Asia-Pacific is both the largest and the fastest growing retail market in the world and it continues to grow at astonishing speed. Retail Asia Expo 2012, which will be held from 12 to 14 June, will once again bring together world-class technology and retail design suppliers to Hong Kong, showing the audience of retail professionals the latest trends and industry developments in the market. Retail in Asia caught up with Stuart Bailey, General Manger for the show organiser Diversified Events Hong Kong Ltd, to have a sneak peek at the event highlights, the must-see and more.
RIA: What is the theme for this year’s Retail Asia Expo? Why?
Stuart Bailey (SB): The theme for this year is "multi-channel retailing". It is actually the fourth edition for the Retail Asia Expo. We have an advisory committee that we recruit every year. The advisory committee is made up of some premium retailers in the region. To find out what these retailers concern most, we generally asked these retailers few questions such as "what are your big challenges", "what is affecting your stores and retail business" and "what we can do to help". Answers that we are familiar with are staff recruiting and training, customer service, increasing rents, etc. But for this year, we’ve heard the message from our committee loud and clear: the big thing that the retailers want to learn more about is Multi-Channel Retailing.
Basically, retailers are beginning to understand that consumers are out there buying in different ways. They are no longer just walking into a shop, looking at something and buying it. They are doing research on the internet before they go shopping – to see what products are available or what sort of things they are interested in. Then they go into the store – most people have a smartphone in their pockets and they are actually using the device to find that whether they can get a similar product, maybe at a cheaper price, or maybe with better quality somewhere else. There is a danger that retailers could become showrooms. When nobody actually buying anything anymore, everybody just goes in stores to look at things and buy them somewhere else on the internet or on their smartphones. This scares retailers, but actually there are big opportunities around it.
I think if you can get this right, and you are driving those shoppers through your website and your smartphone apps – connecting them to their loyalty points–actually there is an opportunity to capture that customer with a crossover format. And they you can get the shoppers into your store, on your website, through your catalogue, all the channels that are available. This is why we have "Multi-Channel Retailing" as our theme this year.
RIA: We heard that there will be the concurrent event Multi-Channel Retailing Conference. Who are some of the feature speakers at the conference?
SB: There are few people who are doing some very interesting things around the multi-channel retailing. Some of them who are probably at the leading edge of it – Wal-Mart is doing one of the companies who are doing some very clever thing. So we’ve got Shanthi Flynn, Vice President of HR Asia Region for Walmart. She will present at the conference and talk about what they are doing about multi-channel retailing.
Target is one of the biggest retailers in Australia and its Managing Director Dene Rogers will also talk about what the retailer is doing about this topic.
One example from the local retailers – we will have speaker coming from Toys ‘R Us Hong Kong. Toys ‘R Us are doing very clever things using those QR codes, to directly drive their customers not only to their stores, but also drive them to their web portals, so the customers are getting use to shop online as well.
There will be lots of different case studies as there will be lots of different people coming, talking about how you can catch social media users and get them to your stores. Many of the important issues will be discussed during the two-day conference on 12 and 13 June.
RIA: Senses Generate Sales Designer Showcase, sponsored by Osram, Bose, Air Atmosphere, will be another highlights in this year’s show. Can you talk us through this? How did you come up with this idea?
SB: Senses Generate Sales is a very interesting feature. Again, it is all about the retail design. When shops think about their customers, they think about how their customers feel about them, and that brand identity suddenly become very important. What we’re trying to get more retailers to become more aware of is the brand identity – you can make your brand identity stronger if you can stimulate shoppers’ senses. For example, if you think about your favourite shop, you will think about how that shop made you feel, how when you walked into it you wanted to stay there longer, and those feelings are actually made up from your subconscious. Therefore retailers are starting to use scent marketing – a shop smelling in a certain way that you start to recognise that. This is something that Shanghai Tang and a lot of major hotels have been doing for a long time.
Apart from scent, you can see the other four senses in the showcase. The sounds – obviously at different shops you expect the different type of music, which creates a certain atmosphere which makes you feel in a certain way. For lighting, young fashion shop may have disco lighting; and for luxury retailers, the lighting may become a slightly dark so that it looks more moody. The texture thing is about the touch – when you’re touching the showcase, what does it feel like? Is it warm and fuzzy? Or is it hard as industrial? And it goes to taste as well – of course, taste doesn’t come to all aspects of retailing, but it exists in grocery retailing.
The Senses Generate Sales is actually made up of four different zones. When you walk in to the area, you are going to cluster by all these five senses. In the first zone, you will feel like you are in the rainforest – it is all green. You can smell the woodland and grass. You can even taste the fruits. You can touch the leaves.
The next zone, you will go into the industrial zone – the rusty metal, the tools, the motor bikes, the smell of garage. It makes you feel in a certain way.
The next zone is a girly zone – which is all soft and fluffy, smells like sweet strawberries and is filled with pop music.
We’ve also got an Innovative Design Material Gallery which showcases the Materia gallery from the Netherlands. The gallery brings over more than a hundred samples of different types of materials, which retailers can touch and feel. How can I use these materials to create different effects in my shop? What retailers are trying to do is to give shoppers an ultimate shopping experience which will make them to want to stay in the shop for longer, which will hopefully make them spend more money.
RIA: What are other events that visitors must not miss in this year show?
SB: The guest of honour of our opening ceremony will be Vincent Fang Kang, SBS, JP, who is a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. He is going to give a speech on what he thinks about the future of Hong Kong’s retail sector.
Also on the first day, we will have a gala dinner. At the gala dinner, we will have a guest speaker from Hung Fook Tong, the Chinese herbal tea chain in Hong Kong. We will also be presenting the Hong Kong Retail Industry Trade Awards, to recognise some of the retailers who really make Hong Kong what we think of as the retail capital of Asia. That would be an exciting event.
Apart from the Multi-Channel Retailing conference, there will be a whole list of free seminars. Both Retail Technology and Retail Design & Marketing will be covered in these seminars.
RIA: How many exhibitors will there be in this year’s show? And what are some of the interesting exhibitors and their products?
SB: There will be over 150 exhibitors who will be displaying in the show this year and there are many exhibitors who have got interesting exhibits. There is one company called Nedap. The company has a product called Tweet Mirror. The Tweet Mirror is a full-length mirror and online touchscreen in one. It is like a virtual fitting room, but it has a special feature that allowing you to send your pictures via Twitter and Facebook, so that you can immediately get your friends’ opinions. The product has been used in the UK by some fast fashion retailers and they have got very good results. The company is going to show this at the Expo.
Sharp will displaying their 70-inch interactive touch panel. So basically when you touch the screen, you can move things around, searching through the retailer’s products.
A company called Lux Design will showcase their latest product development utilising the new TD Technology. The showcase inside the glass projects video, combining the video with the actual product view. It is difficult to describe but it is quite cool to look at it.
Exhibitor such as Hybris helps retailers to deliver consistent message over different channels. By enabling companies to create a powerful, consistent customer experience, Hybris helps them drive company growth, differentiate from competitors, and reflect commitment to customers and the core principles behind their brand image.
The Retail Asia Expo is support by the Hong Kong Retail management Association and from other influential retail associations and media across the region. This year’s show will be held from 12 to 14 June 2012, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. For more information, visit Retail Asia Expo.