Retail in Asia

In Telligence

Four ways to design for Asia’s new retail environment

Amid post-pandemic growth in retail sales across Asia, shifts in consumer and merchant behaviour are forcing retailers to reduce costs and operate at higher levels of efficiency to meet market demand. 

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Coupled with staff shortages and retention risks, companies are shifting their focus to take a more human-centred approach to redesigning processes and ways of working through digital investments. 

With the rise of omni-channel retail experiences, companies must ensure that their back-office operations are capable of supporting them. 

Retail booms across the region

Asian retailers are breathing a sigh of relief as consumers return to shops and shopping websites after the darkest days of the pandemic.

According to Retail in Asia’s end-of-year snapshot of the Asia-Pacific region, retail sales are in robust shape in key markets from Japan to Malaysia. 

Southeast Asia saw the fastest growth in retail sales of any region in the world last year and is forecast for a repeat performance in 2023. A prime example is Hong Kong’s battered economy, which in February 2023 saw a 31 percent year-on-year growth in retail sales, the highest uptick in a decade. 

Using China as reference, global management consulting firm McKinsey predicts that the South Asian market could sustain double digit annual growth of between 15 to 25 percent over the next 5 years. 

While growth in sales is a welcome boon to retailers, the scale of demand can be challenging to meet. Here, four approaches stand out as cornerstones of a comprehensive strategy for positive change. 

Get serious about employee experience for frontline workers

High turnover is an acute problem for retailers, with 60 percent now facing higher-than-normal rates of turnover, according to a Workday study. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum predicts that 50 percent of the workforce will need reskilling by 2025. 

To stem the turnover tide and war for talent, retail organisations need to put in place skills-based people strategies to build a future-ready workforce. Cloud-based solutions can help retail organisations make the necessary inroads in establishing a skills-based framework holistically across the employee lifecycle, from recruiting and onboarding where employees will have their first opportunity to share their skills and use skills to provide personalised and curated career growth opportunities through learning, internal mobility, and connections.  Proactively engaging staff and improving their all-round experience through a digital modern platform can dramatically improve retention, productivity, and the workplace environment, resulting in a positive customer experience. 

Double down on analytics for greater agility

More than one in three retail executives (35 percent) cite access to high-quality, usable data as one of the biggest barriers to achieving their transformation goals, according to another Workday report. Making the leap from fragmented data to usable insights will require access to an agile, single source of truth in which real-time information is not only easily accessible, but applicable across functions. Augmented analytics will help to reduce the noise from millions of data by analysing patterns and surfacing focus areas that require attention, resulting in faster and more informed decision making. 

Establish a seamless consumer environment across the omnichannel ecosystem

Non-linear buying behaviour means retailers need to deliver a seamless experience across an expanding omnichannel ecosystem. The industry faces an ongoing need to transform in order to provide a credible multi-channel retail experience that fulfils consumer expectations and bolsters brand image. Savvy business leaders should invest in cloud-based solutions to align multiple revenue streams without technology concerns around scalability, accessibility, and availability.

Don’t overlook the retail manager experience 

While retaining frontline workers must remain a top concern for retail organisations, they can’t afford to overlook their managers in the process. 

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Retailers will need to rely on digital tools to ease managers’ workload and boost their leadership effectiveness, such as powerful reporting capabilities that gives them holistic insight into store and team performance, active listening capabilities embedded with machine learning to understand and respond to employee sentiments that are impacting productivity and profitability, and robust scheduling tool to provide flexible work arrangements to meet the expectations and demands of the present and future workforce. 

This piece is authored by Pei Woan Wong, director, Asia, at Workday.