Retail in Asia


Five make or break rules to level up e-commerce game ahead of year-end sales

The pandemic has changed the retail landscape as we know it. Having an online and digital presence has become necessary for almost every retailer. 

 SEE ALSO : Southeast Asia’s online sellers are optimistic about their future growth

According to a recent report from Facebook and Bain & Company, Southeast Asia’s e-commerce sales increased from 5 percent in 2020 to 9 percent in 2021; outpacing Brazil, China and India. Online spending per person also rose to 60 percent compared to last year, with overall e-commerce sales in the region set to double between now and 2026.

With Southeast Asia’s digital consumer population expected to continue growing, reaching around 380 million people in five years, this research has revealed that now more than ever, it is essential for retailers and brands to focus on optimising success, sustaining business growth and giving customers the seamless, secure shopping experience that they have come to expect.

But how do retailers take advantage of this surge and drive growth in the ‘new normal’, while dealing with a spike in demand as the holiday season approaches?

Rule #1: Double down on delivering superior customer experiences

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The next four months represent the most crucial time for many retailers in Asia. The long and intense periods of sales driven by the celebration of Diwali, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year will bear several challenges for many retailers and represent an opportunity for significant market gains.

Ensuring swift response time should be at the top of the list when it comes to creating the best customer experiences. If it takes more than a few seconds to load a page, customers tend to switch to another platform, and the transaction would not be processed. This is why DevOps can play a major role in ensuring that even during peak volumes, page load times are within industry standards and meet customer expectations.

To do this, engineers need to build full-stack observability into the customer journey so that they can see exactly what is taking place. Observability goes beyond monitoring to proactively collect, visualise, and apply intelligence, creating a visualisation of an entire software environment. It helps tech teams to understand the behaviour of their complex digital systems in a streamlined way. If engineers do not know what customers are experiencing and why, they cannot fix the problems they are facing. According to the 2021 Observability Forecast, 51 percent of ASEAN tech leaders claim that observability supports their digital transformation efforts, with 21 percent noting that it helps them deliver better customer experiences.

Given that the festive season is a time when everyone is shopping and every retailer is trying to grab buyers’ attention, it is a game-changing period for investments into observability practices within the region.

Rule #2: Diversify and harness a global mindset

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Diversifying product offerings and expanding across different sales platforms will be a key factor to winning a bigger customer base while gaining significant market share in the upcoming holiday season. Selling multiple ranges of products across various categories will not only attract new customers but also increase the average number of items per cart; creating an opportunity to convert low profit, commodity transactions into big-ticket, high-profit sales.

Indonesia’s Tokopedia is a perfect example of what diversification can bring. The company’s mission to democratise and empower commerce through technology has seen it grow to reach more than 99 percent of districts across the archipelago while empowering more than 11 million merchants since it was founded in 2009. It also provides more than 500,000 payment points across the country and offers 40+ digital products that simplify people’s lives.

There is also no denying that the pandemic has forced many retailers to focus and move their operations locally. But as international trade bounces back, it is paramount for businesses to adopt a global mindset to succeed and overcome pain points in the rapidly evolving retail landscape.

Major brands in Asia like Tokopedia and Coupang are looking to grow further by understanding and analysing global consumer patterns; enabling them to tailor strategies for different buyer behaviours and deliver maximum impact for customers in the region. 

Rule #3: Communicate

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There are many components needed to truly reap the rewards of a successful e-commerce push. Retailers need to have a combination of great developer and e-commerce skills, infrastructure, cloud and the ability to scale and adapt quickly as consumer traffic changes. But, in this new world of digital and omnichannel, all team services need to become more connected and share an integrated view and real-time insights into how the consumer is using a site, and where they stand in their buying journey. Whether it is the e-commerce teams, IT and software development, marketing, supply chain & logistics, customer service or finance or third-party service partners.

Therefore, a thorough understanding of how all customer touchpoints operate digitally and relate to each other is essential. Ideally, this implies that collecting telemetry data and monitoring it needs to happen across the board, throughout customer journeys and end-to-end across all touchpoints and systems. After acquiring telemetry data and visualising it as data-driven insights, retailers can truly see which campaigns or pathways are most effective, understand what causes friction or business uptake, and at which points customers require support and information in real-time.

Having teams work closely together, with a unified approach to monitoring, analysing and understanding their performance end-to-end will help achieve wider business goals.

Rule #4: Ramp up your full tech stack

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Modern software stacks are increasingly complex. But it is not just your own stack you need to worry about: any third parties you connect with represent potentially weak links in the chain. Many services have to make interactions with third-party tools (for things such as delivery) and when the payment has to be made via a third-party platform, there is a lot of back and forth between systems. There is no point in having your website function flawlessly if the payment provider goes down. Therefore, it is important to ensure that partners are also sufficiently resilient in being able to support sales. 

IT teams can also lean on artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate and enhance monitoring to cut through the ‘noise’ and acquire clarity on which events are actually impacting end users. Issues can also be pinpointed ahead of time, allowing for outages to be prevented.

SEE ALSO : Why is digital key to building retail resiliency in an evolving world?

Rule #5: Embrace the power of observability

All teams, from developers through to sales, can improve how they work by collaborating on data-driven insights. By increasing velocity and agility, teams can work to convert real-time data into customer journey improvements. In essence, this means adopting observability. When applied correctly, observability provides retailers with a unified view of their technology stack. From the underlying IT and cloud infrastructure to the middleware and software, to the user experience and the tools used by the wider business.

For retailers, this means they must measure business and technology performance, and tie this to their software architectures. Digital innovation and new technologies become more accessible and easier to use. In turn, customers can genuinely see and experience the benefits. This creates a virtuous circle that leads to high customer satisfaction, increased business conversion and competitive differentiation.

More brands than ever are coming to the realisation that observability is a critical ingredient to their digital success and there is no doubt that it will support the continued growth of digital and e-commerce innovators now, and into the future.


Ben Goodman, Senior Vice President, APJ, New Relic

Disclaimer: The views and opinion expressed in the article belong solely to the original author and do not represent the views, opinions and position of Retail in Asia.