Deep diving into the latest e-commerce trends in Asia
The third Asian E-tailing Summit, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), concluded yesterday with close to 1,500 e-tailers and business professionals from related sectors in attendance. The event brought together myriad business leaders, offering a one-stop platform for participants to focus on e-commerce prospects in the region and explore the latest industry trends.
The summit featured two plenary sessions along with multiple breakout sessions and workshops. With contributions from more than 60 renowned guests and speakers, the discussions covered successful e-tailing developments and solutions in Hong Kong, Mainland China and across Asia with the aim of creating business opportunities for participants.
As online shopping continues to mature and consumer preferences shift further away from bricks-and-mortar retailing, competition in the market is becoming increasingly fierce. With the theme “The Internet of Things’ Expanding Influence in Online Retailing”, the first plenary session examined how the Internet of Things (IoT) can assist e-tailers to better manage supply chains, process data more efficiently and create unique customer experiences, helping them to stay ahead of the competition.
Coexisting opportunities and challenges in e-tailing
Speaking at the plenary session, TJ Wu, Director of Centre of Excellence, SAP Customer Experience Greater China, said he regards IoT as an enabling tool for e-tailing that will help to create more opportunities for customer acquisition and assist in optimising the customer experience. He said he foresees the emergence of a new business model with the development of IoT. “Today, retailers still charge piece by piece, and ‘one-product, one-price’ is going to continue for some time. However, in the not-distant future, there will be a new business model: retailers will charge by subscription like Netflix and Amazon, charging by usage or even by volume,” he added.
Joseph Lee, Executive Vice President of Sales – APAC, Mirakl Inc, took an example of his previous project with an airport shopping mall in Singapore to explain the application of IoT in product delivery to customers’ homes or hotel rooms. As Mr Lee stated, IoT is already having a significant impact across the supply chain. He said that knowing how to analyse and use the massive amount of data brought about by the advent of IoT is essential and the role of data scientists will become more important.
IoT has brought tremendous new opportunities as well as challenges to the e-tailing sector. Mike Shapaker, Chief Marketing Officer, ChannelAdvisor, pointed out that the implementation of IoT can sometimes lead to consumer privacy concerns. Emphasising the diversity of regulations in different regions and countries, he reminded people in the industry to pay close attention to regulations and comply with them strictly. Regarding the success of IoT, Mr Shapaker said true success comes “when we do not talk about it anymore”.
Tapping huge potential in the Asian market
With the pioneering Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) e-commerce agreement now in place, a favourable business environment is flourishing in the region and the push is now on to deliver economic growth through cross-border e-commerce. The second plenary session at the summit assessed how a thriving cross-border e-commerce market will be shaped by Southeast Asia’s increasingly affluent middle class.
Terry Iu, Head of Digital Natives, Facebook, said the market for Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger is growing very rapidly across Asia Pacific, with great potential and huge opportunity in Southeast Asia in particular thanks to the region’s dynamic landscape. Given the fact that Asia is leading digital transformation, Mr Iu considered artificial intelligence (AI) as the backbone of everything that will happen in the future. He believed it is necessary for e-tailers to have both “information power” and “implication power”. “We not only know who the users are but can also predict what users like,” said Mr Iu.
Michio Takahashi, Vice General Manager, Cross Border Trading Business Department, Rakuten, Inc, agreed that technology should be the key driver for innovation, emphasising that the implementation of innovation needs to be the industry’s top priority. He shared Rakuten’s two factors for the implementation of successful cross-border retailing, namely a close partnership with local platforms and proper logistics solutions. For example, his company’s partner in the mainland is JD.com, which has inventories in numerous export destinations to ensure products can be shipped to customers swiftly.
The breakout sessions and workshops at the summit were welcomed by the participants, who appreciated the opportunity to interact. One question from the audience involved concerns about the price differences across different sales channels. Daphne Lee, E-commerce Director, PANDORA Jewelry Asia-Pacific Limited, said that PANDORA product prices may differ in different countries and regions. For example, given factors such as tax rates, product prices in Australia tend to be lower than in the mainland, whereas the official retail and e-commerce prices stay the same. She said that PANDORA aims to enable customers to embrace online shopping by creating exclusive online products. “The basket size of online shopping is usually higher than offline due to the free delivery threshold,” she added.
Nicholas Kontopoulos, Head of Adobe DX Commercial APAC Marketing, Adobe, suggested that retailers need to ensure they have quality content on their websites since customers will do a lot of research online before purchasing, including browsing the brand’s official website. As such, he said that physical stores are becoming more like “showrooms” where customers would go to interact physically with the products they wish to buy. For this reason, he said it was necessary to implement omni-channels that combine online and offline retailing.
Focusing on customer demands
Industry breakout discussions on the second day of the summit focused on two key sectors – fashion and toys. “Walk Fashion’s Online Runway” and “Omnichannel Sales Come to Toyland”, allowed participants to grasp the latest e-commerce business opportunities in these specific industries.
Toshio Yamada, CEO & Founder, LIFESTYLE ACCENT INC, said that one of the company’s strategies is “making clothes together and making growth together”. The brand’s accessibility on almost all social media platforms encourages customer communication and interaction, which enables the company to produce clothes that align with the requirements of customers. He gave the example of the brand creating a special mosquito-repellent fabric for clothes, specifically at the request of customers.
Diane Yoon, Vice President, CarrieSoft, introduced one of the major trends of the toy market in South Korea, saying that the current market is growing because purchases by adults are getting bigger and toys are no longer just for children. In relation to promotional strategies, she said the company has produced animations featuring its cartoon characters for its own TV channels with the aim of engaging children and their parents at the same time.
Five technology-focused events create synergy
The HKTDC is holding a total five events at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this week. In addition to the Asian E-tailing Summit (4-5 December), the HKDTC SmartBiz Expo (4-6 December), HKTDC Hong Kong International Franchising Show (4-6 December), Business of IP Asia Forum (5-6 December) and DesignInspire (5-7 December) are running concurrently. They aim to help SMEs cope with the opportunities and challenges brought by innovative technologies and market changes, as well as driving business-development momentum.
SmartBiz Expo: http://www.hktdc.com/fair/smartbizexpo-en/
Asian E-tailing Summit: http://www.hktdc.com/ncs/aes2019/en/main/index.html
Hong Kong International Franchising Show: http://www.hktdc.com/fair/hkifs-en/
Business of IP Asia Forum: http://www.hktdc.com/ncs/bip2019/en/main/index.html
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The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body established in 1966 to promote, assist and develop Hong Kong’s trade. With 50 offices globally, including 13 in Mainland China, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a two-way global investment and business hub. The HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to create business opportunities for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the mainland and international markets. The HKTDC also provides up-to-date market insights and product information via trade publications, research reports and digital news channels. For more information, please visit: www.hktdc.com/aboutus. Follow us on Twitter @hktdc and LinkedIn.