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What omnichannel demands from Hong Kong retailers in 2019

By Kamal Karmakar

There is an uncertainty in the retail landscape with wildly differing views on where 2019 is headed, as leading economists are writing off 2019 as a bad year for retail whilst other reports stated that retail improved between December and January due only to seasonal factors.

Despite generally pessimistic views, the omnichannel approach has been what sets apart the victors from the losers. Hong Kong retailers should capitalise on the three distinct advantages that lie in the integration of the omnichannel solution into existing operations;, the enhancement of capabilities both offline and online; and a superior, seamless experience with no friction for customers.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” is one of Peter Drucker’s most influential quotes. Robust omnichannel retail solutions offer a wealth of possibilities for data management, wherein data acquisition is faster and intuitive correlations can lend context to turn seemingly unrelated data into a working piece of the puzzle.

Surveying the landscape, we can see that despite the measures taken by landlords to reduce rents and taking into account the buffer that retailers traditionally enjoy from, tourism is not enough to be sustainable in the near future. The stage is set for omnichannel to be the saving grace of Hong Kong’s retail landscape.

Despite tourism and landlord interventions, the future of retail in Hong Kong needs a change for a better tomorrow

Adopting a data-centric approach and having refined data expertise has paid off for many local companies. Businesses like the Hong Kong Jockey Club (founded in 1884 and generates $173b in annual turnover) took a 3-year overhaul to adapt to the impact of digital disruption and the rising of tech-savvy consumers.

With technology levelling the playing field, some retailers have attributed their success through the willingness to “self-disrupt” before their competition forces them to, taking the initiative, and going through the transformation on their own terms.

There are many articles and expert opinions about the vast potential of what omnichannel can do for companies and as more are embracing omnichannel, having a wealth of data will be the new norm.

The mileage of future success lies in how companies interpret and use their data, and companies need to know that strategy aside, they need to work WITH omnichannel before omnichannel can work FOR them.

Data will become a key resource that allows leaders and senior management in companies to function at their best, and senior executives have to be actively involved and take charge.

A Gartner report in 2018 highlighted the ever-evolving and mission-critical role of the chief data officer (CDO) in spearheading digital transformation. That is only possible if companies are to convert their data approach from a passive component to be governed and tracked into an active component that is native to communication, and a language that everyone understands.

Data competency and literacy have to be prevalent across the organisation, and how well companies adopt these objectives for their workforce will separate the good from the great.

Multiple touchpoints, multiple insights

Companies need to look at data transparency in both breadth and depth. The omnichannel solution has to provide relevant data for everyone involved in the business, and present it in a way where the questions “why are we doing this” and “how do we do this” becomes clear across the board. Breaking down the silo on data will allow companies to replicate customer experiences across outlets and territories.

Incidentally, Hong Kong retailers need to take a page out of the “seamless customer experience” they are promising and look closely in the mirror to see that it can only be accomplished with a “seamless organisational experience.” Omnichannel has become the digital backbone for the future of retail, and though not everyone is a data expert, everyone has to be data literate to make omnichannel solutions part of their DNA. 

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