Key Takeaways from Customer Experience for e-Tail – Communicating Your Way to A Happy Customer

Consumers today are placing increasing importance on convenience, personalization, visibility and speed. As eCommerce retailers and logistics providers strive to be more responsive and attuned to customer needs, customer interaction and communications remain at the core of customer experience.

Setting the stage for the discussion, Alex Bravo, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Twilio, gave an overview of the e-commerce landscape, where retailers that were traditionally brick and mortar had to quickly adapt and adjust to become digital retailers, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be here to stay. 

Following our discussion on perspectives from the supply side of omnichannel retail and distribution, today’s panel of e-commerce players from the region including Air Asia, Central Group, FEDS Retail and PushKart, enablers Shipper, SIRCLO and Warung Pintar was hosted by AIBP and Twilio to discuss themes of Digital Components of e-Commerce, Digital Meets Human Touch, and Standing Out in the e-Commerce Landscape.


Digital Components of e-Commerce

Retailers engage in e-commerce on multiple channels today, from proprietary e-commerce platforms to marketplaces, and increasingly social media platforms. This is supported by digital tools across the customer journey.

Karan Talwar, Strategic Accounts, APAC, Twilio, observed that many retailers engage in multichannel retail very well today. Despite this, he attributed the difficulty of shifting from multichannel to omnichannel arising from the complexities involved in implementing disparate tools together.

Thanh Truc Tran Ngoc, Head of Customer Experience, Central Group proposed how data collected across different channels will illustrate their shopping habits and allow for the creation of meaningful messages for their customers. She also pointed out that to create a seamless and easy journey for the customer, a lot of backend work has to be done to translate and merge different sources of information – from inventory, stock, finance up to the 3PLs engaged – to create a truly omnichannel experience from end-to-end of the customer journey. Similarly, Monica Lee, Director of Digital Transformation, FEDS Retail, Far Eastern Group, highlighted the importance of a centralised data center in meeting FEDS’ objectives of planning the digital experience and physical experience. 

From the e-commerce enabler perspective, Rinaldi Tjhin, Chief Services Officer, SIRCLO, shared how they offer end-to-end solutions to SMEs to get into e-commerce, which requires constant fine-tuning of their services and improvements to their technology. SIRCLO seeks to satisfy two groups of customers – their client brands and the end-user customer. Rinaldi observed that SMEs tend to look for affordable and agile solutions, and large businesses tend to require fast and reliable solutions for the larger market they serve. To manage hyper-personalisation requirements of their customers, SIRCLO provides services that will serve the individual pain points of different brands.

Highlighting the different cultures across different cities in Indonesia, Ari Subekti, Head of Business Operations, Warung Pintar and Mr. DIY, spoke of the importance of learning the habits of local customers. The geographical uniqueness of Indonesia also adds on to the complexities of delivery lead times, which may sometimes take up to a month. Agreeing on this, Muhammad Riyansyah, Regional Head, Shipper, pointed out the importance of communications and last-mile interactions with their customers as Shipper plays the role of a broker from first to middle and last-mile. In addition, Riyansyah shared how Shipper provides warehousing services adapted to their clients’ needs to enable the e-commerce shift.

Rinaldi also spoke from his observations that a large segment of retailers comprising SMEs pivoting to requiring fast, affordable and end-to-end services who neither understands e-commerce nor how to start on the e-commerce shift. With the goal of enabling everyone in the community to benefit from the rise of e-commerce and make use of customer data, SIRCLO connects the various players with the right partners to deliver the right services at a reasonable price.

How Digital Meets Human Touch

Despite being known as e-Commerce, not everything about electronic commerce is electronic. While digital tools will support e-commerce operations and augment the customer experience and achieve hyper-personalisation across various channels, today’s panel agreed that customers today still require the “human touch” as part of their retail journey. For the e-commerce industry, the real “human touch” occurs at the customer service center and last-mile delivery stage of the customer journey. 

As part of the industry hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Asia is pivoting to also provide lifestyle products and services like food, groceries and beauty with the launch of the AirAsia superapp. Through the app, they hope to provide their customers with the convenience they need. Working on the b2c business, Lim Ben-Jie, Head of e-Commerce, AirAsia, believes that the human touch makes all the difference at the delivery stage of an e-commerce journey. Delivery riders and providers can make or break the delivery experience as the final touchpoint with their customers. This also involves communicating delivery statuses and delays, as well as responding to customer queries. To this end, AirAsia had to step up its resources and technology to improve the e-commerce customer experience. Chatbots are used to respond to simple queries quickly, while more complex requests are handled by staff.

Adding on the concerns about customer touchpoints, Michael George Lim, CEO, PushKart, shared how integration between retail partners (merchants) and customer interactions in the Philippines is more nascent. As an e-grocer, PushKart staff will provide recommendations to their customers to provide a better experience.

For traditional retailers like Central Group and FEDs, Truc and Monica believe that the future of physical retail will also be about providing convenience and the human touch.

Standing Out in the e-Commerce Landscape

To stand out from the multitude of brands and competitors as consumers have wider access to different products and services, Rinaldi from SIRCLO summarised it as the 3 “rights” – right customers, right time, right price. 

Believing that customer experience is the core of retail and e-commerce, Rinaldi highlighted the importance of engaging with customers. Amidst the challenges involved in customer engagement, he emphasised the need to stay true to the brand’s identity – with the right campaigns and promotions – as an enabler acting on behalf of their principals. To this, Alex pointed out that hyper-personalisation is the way to connect with customers nowadays. 

Besides marketing campaigns, social commerce is increasingly popular in ASEAN where internet penetration rates are rising. Truc shared how Central Group engages celebrities to target millennials on social media sites like Facebook. Similarly, Monica shared how FEDS engages celebrities to build social media content as part of their marketing campaigns. 

Social commerce will further position a retailer’s products amidst increasing competition for a slice of the e-commerce pie. Alexandra believes that social commerce is here to stay, and live broadcasts for product releases and digital drops will continue to garner interest. It is fascinating to see how ASEAN’s retail and e-commerce industry will play out as regional players go international. 

Check out more valuable insights on ASEAN’s e-commerce and omnichannel landscape at The New Consumer and Maximising Customer Touchpoints to gain a broader view of retail in the region! 

We will also continue our conversation on omnichannel and e-commerce retail, focusing on perspectives from e-commerce natives at Customer Interactions in the Internet Economy on 27 July 2021, Tuesday. Do reach out if you wish to join us, or if there are topics in digitalisation you would like to hear more of!


15 June 2021

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