In his thought provoking presentation, Carson McKelvey, Managing Partner of Tofugear shared his three pillars of building a successful retail ecosystem in 2018. Starting with the way we look at channels, he brought in to question the real meaning of omni-channel, where it came from and what it means in the context of retail today. Recognising the consumer is a completely different beast compared to when omni-channel retailing first saw it's implementation 15 years ago, Carson showed the evolution of retail to what is needed today - which is a entirely new way at looking at customer centricity. The term he used, Unified Commerce, has been quickly emerging as the new definition of "retail nirvana"; which is the idea that retailers should build an ecosystem in the form of a platform around their customer's lifestyles.
In his second pillar, Carson addressed the organisational challenges that retailers face with digital transformation. While many organisations have embraced digital, with an average increase in IT/Digital Budgets by more than 20% this year, more than half of retail organisations in a recent survey deduced that they still had not reached a level of satisfaction when it came to building a seamless customer experience.
In his third and final pillar, Carson stated "Innovation is now" - it is not thinking about channels, touch-points or technology. It is not trying to sell customers on data, innovation or systems. It is the act of moving, being fluid to change and proactive towards seizing opportunities to create new streams of value. The only way to become truly indispensable with customers is to focus on being a business of customers. Subsequently, the only way to keep up with the rapid innovation of technology, is to work with a technology partner, like Tofugear.
Following up his speech, we looked to J.Crew and Geox as real-life and current case studies to Hong Kong's retail scene going forward in 2018. Joined by Cherry Gu, marketing director of J.Crew and Nicolas Bruneau, head of retail APAC of Geox; both retailers shares a strong consensus of staying focused and being true to the brand, and the consumer. Delivering consistency of brand strategy and images is vital in retaining customers as they grow into the next generation. Being products and innovation focused, Geox remains to be a traditional brand with a heritage focus on brands and quality. J.Crew on the other hand acts on cross-collaborations with other brands as a key selling point in order to garner more value. Both retailers also agree in presenting a warm and personalised customer experience in-store to create that competitive edge as a necessity.
The anticipated millennial panel hosted by Tiffany was joined by 13 panellists to pick their brains on shopping in Hong Kong. The forum was unscripted, providing a wakeup call to retailers sitting in the audience. When asked of a memorable store in Hong Kong, the silence fell as no one could recall of an example, which rang loud and clear to retailers. The millennials may have limited amount of income but spends lavishly, especially to those who provides splendid and personalised services. Despite so, millennials still remain to be price conscious and yearns for free shipping and will jump to whomever offers the best discounts.
When it comes to digital aspects in-store, millennials are numb to flashing digital screens in-store and wants more interaction - whether it be virtual reality gimmicks or QR code scanning. The young panel also has a large preference for digital payments, with a fond usage of HSBC's P2P wallet "PayMe", a convenient alternative to cash in Hong Kong.
Other talks that took place revolved around the slow but growing pace of technology being used in Hong Kong retail scene but remained optimistic as we witness many brands taking an initiative in investing more technology and innovation into changing the retail industry. We witness Ricky Wong build his new e-commerce empire HKTVmall, followed by the likes of his competitors at PCCW with the newly launched Habbitzz. In 2018, Hong Kong retailers are showing momentum in developing more e-commerce solutions - not only to the convenience and joy of its customers, but also spawning new consumer habits.