Takeaways from AIBP Insights Retail & Real Estate: Digitalisation for the New Consumer – Meeting Customer Expectations and Preferences

In our 2nd session for Retail & Real Estate, our panelists from Central Group, DFS Group, EBN, Fave, Marriott International and The Coca-Cola Company came together to discuss and share their observations and insights on digitalisation for the new consumer.

AIBP Insights is a series of closed-door regional roundtable discussions which are part of our ongoing engagement with enterprises in ASEAN to look at topics affecting digital transformation for their businesses. The purpose is to enable the exchange of ideas between industry stakeholders and spearhead creative collaboration across industries and countries.

Digitalisation for the New Consumer - Meeting Customer Expectations and Preferences

ASEAN consumers have also been observed to be placing more importance on convenience, personalization, speed, and sustainable practices. The use of online shopping platforms and digital payment options, both of which have been accelerated by the pandemic, has become ubiquitous. To survive and remain competitive, retailers are striving to be more responsive and attuned to customer feedback and needs. 

Key areas of discussion today were Meeting Changing Consumer Expectations, Data Privacy Concerns, and The Future Consumer.

Meeting Changing Consumer Expectations

Customers Then and Now, and the Impact of Digitalisation

Customers are increasingly aware of the digital capabilities that enable personalised experiences and will tend to expect companies to know their preferences. Today, retailers are going the extra mile to offer value for the end-to-end customer journey, beyond their core services and products. This is observed among the majority of our panelists today. 

For Central Group, a well-established traditional retailer, Thanh Truc Tran Ngoc, Head of Customer Experience, Central Group, shares that the shift to online and the creation of their own application was a response to evolving consumer habits. She believes that the key is to enter emerging markets without hurting Central Group’s existing customers. While the company is still in the early stages of application launches, they have their work cut out for them in providing a clear value proposition for their application and onboarding customers. considering Central Group’s image as a large brick-and-mortar mall. 

Truc observes that companies cannot depend on one-time benefits and offers. Rather, it is important to offer personalised recommendations and market targeted products to segmented customers.

Kenny Ong, Global Sales Director, EBN believes that personalisation can be driven by incorporating data from physical and digital channels.

For Harish Kundargi, ASEAN Digital Lead, Digital Marketing & eCommerce Transformation, The Coca-Cola Company, the value proposition boils down to understanding the customer and this may be done by building ecosystems to find out what a customer really wants.

Moving beyond establishing an online presence, DFS Group, Fave and Marriott International are all looking to explore new business propositions beyond their core business offerings. Vibhore Saraswat, Senior Director, Enterprise Partnerships & Cards Asia Pacific, Marriott International, shared that the company had been looking to go beyond hotel hospitality services since 2016, and the importance of diversifying their business was proven during the COVID-19 pandemic when the tourism and hospitality industry were heavily impacted. More importantly, he believes that like-minded companies in tourism and hospitality can think about how their business will move forward.

Likewise for Kai Ming Lau, Director, Strategy, Digital, DFS Group, the company is now looking at shopping beyond travel passengers’ immediate shopping habits. He shares that DFS is taking into account where their customers are travelling to, what they might do and where they might stay. Kai Ming also observed that there are clear differences in shopping decisions across customer groups

Value Propositions and Partnerships

To answer the question of how companies are meeting new customer expectations, two key themes emerged in today’s discussion Partnerships and Customer Loyalty, both of which are interrelated. Strategic partnerships and coopertition is becoming prevalent today as customer expectations increase.

Kai Ming and Vibhore shared the same sentiments about forming strategic partnerships to attract the same group of customers and offer them a more comprehensive customer experience. Likewise, Wei Jia Chen, Regional Head of Product, Fave, views coopertition as a win-win-win situation for merchants, customers and Fave by accelerating growth for all stakeholders involved. Wei Jia shares that while their core loyalty model has been beneficial for customer retention among merchants, Fave is moving to open up their capabilities for merchants who wish to enter the digital market.

It is increasingly important to look at customer co-experiences from the customer’s point of view. Rakesh Kumar, former Director, Retail, Adidas shares from his experience that thinking as a consumer is key, and that one-stop applications will allow for ongoing engagement with customers. Harish agrees and believes that the question now lies in providing interconnected experiences across different brands.

As much as new ways to increase value propositions for customers through digital means, there are a few important points to consider. While it is good for businesses to consider expanding their services for end-to-end customer experience, Wei Jia thinks that it is important that they focus on what they are good at rather than incorporate services indiscriminately. Harish also brings up considerations for businesses in terms of digital transition time frames and capabilities to sustain it, as well as the real value propositions offered to their customers amidst the high costs of running digital applications. 

Data Privacy

Data privacy concerns are on the rise and businesses must address the need for data privacy and creating trust in consumers. It is integral for businesses to find a balance between knowing enough to offer personalised experiences and being too invasive. Two key points our panelist brought up include appropriate usage and consumer control.

Kai Ming thinks that employees must be educated to understand laws in different countries of operations. This is in line with how Wei Jia and Truc believe that it must be ensured that customer data is not misused or directly exposed to others. 

Wei Jia shares that data aggregation and visualisation are ways to make use of data to provide business insights to their merchants while protecting their customer’s privacy. Rakesh agrees and believes that the key lies in processing data to be used in a meaningful way. In addition, Kai Ming and Vibhore both brought up an important point about the difference between collecting data and collecting data that the companies need. 

A big part of data privacy is how obtained data is being used in customer communications. Wei Jia summarises it nicely as “more communication does not equal to better communication” – targeting marketing strategies are most effective. Vibhore adds that bombarding customers with notifications may even lead to them unsubscribing or turning off their notifications. To this end, Wei Jia mentions that Fave is working to refine personalisation on their platforms.

In this vein, our panel generally agreed that customers should have control over how their data is used. Truc believes that customers should be made aware of the benefits of sharing data, and that data collected should be used for its specific purpose. Rakesh also brought up an importance of opting out of data privacy agreements. The question of how data collected now is being used in the future was also brought up. 

The Future Consumer

With the rise of social media applications like TikTok, Clubhouse and other social media platforms, the younger generation is revealing a lot more personal information online. Customer data can now be collected across multiple channels, and what does this imply for the future of the retail customer’s expectations and preferences?

Rakesh summarises it nicely in 3 key points; informing customers about how their data is used to better their experience, giving customers the opportunity to make an informed choice and opt out, and last but not least, the customer’s choice must be respected throughout the organisation. 

Upcoming sessions for this week’s AIBP Insights Retail & Real Estate will be Digital for Sustainable and Mixed-use Real Estate on 4th March. Stay tuned for AIBP Insights Logistics and Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Government, and Banking and Finance which will be held in the next few weeks. Do reach out if you wish to find out more about our upcoming sessions!


3 March 2021

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