With online sales reaching USD877.61 billion in 2015 Asia-Pacific is now the largest ecommerce market in the world, driven by a rising middle class, cheap mobile devices and better internet across the region. China is a huge player in this growth – growing its ecommerce footprint 44 percent in 2014 to overtake the United States as the largest ecommerce market in the world – with developing nations like India and Indonesia also contributing.
With retailers eager to take advantage of the rising popularity of online shopping, the Asian ecommerce marketplace is teeming. Local start-ups are growing bigger – online grocery marketplace RedMart in Singapore which just secured USD26.7 million in venture capital – while blockbuster companies like Alibaba in China, Lazada in Southeast Asia, Kogan in Australia, and Rakuten in Japan continue to flourish thanks to their vast range of products at very competitive prices.
As the marketplace becomes ever more crowded and competitive, some retailers are setting themselves apart by providing omni-channel experiences that take shoppers from click, to brick, and back again.
Online clothing retailer Grana, for example, made headlines last year when it opened its first permanent store. The bricks-and-mortar Grana Fitting Room in Hong Kong lets shoppers browse and try on items, then make a purchase from their mobile or one of Grana’s computers for next-day delivery. It’s a disruptive omni-channel strategy that gives customers the convenience of in-person customer service and fitting, with the low prices of an online retailer.
When the online shopping experience is more flexible and interactive, consumers are more likely to buy. On 11 November, 2015 – Single’s Day in China – retail giant Alibaba saw record profits of USD14.3 billion. To provide a “richer interactive experience”, Alibaba joined with 180,000 offline locations to deliver omni-channel opportunities to millions of Single’s Day shoppers – including in-store QR codes for online deals, and offline pick-up and rewards for online shoppers.
Omni-channel strategies set merchants apart during key sales periods. They deliver added value to the retail experience and can improve ecommerce satisfaction amongst Asian consumers, who are the least satisfied online shoppers in the world, according to a study did by UPS last year that cited convenience and clear communications as Asian shoppers’ top unfulfilled needs. Hong Kong showed some of the highest dissatisfaction, with just 38 percent of consumers saying they were happy with their online buying experiences, as compared to 78 percent in Europe and 83 percent in the United States.
To keep Asian consumers satisfied during omni-channel shopping, it is essential that a convenient, communicative “brick” experience is supported by an equally convenient and communicative “click” experience. Omni-channel retailers can start by making their website easy to navigate and informing consumers immediately about payment and security. A survey did by payments processing company Worldpay about online payments last year shows that if a website is cluttered, or if payment authentication and digital certificate logos aren’t clearly displayed on the homepage, shoppers may fear for their security and cut the shopping trip short. Chinese shoppers, for example, place much value in seeing payment logos and 61 percent say they feel more secure when it’s clear from the start which payment methods are accepted.
Omni-channel retailers can also improve their convenience and clarity online by offering shoppers a wider range of choice in how they pay and with what currency. Many shoppers across Asia prefer local payment methods to international credit cards – 44 percent of shoppers in China choose an e-wallet like Alipay while shoppers in India prefer cash cards or cash on delivery, and convenience store payment platform Konbini is king in Japan. Online retailers should not only provide these alternative payment methods but also keep shoppers informed by displaying these payment logos prominently. Almost 40 percent of shoppers globally say that if they don’t see their preferred payment method they will drop out of a transaction.
Online retailers can set themselves apart with omni-channel shopping opportunities. However, shoppers must be kept happy from brick to click. If omni-channel retailers in Asia can offer convenience through uncluttered web design and local payment methods, and communicate about security measures and payment options, they will have a much higher chance of converting in-store browsers into satisfied buyers online.
(Source: Stuart Thornton, VP Business Development, APAC, Global eCommerce, Worldpay)