Online shopping in Hong Kong continued its steady growth in 2022, with four trends emerging as key areas to watch for merchants moving into 2023, according to a report from Asia’s biggest smart commerce platform.
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As revealed by the latest Shopline report, over 3.35 million customers in 2022 were reached by the Shopline commerce platform, the equivalent of about 45 percent of the total Hong Kong population. In 2022, gross merchandise value (GMV) grew 49.3 percent year-on-year, and total order volume increased by 42.9 percent year-on-year, added the Hong Kong company.
“E-commerce in Hong Kong continued its rapid growth, with the revenue from digital channels of SMEs in 2022 surpassing that from traditional sales channels for the first time,” said Nick Chiu, deputy general manager of Shopline Hong Kong.
“E-commerce has proven to be one of the key business drivers for local corporations as we undergo transformation to adapt to the post-pandemic era; corporates of all sizes – whether an SME or an established business – should stay close to the evolving trend in order to optimise their businesses. With a commitment to empowering merchants to succeed everywhere, we constantly monitor the changing needs of the market, hoping to bring unique insights to merchants to capture every opportunity, online and offline.”
With the recent pandemic shifting the way local Hong Kong consumers shop, Shopline revealed four key outlooks for the coming year to better prepare merchants to unlock the potential of e-commerce.
Omnichannel commerce ecosystem continues to grow
Despite Hong Kongers resuming shopping physically, online retail is irreversible as part of everyday life, said Shopline. Merchants have to, therefore, transform their businesses into an online merge offline (OMO) business model, allowing shoppers to pay and collect in whatever way they prefer, from the online store, to brick-and-mortar touch points, as well as Facebook and Instagram pages and WhatsApp communications.
Meanwhile, merchants need to analyse data from multiple channels to grasp the full picture of their business, including footfalls, logistics and transaction records, helping them to optimise operations and marketing strategies and unleash the full potential of an omnichannel retail ecosystem.
Chat commerce is on the rise
When it comes to making a purchase decision, apart from prices, 67 percent of the responding merchants agreed that a pleasant shopping experience for customers is critical. This includes an always-on customer service where customers are able to chat with sales representatives for product information. Merchants also noted that 72 percent of their customers contacted the brand via WhatsApp, making the social media app the primary communication channel between customers and brands.
Moreover, since WhatsApp Business Application Programming Interface (API) was launched to Shopline merchants last year, 76 percents of surveyed merchants have integrated the tool in their systems, and among these, 78 percent agreed that the tool had brought up to 50 percent of additional orders. This data means that implementing conversational tools such as WhatsApp Business API to boost the quality of customer service is one of the keys to sealing transactions.
Branded mobile apps are becoming essential
According to figures from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, there are over 6 million Hong Kong citizens aged 10 or above, over 90 percent of whom own a smartphone. The Shopline report revealed that orders made via smartphones grew from 58 percent in 2021 to 59.5 percent in 2022, making smartphones the most popular device for online shopping.
Over 75 percent of surveyed merchants recognised the benefits of launching a branded app, including it becoming a trend in the market (74.9 percent, encouraging repeat purchases (78.9 percent ), as well as building trust in the brands (76.8 percent).
Artificial intelligence gives smart commerce a boost
With the growing application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), merchants that leverage advanced technologies are likely to enjoy a competitive advantage, added Shopline.
Not only do AI technologies enable automated and precise analytics of first-party data from customers to optimise sales strategies including pushing tailored advertisements and messages with highly relevant information to respective customer segments, thereby improving conversion rates, generative AI that is hot off the press also supports around-the-clock inquiry services with humanised responses, helping to improve the customer experience as chat commerce becomes more integral along the purchase journey.
Moreover, the AI chatbot ChatGPT will be integrated into Shopline’s EDM and SMS marketing tool, SmartPush, making email marketing as easy as ever. In addition to leveraging SmartPush’s existing email and copywriting templates, merchants can simply input keywords to specify the desired theme and language, and let ChatGPT automatically generate a punchy email subject and a complete draft of email content.