limitations.
“For example, by only using a single sales channel, businesses lose the opportunity to enhance customer experience, which is a vital factor driving sales today.
They also miss the opportunity to derive more revenue with a single channel (or source of sales),” Dabhade said, adding that every business comes with a different and unique set of challenges, hence, most of the solutions required personalisation, determining gaps in the industry as well as the automation area needed.
“When we develop our solutions, we go through businesses’ daily operations with them in person to grasp what they do and determine where they can improve their efforts with the help of automation and innovation.
“Accordingly, we suggest to them the kind of SaaS solutions they can rely on,” Dabhade said.
He emphasised that for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to excel at omnichannel, they need to focus on providing the most efficient and adaptive customer experience possible, and employ comprehensive solutions that have the right mix of technology.
“With the right technology mix, they will be able to quickly connect to desired marketplaces, web stores, carrier partners and enterprise resources planning for accounting and other administrative operations,” he said.
Another important aspect is to optimise business digital shelf health. Digital shelf encompasses the whole online shopping experience, so enhancing it should be a top priority.
With technology-driven solutions like these, SMEs can keep tabs on their operations, improve back-end efficiency, eliminate human error, save costs and deliver exceptional customer experience from start to finish.
“Understanding what their customers need and delivering this through convenient shopping options is vital,” he added.
Dabhade highlighted that technology solutions that trace customer journeys can also provide valuable information for a better understanding of buyer behaviour because with this information, businesses can improve inventory planning, picking, packing and shipping activities.
Over the years, Dabhade mentioned that Anchanto has helped many businesses with their needs through its SaaS solutions including Poney Group, a leading children’s wear brand in the Malaysian market, as well as multinational electronics conglomerate Panasonic Holdings Corp.
With e-commerce soon to be on the frontier, companies should indeed prepare in the meantime to adopt it.
Omnichannel strategy has already been growing rapidly and will probably certainly remain to do so into 2023 and beyond.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition