The Omni-channel Transformation of Retail Businesses at ETP #Futuretail, Malaysia

ETP Group, Asia’s leading Omni-channel Retail Software company hosted senior representatives from Malaysia’s leading retail organizations to discuss future challenges and opportunities in an ever-changing retail landscape. The key discussion, “The Omni-channel Transformation of Retail Businesses in Malaysia”, was led by team ETP, including Mr. Naresh Ahuja, Chairman and CEO, Mr. Raj Jagasia, Executive Director, Mr. Pranay Pujara, Consulting Manager – Projects and Mr. Danny Foong, Business Development Manager.

The discussion was part of the ETP #Futuretail 2019 event held at the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel, recently. Mr. Danny Foong welcomed the ETP #Futuretail guests and Mr. Raj Jagasia shared an overview of ETP’s growing presence in Asia. Mr. Naresh Ahuja then shared insights on the growth of the Malaysian retail industry in the context of Asia Pacific and the transition of traditional retail to modern retail, e-commerce and omni-channel retail.

Mr. Raj Jagasia, Executive Director ETP

Mr. Raj Jagasia, Executive Director, ETP Group initiated the discussions with an introduction to ETP.

Mr. Naresh Ahuja, ETP Group,

Mr. Naresh Ahuja, Chairman & CEO, ETP Group then shared insights on the performance of retail, e-commerce and omni-channel in Southeast Asia.

Pranay Pujara, ETP Group

Mr. Pranay Pujara, Consulting Manager – Products, ETP Group presented a live demonstration of ETP’s Omni-channel Retail Solutions to establish how ETP can help retailers in Malaysia to overcome the challenges in omni-channel retailing.

Following the live demonstration a panel discussion was held with eminent industry experts. The panel shared their thoughts and opinions about the changes in the buying behavior of Malaysian consumers over the last 3 years, the value of the brand in the mind of the modern day consumers and whether the internet has commoditized brands. The panel exchanged their views on the future of malls and stores in the 3 to 5 years. They also discussed about the digital transformation of retail taking place in Asia in the next 2 to 3 years and whether it will leapfrog the US like the Asian mobile technology did. They highlighted the 3 priorities that retailers should focus on to handle the change in consumer behavior.

ETP will continue to drive the omni-channel transformation of retail businesses across Asia-Pacific, India and the Middle-East.

3 Important Differentiators for Retail Brands to Stay Ahead of the Competition

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The retail markets across the globe are becoming increasingly competitive for 2 major reasons. On the one hand technology has disrupted the industry in multiple ways and on the other hand customers shopping behaviors have changed dramatically. Additionally, both these factors are influencing each other to further pose more challenges and create opportunities for retail businesses. In this intensely competitive scenario, retail brands need to differentiate themselves so that they emerge winners.

Below are 3 important factors that can help retail brands differentiate themselves:

Supply chain – Simply put, getting the customer what they want and where they want it is a serious concerns for most retailers as the complexity of processes and operations increase with the different channels and random ways the customer goes about shopping and ordering products. New omni-channel fulfillment options such as click and collect or BOPIS, endless aisles, reserve online and pick-up in-store, and a few other combinations have emerged over the last couple of years. Moreover, same day delivery, drone delivery, collection from preferred location, anywhere returns, and so on, have also come to the fore lately. Offering these fulfillment options requires retailers to have a solid supply chain system that can reduce the chances of stock-outs, damages and other potential risks. Thus it is important for retailers to focus on the supply chain and use technology to optimize it so that there is a smooth flow of the product from manufacturing to the consumer.

Customer relationship – As stated earlier, technology has influenced the shopper. Customers today are more informed and demanding than about a decade ago. In addition to that, they are spoilt for choice thanks to the variety in products, different channels of shopping, payment methods and accessibility to information. The customers are on the driving seats and retail brands need to be ready to fulfill the demands of the customer on their terms. This will be possible only if companies keep their customers at the focal point in the business. They will have to build deep and long lasting relationships with the customer and take appropriate efforts to understand and know their customers’ preferences. Using technology to capture and analyze customer related data and with proper customer segmentation and profiling, retailers will be able to design and create tailored offerings to the customers in terms of products and related services.

Marketing and branding – It is a no brainer that if retailers are not able to get their marketing right, they won’t be able to click. Retail companies are pumping in huge investments and efforts into their marketing and branding strategies and execution. But with so much noise around it is difficult to get noticed. In order to stand out, retail brands must adopt for a unity in diversity approach. Firstly have uniform branding and messaging, secondly identify platforms where their customers are most likely to be and thirdly promoting the brand message across these platforms will help retailers reach the desired audience with higher chance of conversions. Taking this to the next level by designing and creating offers and promotions that are hyper personalized, localized and unique will have customers wanting for more. As customer attention spans are small, retailers need to get their act together and render the maximum impact in a short time.

How Click-and-collect can help boost your retail business (video)

Omni-channel retailing enables retail brands to expand their presence as it removes the dependence on a single channel and allows the use of multiple channels to interact with their customers as well as sell products. ‘Click-and-collect’ or ‘Buy online pick up in store (BOPIS)’ is a powerful omni-channel fulfillment option that is gaining popularity, globally. The below video illuminates some of its important benefits.

ETP Omni-channel Retail Software Solutions provide you with features such as ‘Click and collect’ enabling you to deliver a unified brand-customer relationship across all channels.

What makes luxury retail a challenging business?

Etp-blog-What-makes-luxury-retail-a-challenging-business

Luxury products have always been one of the most admired and sought after products. So much so, that consumers of such products take pride in their possessions and are often considered to be of a higher class. They and their products are the ‘talk of the town’ most of the times in social gatherings and people like to be associated with such class conscious, brand loving and luxury seeking consumers. Luxury products therefore had few options and demanded a high cost of purchase deliberately tailored to a select set of consumers.

But now times have changed thanks to rapidly changing consumer mindsets and the very idea of “luxury” is evolving. The old-fashioned ideas that defined luxury as aspiration, high status, exclusive, wealthy, don’t really paint the exact picture of what customers perceive about luxury products. One of the drastic changes over the recent years is that the new age luxury isn’t for showoff.  Similarly other values that luxury brands exclusively attributed to, such as better quality and style, precise workmanship and great designs, are not exclusive any more to luxury.

Consumers’ tastes are evolving. There is an indisputable appeal for new products and services along with more choice of options yet having the flavor of uniqueness and exclusivity. This has given rise a various breeds of brands such as specialised ones and those that are highly customised to customer demands, thus increasing competition.

Further, along with changing tastes, customer shopping patterns and buying behaviour have undergone a tremendous transformation. Traditionally, luxury shoppers heavily relied on physical retail to fulfil their desire for luxury goods. But now, multiple channels have come into the game and customers willingly switch between channels to get what they want. Seamless demand fulfilment across channels necessitates the reduction of various issues such as decrease in quality or other losses that are caused during the course of the supply chain. While older shoppers are still playing a significant role in the luxury market spends, millennial’s and Gen Zs are predicted to account for the larger growth in the coming years. Moreover, their new spending habits which are faster, more frequent, brand-conscious and trend-driven while being highly influenced by digital platforms.

All these are the modern day challenges that luxury retail businesses, especially the ones still depending heavily on the heritage and traditional processes are facing and there is one way out. They need to transform their retail businesses to omni-channel and employ the right omni-channel retail software to exceed their customer expectations and fulfil their business goals.

Finally! A Retail revival, but for whom?

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Two years ago I wrote about the struggles of the retail industry in my article “Retail is dead! Long live Retail”, it’s nice to see some of the predictions in this article come true! Time to reflect and see what’s next.

The US retail market, the bellwether of the industry, has finally started growing again. Retail sales are surging, up 6.4% YOY from last year this July. Store closures are down 22%.

The growth is being led by Retailers who are getting the consumer back, bringing e-commerce like service to their customers, with click and collect and curb-side pickups, concierge services, frictionless returns, store to home deliveries, and many other services. While physical retail is back, e-commerce continues to grow, interestingly a major part of this digital growth is being driven by retail giants like Walmart.

At the same time, we are seeing a number of brands and retailers heading down the slippery slope. Some of them household names. The market is clearly being divided into those who will make it and those who will not. These retailers have closed unprofitable stores, cut costs, reduced manpower, rejigged their pricing and merchandise, yet they are not able to make it out of the downward spiral. So what is the reason? Since we work with retailers across 22 countries and see some of our customers and friends in both categories, we can clearly see the difference in their approach. Some retailers see technology investments and related service costs as a necessary evil, they do not see them as strategic tools to help them win this wave of transformation both in the industry and the minds of consumers. These are the retailers who are endangered, though they can still turn around if they change their mindsets.

On the other had there are a number of retailers who are quietly embarking on large internal projects to change the way they work with consumers and the service levels they provide, transforming their technology and online presence, bringing Omni-channel and self-service initiatives to the table and using smart ways to price right and brand right and promote the right products to the right consumers. They have brought in change in their existing teams and brought on board a number of new retail experts, worked closely and deeply with technology and supply chain partners, malls and banks to bring about the transformation that’s required. They are making great progress and have a shot at winning the retail race.

The race is still open, and like in any race, there will be winners and losers. May the best retailers win!

This article has been written by:

mr-naresh-ahujaNaresh Ahuja, Chairman and CEO, ETP Group

Naresh as the Founder, Chairman and CEO of the ETP Group leads the company with a clear focus on bringing enduring value to customers through best practices mirrored in software applications. Spanning 30 years of focus on retail domain expertise and IT development, ETP today, has a strong customer base of market leaders in more than 22 countries across Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East, and is Asia’s leading Omni-channel Retail Software company.

 

How does ‘Endless Aisle’ enhance the retail customer experience!

Endless aisle is allowing customers to make use of technologies such as specially designed in-store kiosks or other intuitive systems to order items that are currently out-of-stock in that particular brick-and-mortar store. It is a concept that extends beyond the inventory that in tangible form is available in the store at a given point in time. Thus, endless aisle allows retailers to forge a strong link between customer demand and inventory. Retail companies that have been quick to embrace cross-channel strategies have already begun adopting the endless aisle technology to boost their sales further.

ETP Omni-channel Retail Solutions provide you with features such as Endless Aisle enabling you to deliver a unified brand-customer relationship across all channels.

How to manage omni-channel orders effectively

Retail businesses across the globe are going all guns to enable themselves to constantly meet and exceed the hyper dynamic customer expectations while they are also dealing with the challenges and competition of the industry. Ultimately, it all boils to fulfilling the customers’ demands for products, services and experiences, as per their convenience, in a seamless manner. In simple words, giving the customer their desired products at the best perceived price, at the time and place they want it, without any glitches or hitches. This is the very essence of omni-channelizing the retail business. From the business point of view, for retailers, it is about achieving all of this while optimizing costs, reducing losses and risks and improving efficiency.

The best of part pf getting this right are that the benefits are multi-fold – increase in inventory turnover, reduction fulfillment costs, optimizing manpower cost, better productivity, enhance customer service, and the list goes on.

etp-blog-omnichannel-orders

But the main challenge for many businesses today is that they are still depending upon legacy systems which may not be at pace with these demands of the market and moreover do not support the operations when it comes to handling orders coming from different channels and fulfilling them using the best channel.  Here are three significant ways to handle omni-channel orders:

  1. Centralizing order management

A centralized order management system can enable control of all orders across the business as it could hold all the information from the order management process, including details of the order, sourcing, payments, and fulfillment. Moreover, a centralized solution will also factor in all the sales channels in the business operations. Therefore every fulfillment channel will have access to all the order information allowing the organization to appropriately allocate inventory based on factors such as stock levels, location and timing. So the entire order management process can be automated and controlled centrally, and even scaled if new channels are added.

  1. Enabling better inventory visibility

One of the foremost challenges in implementing a successful omni-channel strategy is the lack of inventory visibility that emanates from disparate and siloed systems used to manage inventory. A centralized omni-channel order management system can enable a single view of the inventory and related information across all retail sales channels. This provides the visibility that is required to make strategic decisions that can help in improving cross-channel fulfillment, reducing mark-downs, tackling over-selling and under-selling, ensuring timely replenishment of stock. In turn, customers get real-time and true inventory information across the brand channels.

  1. Performing smart order allocation

Having the true picture of the inventory and stocks across channels and the related information along with the centralized control of the inventory will allow retail business owners to intelligently formulate business rules and algorithms to determine processes for inventory fulfillment. These business rules and logic can then be fed into the system that will automatically orchestrate and allocate orders across channels by routing it through the most suitable fulfillment center based on the criteria fed into the business logic.

Why is luxury retailing a challenging business?

etp-blog-luxury-retail-challenges

Luxury products have always been one of the most admired and sought after products. So much so, that consumers of such products take pride in their possessions and are often considered to be of a higher class. They and their products are the ‘talk of the town’ most of the times in social gatherings and people like to be associated with such class conscious, brand loving and luxury seeking consumers. Luxury products therefore had few options and demanded a high cost of purchase deliberately tailored to a select set of consumers.

But now times have changed thanks to rapidly changing consumer mindsets and the very idea of “luxury” is evolving. The old-fashioned ideas that defined luxury as aspirational, high status, exclusive, wealthy, don’t really paint the exact picture of what customers perceive about luxury products. One of the drastic changes over the recent years is that the new age luxury isn’t for showoff.  Similarly other values that luxury brands exclusively attributed to, such as better quality and style, precise workmanship and great designs, are not exclusive any more to luxury.

Consumers’ tastes are evolving. There is an indisputable appeal for new products and services along with more choice of options yet having the flavor of uniqueness and exclusivity. This has given rise a various breeds of brands such as specialized ones and those that are highly customized to customer demands, thus increasing competition.

Further, along with changing tastes, customer shopping patterns and buying behavior have undergone a tremendous transformation. Traditionally, luxury shoppers heavily relied on physical retail to fulfill their desire for luxury goods. But now, multiple channels have come into the game and customers willingly switch between channels to get what they want. Seamless demand fulfillment across channels necessitates the reduction of various issues such as decrease in quality or other losses that are caused during the course of the supply chain. While older shoppers are still playing a significant role in the luxury market spends, millennials and Gen Zs are predicted to account for the larger growth in the coming years. Moreover, their new spending habits which are faster, more frequent, brand-conscious and trend-driven while being highly influenced by digital platforms.

All these are the modern day challenges that luxury retail businesses, especially the ones still depending heavily on the heritage and traditional processes are facing and there is one way out. They need to transform their retail businesses to omni-channel and employ the right omni-channel retail software to exceed their customer expectations and fulfill their business goals.

Tips for Fashion Retailers to Succeed in this Age of Retail

Last year and at the start of this year, the retail industry has seen many retail giants shuttering and some more lined-up to follow the same fate as the year progresses. Even well-known fashion retail brands such as J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, GAP and a few others were among this list. While all this can seem to be gloomy and dampening for the brick-and-mortar retail businesses, as a matter of fact the situation is not as grave as it perceived.  Besides, as some fashion brands including Nordstrom and H & M have already opened new stores, there are others like Aldi who are set to expand with new stores in the market.

Due to the stimulus of digitization, on the one hand, the influence of online shopping and mobile will definitely continue to have an impact on the shopping habits of the consumers. But on the other hand, brick-and-mortar retail still has that one factor that online hasn’t been able to provide; and that is the ‘touch and feel’ experience. This is something that shoppers really fancy, especially when it comes to fashion and comfort. However, this solely is not enough for physical retailers to sustain and succeed. So below are a few tips as to what fashion retailers must do to succeed in this age of retail.

Fast is in

When it comes to fashion, trends are constantly changing. Every season, or every festival there seems to be new styles that come up. To add to this, people are also influenced by their favorite celebrities and look forward to ape their style. Thus, fashion retailers have to be quick in getting their assortments to match up with the new trends in demand, and ensure that this keeps happening as and when trends change. Fast fashion is all about being fast and keeping pace with the consumers who with a blink of an eye can shift loyalties or switch channels if they don’t find what they are looking for.

Data driven design

An important aspect of constantly staying up in the game to match the demands of the consumers as well as ‘be in’ with the trend is to know and understand both these factors. Data analytics play a key role in enabling retail brand owners to get a firm grasp of these attributes and then infuse the findings into the design process so that the end products fit the bill when it comes to customer satisfaction. Similarly, the store and planogram designs can be influenced by the insights extracted from the analytics in order to improve the overall experience and boost sales.

Amplifying the store

For fashion stores to succeed, it is necessary to have the right product, at the right place, at the right time. This means the location of the stores plays an important role in boosting sales. However it is extremely necessary to also consider factors such as rents and overheads of having stores at prime locations. In order to strike the right chord between the two and reduce risks of overheads, retail owners must use their stores as fulfillment centers for online orders, offer showrooming, offer value added services, and so on. Employing the right omni-channel retail software to integrate online and mobile channels with the stores will allow fashion retail brands to enhance their overall presence and also amplify their stores’ sales and enhance customer experiences.

Targeted brand marketing

Gone are the days where heavily relying on celebrity endorsements on television or print media advertisements would drive customers to flock at the stores. While such traditional means are still necessary, fashion retail marketers must channelize the marketing of the brand through more personal and targeted mediums. Using social media or mobile channels to communicate brand messages or using geo-location based marketing to attract shoppers, running tailored promotions or building relationships at the individual level within the stores, are some of the many approaches fashion retail brands must leverage to make the right impact.

How omni-channel enables frictionless retail

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Picture this – a young, tech-savvy and discerning shopper wants to buy a mobile phone. She researches on the internet for the latest and best phones in the market. Overwhelmed with options during her research, she realizes and determines her needs and the configuration that will best suit them and then refines her search for the phone. She picks a few options of phones of different brands and variants. While on the way back from office the next day, she drops by a mobile store and checks out the phones she had picked earlier and a few others as well which interest her while at the store With all the information at her disposal, she zeros down on the phone she wants to buy but decides to wait. Her desire to buy the phone fizzles down however she comes across advertisements of offers going on for the phones she had considered earlier and this spikes her interest again. The next day she selects the best offer and places an order for the mobile phone through her own hand-held device and chooses to collect it from a near buy store within 24 hours of ordering, get her used devise exchanged and make the payment at the store. While she goes to pick-up and pay at the store she stumbles upon a set of headphones which she likes instantly and decides to bundle that with her phone purchase, hands-over her used phone, makes the payment and walks out with the new product.

Above mentioned is one of the many scenarios of the complicated shopping process that involve different permutations and combinations of the various stages of the shopping journey intermingled with the various retail channels customers can use to interact and shop. Moreover there is a whole set of operations and systems that need to be running at the back-end to support such complex, dynamic and comprehensive shopping processes. One of the biggest challenge for retailers’ of today, in the age where ‘customer is king’, lies in tying these channels, systems and operations together, in a way that the entire retail shopping process becomes friction-less  and retail brands are able to deliver a seamless experience to their customers. To counter this challenge there is one sure shot solution and that is ‘omni-channel’.

Omni-channel essentially necessitates that the different channels not only be connected, but also integrated. In order to accomplish this, various systems and operations must therefore be integrated in a manner that enables the systems and processes and the channels to work as a cohesive unit. Further the data and information flow across the various processes must be streamlined in a way that the there is one single version of the truth and a uniform representation of the brand across all the channels. In other words, accurate and real-time inventory and customer information must be accessible and available across the business operations and processes and channels. Having said that, it also must be easy to manage all these systems, operations and information centrally for better control and risk mitigation. When all this is achieved, it will lead to unified commerce where the customers can enjoy seamless experiences due to friction-less operations and processes.

Therefore it is necessary for retail brands who are looking to not only strike the right chord with their customers and improve their operations, but also planning to scale up their operations or add more products/channels or even expand in other geographies, to select an omni-channel retail software partner who has the domain expertise and is trusted by market leaders.