Shoppers turn to net for quick fix

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am

As the retail sector looks for new ways to make the customer experience more rewarding and optimise efficiencies, consumers in Asia are increasingly using online shopping and one-click convenience to check the availability and choice of merchandise.

'As more people use online services, retailers are employing technology that allows them to interact and communicate seamlessly with consumers even before they visit a store,' says Stuart Bailey, general manager of Diversified Events Hong Kong.

He says several companies participating at the Retail Asia Expo will exhibit technologies that help strengthen customer loyalty and extend the relationship. For example, an interactive kiosk, developed by Intel, combines the benefits of internet shopping and customer service through real-time inventory access and promotions.

'As the world of technology continually evolves, forward-thinking retailers are able to provide dependable communication with consumers that enables them to make informed purchasing decisions,' Bailey says.

According to a global survey conducted by The Nielsen Company, more than 85 per cent of the world's online population has used the internet to make a purchase, up 40 per cent from two years ago. More than half of internet users are regular online shoppers, making online purchases at least once a month. On the mainland, the absence of United States and European brand names in the electronic domain has opened the way for young mainland companies to build their own brand names.

In a report compiled by mainland research firm Analysts International, the trade volume of the mainland's online shopping market grew by almost 140 per cent last year to 122 billion yuan (HK$139 billion).

At present, however, the world's most frequent online shoppers come from South Korea, where about 80 per cent of internet users make an online purchase at least once a month. 'Asia is an exciting place for regional and global retailers, particularly when you take into account the drop in consumer consumption in Europe and the US,' Bailey says.

Daniel Shum, principal of analytics practices and solutions management at the SAS Institute, believes that to differentiate themselves from competitors, and exploit the potential of online platforms, companies need to understand how customers interact with their website. By using analytical technology to explore online behaviour, Shum says companies can personalise the customer experience, and strategically position products and services.