Based on a small international survey and a larger digital lifestyle index, here are strategies for e-commerce retailers to mull over.

As retailers adapt to changing consumer behavior and strive for transformational growth, it is critical for them to consider how they incorporate new customer needs and expectations into their current business models.

According to Guy Elliott, Retail Industry Lead, Publicis Sapient (EMEA, APAC): “In 2022, retailers must continue to reimagine their businesses for the new age of retail, from evolving as platforms and transforming their store experiences by integrating online and offline to monetizing data, investing in financial services products and optimizing return costs by focusing on a better customer experience.”

In line with this recommendation, the firm has proffered the top five strategies to retail companies in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) to transform their businesses into shopper-first organizations in the year ahead, based on its own data collected through an online survey sent to 1,000 participants across France, Sweden, the US and UK. (Note: additional data points were based on the firm’s Digital Life Index global survey of 9,300 consumers from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and the UAE.)

  1. Evolve as platforms to create one-stop shopping experiences for customers
    Retailers today are expanding into community, content and a broader product selection. Based on the firm’s research, the future winners of retail will be those that build a connected ecosystem of related services that customers can engage with, through one seamless experience. Shoppers want to interact with retail brands that offer convenience. Retailers that create value-enhancing, differentiated ecosystems are able to provide a range of items specific to their category, which can become a convenient ‘one-stop shop’ for consumers.

    This is especially prevalent in APAC where opportunities abound for retailers. The data shows that 65% of APAC respondents had purchased non-grocery items online in the past three months, while Singaporeans (61%) and Thais (69%) surveyed had anticipated shopping more online in the future than presently. Signaling a market for one-stop shopping platforms, 85% of Singapore respondents and 71% Thailand respondents made their purchases on online marketplaces that were typically equipped with retail, content, and community-building capabilities.

    Meanwhile, 39% of shoppers globally in the survey were ‘more likely’ to buy from a marketplace that offered a wider selection of products. Instead of bouncing from website to website, shoppers can manage multiple needs in one place, as retailers become their go-to destination for owned products, content consumption and ancillary services.
  2. Reimagine store experiences by integrating best of Online and Offline
    Over the last 18 months, retailers have faced lockdowns and restrictions, resulting in a surge in e-commerce that has changed consumer expectations and the role of physical stores. The firm’s data has indicated that 56% of global respondents and 61% of APAC respondents were shopping online at least weekly.

    Although the shift to online shopping shows no signs of slowing, there is still room to grow when it comes to returns and trying out items, as only 38% of shoppers surveyed globally stated they were satisfied with the ability to try on and try out items online. Physical brick-and-mortar stores are and will still be relevant and will play a huge role in the retail landscape by allowing consumers to experience a brand in-person.

    This brings to front and center the importance of having a seamless integration of online and offline to support retailers’ success in 2022 and beyond. Some 55% of consumers surveyed globally had indicated they sometimes visited physical stores to check out an item before purchasing it online—highlighting how store experiences need to be digital and data-driven. By seamlessly integrating data across web, mobile, storefront and inventory channels, retailers can digitally expand their physical footprint while providing the connected, personalized experiences shoppers want.
  3. Monetize data to increase brand engagement and sales
    There are many ways a shopper can engage with a brand, and each avenue provides an opportunity to deliver personalized communications. The firm’s data shows that smartphones remained the most widely-used device for Singapore respondents (63%) and even more so for Thai respondents (84%) when it came to online shopping.

    In addition, 37% of shoppers surveyed globally who bought online desired personalized offers based on spending preferences, while 31% wanted personalized content or advice to help them shop.

    Retailers must therefore break down data silos within their organizations to gain a clearer view and better understanding of their customers’ preferences. Connected data from point-of-sale transactions, website traffic, email engagement and media impressions enable retailers to create targeted campaigns, personalized offers and customer-centric products and services, which can result in increased brand engagement and sales.
  4. Transform Into financial companies
    Today, many retailers are offering financial services or are connecting customers with financial services providers as a natural extension of their retail function. They are creating a new ecosystem that serves a large demographic that they currently cater to in retailing.

    By leveraging technology and the vast data they have on their customers, retailers are unlocking a large customer base that is either under-banked or has no current banking relationships but still needs financial services like loans, advice or payments.

    Publicis Sapient has found that 47% of Singapore respondents wanted cash-back partnerships tied to their favorite retailers or grocers, while 34% of global respondents wanted instalment payment options tied to their favorite retailers or grocers.

    If e-tailers transform into financial services companies, their customers will have their own personal CFO in their back pocket: a one-stop shop for all of their financial needs while still being connected into the retailers’ larger business suite.
  5. Optimize returns by delivering better customer experiences

    With a rise in online shopping comes an increase in returns. The firm’s research has found that 46% of global respondents indicated that when shopping online, they were more likely to buy from a brand that offered an easy way to manage returns.

    By truly knowing the customer, retailers can get ahead of returns. Data is key to improving customer experiences and operational efficiency. Retailers need data about their products and insights into how customers are buying and returning their products so that the data can be fed into the customer experience.

    Providing as much accurate information as possible about products will help customers make better purchase decisions. In the case of apparel, retailers should use data to ensure that, from the start, a product fits the customer.  Returns can be prevented with better customer experiences.