It’s hard to escape news of changing consumer behavior and ongoing retail ‘disruption’, especially amid the year’s largest sales. An evident signal of this shift has been the steady decline in foot traffic to once widely /lopular Black Friday sales in shopping malls.
Net sales on Black Friday slid 10.4 percent for brick-and-mortar chains, according to RetailNext.
For digital-first businesses, launching online is a no-brainer. But what happens when you are an existing brand that is over 80 years old working with hundreds of distributors around the world? Speed and simple decision making are out of reach.
At the Shangri-La at the Fort Manila, four brands – Abbott, Unilever, Payless, and Titan22 – each leaders in their own categories, were brought together by ecommerce enabler and e-distributor aCommerce to candidly share customer preferences, impact of traffic congestion and what must change internally in order to stay relevant in the future.
This is what was discussed:
1. More Filipino men pushing the carts
“There’s a lot more male shoppers going for groceries, it used to be the woman that was in charge of nutrition labels, but now they tell men to do it,” says Christian Domingo with a laugh. He is the Head of Ecommerce for Abbott Philippines.
Findings from a recent Nielsen study show that 40% of today’s grocery shoppers in the Philippines are men, an increase of six percentage points from last year. The driving factor? Affluent Metro Manila residents, especially in dual-income households.
What this means for brands is to rethink marketing strategies traditionally targeted towards women.
Referencing another study, Christian attributed the popularity of ecommerce to worsening traffic conditions in the Philippines. CEO and owner of Titan22, the top sneaker retailer in the country, Dennis Tan, also shared his experience.
“The customer decision window is getting shorter and shorter. It used to take days where people thought about purchases and then come back to it but now the entire process seems to happen with minutes.”
He should know as Titan sold 400 pairs of Jordan Elevens during Single’s Day (11.11) in the first hour online.
“I won’t drive for hours for a chance to get the right shoe size. Consumers have a lot of options where to buy products, so we need to offer a competitive advantage.”
2. After-sales is as important as the purchase journey
Ecommerce is commonly misinterpreted as the shopping experience on a website but what gets forgotten is the attention given to the steps that come after checkout.
“How a customer feels after the purchasing experience is a big factor to the entire happiness experience to retail. This is one of the big pieces,” comments Dennis.
“We need to give them inspiration, not only about the shoe, it’s about happiness guaranteed,” agrees Thea Lizardo, Head of Ecommerce for Payless Philippines (Footwear Specialty Retailers Inc.).
3. Internal processes causing friction, there needs to be unified commerce
“It’s not typically mentioned but an important factor to talk about is the hurdle of internal friction in terms of technology. There’s a lot of confusion around how we attribute sales,” mentions Thea. “ These discussions are vital to transforming the entire business.”
“How do we remain competitive? How do we keep customers? It’s overwhelming for brands and business owners to adapt to all the changes because it’s so quick but at the end of the day, it’s understanding your numbers, your customers, your behavior and leveraging it.”
“Internally, there is no P&L, who is going to own the digital marketing unit? The marketplace?” comments Christian.
“It’s recommended [at Payless] to have a separate P&L, separate ERP for our ecommerce business as we didn’t want to disrupt the other 76 stores,” replies Thea.
Another internal roadblock Christian hopes to push through is the company’s (lack of) unified shift to ecommerce.
“We are selling milk online but other product divisions such as diabetic drugs need the push. They have hurdles like FDA approval, internal conflict, etc. but what we envision for 2018 is to go beyond the brand because it’s the user looking for a solution to a problem.”
“We [Unilever] have a long heritage selling fast moving consumer goods but we need to move things faster,” closes Kay Veloso, Head of Ecommerce for Unilever Philippines.
“It’s [unified commerce] not an unachievable dream, it’s a basic expectation. B2C, B2B – we serve the entire ecosystem to get the pulse of people we serve, and continue to adapt our brands to ensure their day to day needs are met through ecommerce.”
4. Data and mobile will pave the retail future
Each brand has their own ideas about the main focuses for 2018. Unilever Philippines hopes to e evaluate its mobile experience to understand if it’s delivering the brand message across the board.
“Omnichannel is the big trend that is here to stay in the Philippines. We need to provide consistent online and offline experiences and preserve the quality of our products both instore and online,” comments Kay. “80% is coming from mobile websites and the Philippines is actually the fastest growing mobile market in Southeast Asia.”
Payless Philippines wants to leverage its data to better utilize its offline stores to become more customer oriented and explore new channels.
“How can we leverage the 76 Payless stores and unify them to serve our customers better? We have online data, consumer data so we can map out our merchandising plan for various locations.”
“Social commerce, exploring the space that we’re not in [social media] but also stores (they can be turned into fulfillment centers). Customers are becoming brand agnostic. We need to capture them when they are on their devices, not only at the mall, people no longer go online, they live online.”
Titan, on the other hand, will focus on expansion through ecommerce to meet the demand growing outside of Metro Manila.
“The challenge for Titan is all our physical stores are in Metro Manila while 50% of consumer base is outside Metro – we will continue to build on it and see what role innovation really plays for us.
“At the moment, ecommerce is more defense than offense, but when you start playing offense is when you start to win.” — Dennis Tan, CEO and owner of Titan22
“It used to be that companies had to set up a website because everyone was doing it but the companies that have their own internal ecommerce teams are the ones that are most successful, you need to be ones to drive and grow it in the organisation.”