Technology is helping define mainstream retail in 2018, when omnichannel retailing continues to be the buzzword.
Donnie Tantoco, president of Rustan’s Commercial Corp., defined omnichannel retail as “an in-store experience that is seamlessly connected to an online experience.”
“Nowadays, consumers are easily distracted,” he explained. “Even while they are in our store, they may be browsing on another retailer’s website. The challenge is to not just capture the consumers’ attention in the store, but to connect it seamlessly with the interactions the consumers have made on their phones and other gadgets before, during and after they stepped into the physical store.”
Then there’s the rise of online delivery services and online consultations, where clients can have their wardrobe customized.
Mall executives and high-profile entrepreneurs told Lifestyle how they are exploring digital and in-store options in providing services that offer greater shopping convenience.
“With the growth of e-commerce players in the Philippines, the emergence of other digital payment channels— GCash and Paymaya—and the significant number of Filipinos in social media, technology will be integrated into retail,” said Johnson Go, business unit general manager of Robinsons Department Store and Robinsons Retails Holdings Inc.
Ayala Malls (AM) is stepping up its e-commerce with GCash, a mobile payment system using sister company Globe’s network, said Myrna Fernandez, AM chief operating officer.
To relaunch GCash last year, Ayala invited Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce, retail and tech conglomerate. Alipay, China’s top online payment system, provided the backbone for GCash.
For younger consumers
Fernandez said the move should cater to the younger generation of digital natives, who prefer using mobile phones as virtual wallets.
SM has its Click and Collect. “One can order online for pick-up in the nearest SM Mall,” said Steven Tan, chief operating officer of SM Supermalls.
“Asia Pacific is leading the world in mobile payments, given the rising mobile penetration,” said Go. “In the Philippines alone, we have about 30 million smartphone users—
growing exponentially. The convenience of being able to pay and transact through your smartphone will change how people shop with the preference for fast, paperless and contactless payments.”
Golden ABC, the company behind Penshoppe, said it was one of the early adapters to omnichannel retailing.
“We work with key partners and strengthen our digital presence through our online shop www.penshoppe.com,” said Bernie Liu, Golden ABC CEO.
“This gives customers easy access to the brand’s latest items and to have them delivered to their doorstep 24/7.”
Room for growth
Liu said there is still room for growth in payment schemes and logistics for the country to take full advantage of e-commerce as a major sales channel for apparel and footwear.
“A change in mind-set is needed,” he added. “Technology integration is no longer just ‘nice to have.’ It’s now a necessity to move forward.”
Rustan’s, said Tantoco, has been prioritizing investments in technology. Aside from stronger social media presence, it has launched a mobile app and integrated the Rustan’s registry online.
On e-commerce, Tantoco said Rustan’s offerings are available in 158 sites and Beauty Bar sites of sister company Stores Specialists Inc.
The brick-and-mortar store will also thrive as long as it keeps its format relevant.
Mark Gonzalez, managing director of H&F Retail Concepts, said he attended an international retail conference which maintained that technology would even stimulate the growth of brick-and-mortar stores, as they lend credibility to the retailer.
“Online is virtual,” explained Gonzalez. “The brick-and-mortar store is real. You establish your business with a set of core values that are translated in the store.”
Tantoco agreed. “More than ever, the shopping experience is the ultimate differentiator in retail. Retailers who create that unique, unforgettable and personal shopping experience will continue to draw customers in.”
Fernandez said Ayala Malls have been inviting online retailers to open a store for customers to feel their brands. “Filipinos still prefer to go out and shop,” she said.
“Online stores can never replace (the customer’s) experience,” Tan said. “More stores with lifestyle integration are blazing the trail. A music store and listening studio are fused with a coffee purveyor. Bookstores have a café that also serves as a reading nook. A retail shop has a floral studio.”
Some Filipino brands may have closed shop in certain malls due to the influx of foreign high-street labels, but many locals have been resilient in finding and keeping their niche.
“Local brands with distinct concepts and competitive pricing continue to enjoy patronage,” said Go. “They thrive in smaller commercial developments where huge store space requirements of foreign brands cannot be met. Likewise, local brands have a competitive edge versus foreign brands because they can adjust to the preferences of each territory or province.”
Despite predictions of the death of the mall, the mall has become part of Filipino culture.
“Nowadays, people want to live, work and shop nearby,” said Fernandez. “The mall is part of an ecosystem. Since Filipinos are family- or group-oriented, their option is to go to a mall. The mall has become a playground and a convergence area.”
Tan also said customers come to malls because of the convenience.
Undoubtedly, social media gets the word out. Customers get updates on the latest products.
“Social media is the billboard of today. If you have no presence, you do not exist,” said Pacita Juan, founder of EchoStore.
Go said digital technology has been influencing both online and offline sales. “Social media campaign KPIs (key performance indicators) have shifted from increasing the number of our fans and likes to promoting our products and incremental sales for our stores,” he said. “The advantage of social media is that we can target the right audience—specific to their location and their preferences—
to ensure that we are maximizing our advertising campaign efforts.”
Consumers are now more conscientious with their purchases. They select products that are produced responsibly and good for personal and social well-being.
EchoStore, said Juan, is popular with the “mindful customer. Customers tell us what they want—no sugar, no lactose or gluten,” said Juan. “We have to respond by finding these food choices.”
Gonzalez noted that values play an important role in brand building and social status.
“Status is not defined by how many karats you have,” said Gonzalez. “Today’s currency is what you believe in or your values set. The millennials are no longer impressed with mere logos. They value sustainability and the ethical conditions in making the product.”
Tantoco agreed: “Consumption choices are increasingly being driven by a need to actualize a personal identity and tell that story,” he explained. “Brands and retailers that let consumers feel that they are smart, ethical, socially responsible or unique are gaining market share.”
Despite the continuous influx of foreign brands, Filipinos have begun to appreciate lesser-known international brands from Europe and Asia, the Rustan’s exec said.
Meanwhile, there’s a renewed appreciation of local products.
“Filipinos are also trying to connect to their local roots. This is fueling the rise of artisanal products, especially in food, health and beauty,” said Tantoco.
In the end, Tantoco said Filipinos have become more concerned with quality. “They are looking for good value, convenience and ease; but they also want to be engaged emotionally. People want to be inspired and they wish to discover.” —CONTRIBUTED