Half-year up or a half-year left? 2021 is almost gone. We are already in July. With additional waves of COVID-19 looming, a global vaccine rollout underway, and the new normal still out of grasp, it will be important for APAC retailers to stay abreast of the top trends that will affect their businesses and customer bases in both the near and longer-term.

McKinsey says that the pandemic has transformed the retail experience, and 75% of consumers explored new products and modified their shopping experience. Kantar stated, 40% of consumers significantly increased their online shopping experience in the pandemic. Can we expect this trend to continue? What are the other retail trends that have accelerated in 2021 and will continue in 2022? If you want to know more about this you have landed at the right place. We have put together a strong foundation on what the retail world is going to look like in the upcoming future.

Trends That Will Set The Stage In The Coming Future

#1: Ecommerce Growth Will Continue Its Upward Trend

Source: eMarketer

Total retail eCommerce sales in the 6 countries listed $45.07 billion in 2021. According to GlobalData, 87% of APAC customers are spending more time online, creating a plethora of chances for eCommerce retailers to connect with new customers. Most consumers in Asia-Pacific do their online shopping through mobiles and this trend is expected to persist, with Forrester projecting that 70% to 85% of eCommerce business in key regional markets would be conducted by phone in 2023, compared to 43% in the US.

According to Criteo’s Singles’ Day 2020 statistics, Malaysia and Thailand witnessed 600% and 305% increases in indexed sales in 2020, respectively, while Singapore saw a 248% gain. These new digital consumers provide a huge opportunity for eCommerce businesses to grow their current digital audiences. A primary focus will be on consumer insights, marketing techniques, re-targeting relevant customers, and convert them to purchase.

#2: Mergers & Acquisitions Shopping Spree

Bloomberg states that the Asia Pacific region has disclosed $404 billion in transactions since the beginning of July, making it the busiest 3rd quarter on record. Few eye-catching highlights of prominent deals:

  1. Reliance acquired Future Group’s business for a purchase consideration of around $24 billion.
  2. ITC and Sunrise Foods – ITC acquired 100% of the equity share capital of Sunrise Foods for a deal valued at $2 billion through the deal.
  3. The $1.15 billion investment by Alibaba BABA and Richemont in online luxury apparel platform Farfetch, as well as Thailand’s CP Group’s merger with Tesco.

These Mergers and Acquisitions have the power to penetrate and establish even more control in the retail market. Retailers must formulate a merger strategy to tackle the evolved industry and transformed consumer behavior. Keep changing directions until you lay the foundation strong.

#3: In-Store Shopping Experiences Will Become Even More Seamless

Source: Adobe

Although eCommerce is becoming increasingly popular in APAC, in-store purchases are still in the run. Despite a rise in online shopping frequency among customers, 7/10 customers still prefer to buy groceries in person, according to Adobe research.

According to McKinsey, consumers are craving convenient methods such as digital transactions, buy online, pick up in-store, and cashier-less checkouts. As technology advances, new possibilities for creating immersive digital experiences in physical spaces emerge. To delight customers, retailers may use virtual reality, augmented reality, face recognition, and other technologies.

As a retailer this is what you can do:

  1. If your business has many physical locations, give customers the option to buy online and pick up in-store.
  2. If there’s no physical location, consider partnering with existing businesses to serve these customers. Case and point – Amazon and Kohl’s partnership is a great example.

By doing so, you eliminate friction from the shopping experience and provide a seamless in-store digital experience for the customers.

#4: Unified Commerce Strategy

The year 2021 in retail means – transformation, integration, and collaboration. We additionally hope to find in Asia’s landscape customers shifting back and forth between online and offline mediums throughout their shopping journey. This translates into the pertinent need for retailers to go beyond omnichannel and ensure that experiences across online and offline are seamless.

The need for real-time conversations with brands from customers will grow. According to Hubspot, 48% of customers prefer to communicate with a business via live chat above any other method. This information is unsurprising, given that consumers expect quick service.

When such customer behavior is paired with the roaring condition of the eCommerce business, retailers need to observe what could be inevitable? Embracing a unified commerce approach will hold you in great stead. You’ll have the option to understand your customer preferences and expectations better. Focus on winning while combining different channels for a better customer experience.

Getting the Foundations and Structure in Place – Are You Ready?

Foundations and structure make you agile. Many uncertainties will continue in the years to come. Retailers in Asia should adopt strategies that are quite different from those that have propelled the sector forward in the past: what brought them here will not keep them there. However, it’s just about venturing out and start building the blocks until you construct your empire.

With expert retail specialists in aim, we offer cutting-edge tech solutions for retail businesses of all sizes to experiment, learn and iterate, without betting on a single trend.

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Abishek Balakumar