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Interview: Being ready for festive online retail booms

T.C. Seow | June 5, 2015
In an email interview, William Chaylis, Regional Sales Manager of Southeast Asia, Manhattan Associates, shares his thoughts on what retailers in Asia should be doing to boost sales during festive periods, capture more markets, and improve on efficiencies in order to remain competitive.

The key to successfully managing omni-channel retailing largely lies in inventory availability. Retailers today, who want to fulfil their customers' needs and start to offer new fulfilment approaches, such as ship from store and collect at the service counter, need to maximise the availability of stock for sale across all channels. This means that they need to have network-wide visibility of their stock and know how much of every stock-keeping unit (SKU) they have in every location at any moment in time. It also means that for a retailer to increase both online sales and drive more traffic to their physical store, they need to be able to leverage their store network. This process will help retailers to deliver the right product to the customer in a quicker and swifter manner, enabling more profitable selling at the same time.

Retailers also need to ensure their store staff are equipped with the right technology and information to provide in-store customers with an instant answer on stock availability and be able to provide alternative fulfilment options – such as having an item shipped from another store for delivery/collection later that day – if it is not already in that specific store.

According to Forrester Research, 66 percent of shoppers use their mobile phones while they're in store, and 39 percent of customers are more likely to shop or interact with sales associates who are equipped with mobile devices. To this end, the role of the sales associate is changing as well. The new associate needs to learn more about customers – their wants and how to assist them – and how to create a personalised experience. With customer expectations rising, personalisation is becoming more important. Having these capabilities allows retailers to utilise store inventory to fulfil e-commerce orders, adjust online catalogues based on what is available in the store or leverage the store associates' knowledge of network-wide inventory to avoid missed sales opportunities. Improving service levels in this way in turn increases sales and profitability and drives business growth.

Do you agree that it is hard to retain customers' loyalty due to the ever-rising cost of living, which makes them easily switch preference and opt for cheaper options nowadays? What would be your recommendations for retailers to tackle this situation?

The rising cost of living would certainly make customers be more cautious when making a purchase. Nevertheless, changing consumer behaviour is something the retail industry is used to and retailers are becoming ever more innovative in adopting new approaches and technologies to help them keep up. Data analytics in the retail sector is now so advanced that customer transactions, online conversations and shopping habits can now all be absorbed by retailers in real-time, so brands can understand better how to service their customers.


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