Omni-channel opportunities in Hong Kong's retail market

By Lawrence Chia

There is no doubt that Hong Kong is a digital city. Our ever-increasing interconnectedness, deep smartphone penetration rates, and eager acceptance of digital solutions points to the fact that we are increasingly comfortable in the offline and O2O environments.

Retailers and marketers are aware of this and are now waking up to the future: omni-channel.

Essentially, omni-channel means integrating O2O marketing strategies across a number of different channels to provide a broad and seamless experience to the end consumer.

In retail, this means integrating and unifying the consumer shopping experience across physical stores, websites, catalogues, mobile apps, social media and more.

A Deloitte report details how these connected consumers are creating a retailing revolution around the world: "By being broadly present across channels and enabling each channel to serve the customer at any point through the purchase journey, retailers can raise brand awareness, drive loyalty and ultimately value."

In general, Hong Kong retailers do not shy away from opportunity. Indeed, mega-retailing groups are actively engaged in developing and deploying omni-channel strategies.

Alibaba, for example, are focusing on shoring up their incredible growth by developing their own online payments, logistics and e-banking channel infrastructure.

Omni-channel retailing provides flexibility to both the retailer and the consumer. Consumers can purchase products that may not be available locally, while retailers can cut costs while offering targeted shopping experiences and more choice, creating win-win scenarios for all parties – large and small.

The key is that you do not have to be a 'big player' to take advantage of omni-channel – smaller retailers can realise significant benefits too.

So how can you start to maximise the benefits of omni-channel retailing in Hong Kong? First, you will need to develop a customer-focused marketing strategy.

Conduct an in-depth evaluation into how your physical retail presence fits into this strategy. Leading retailers are enhancing the store experience through technology, for example allowing shoppers to select home delivery options for items that are currently out of stock, or allowing online orders to be picked up at stores that are designated as collection points.

Aligning what's happening in your shop with your customer-focused O2O strategy will put you ahead of the competition.

Ensure that your product descriptions, prices, and availability are constantly updated and consistent across all channels, as poor inventory management and inconsistent cross-channel product information affect consumer confidence.

At the same time, leverage the advantages of each channel to optimise engagement – for example using shops to showcase new and exciting products, while simultaneously soliciting feedback on and promoting the products through social media.

If your strategy includes international sales, remember that partnerships with third parties in other countries can be highly beneficial – increasing the size of your network while keeping marketing and supply chain costs down. Just look at the runaway success of Taobao – Alibaba's C2C and B2C online shopping behemoth.

Regularly monitor and evaluate new developments in technology and social media. The ground is constantly shifting, and staying on top of technology and being an 'early adopter' of the software and hardware that matches your strategy will allow you to be a market leader. Investing in the right technology is a smart move.

By ensuring a broad presence across all your channels, and by being flexible and agile, your business will be best placed to take advantage of the huge and as-yet unfulfilled demand for omni-channel in Hong Kong.

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