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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.

In addition to large organisations, we are indeed working with many SMEs like Multitrend (Indonesia), GraysOnline (Australia) and particularly high-growth organisations like RedMart. Retail organisations like this see our Supply Chain Commerce solutions as critical to their success. Many SME retail and distributor organisations have invested in our solutions to evolve their core inventory management, distribution optimisation, and network inventory visibility capabilities.

Getting these things right has provided a firm foundation on which a successful omni-channel strategy can be built. The next step for a large number of companies – retailers and distributors, and wholesalers and manufacturers also – in the region, is to integrate their multiple sales and distribution channels as this will help them remain competitive. To do this, they must use their supply chain to get closer to their customers: closer to their preferences, to their purchase histories and to their preferred point of commerce. And we are already helping many retailers withy this next phase of their development.

Any other advice that you would like to add, in terms of helping retailers to strengthen their supply chain capability and succeed in the market?

With the popularity and convenience of e-commerce, consumers now have the ability to purchase 24/7, which means that orders can pile up fast. Retailers can easily find themselves with tens of thousands of orders to fill in a given day, each with its own complexities.

Fulfilling thousands of online orders not only takes a dedicated workforce, it also takes significant planning and attention to detail. When dealing with this kind of volume, retailers must make sure that they don't run into any back-end fulfilment issues that could slow them down. This means taking care of the details, such as ensuring that shipping materials like boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, etc. all remain well-stocked and on-hand during festive shopping mayhem. These elements are certainly not exciting components of order fulfilment, but they are critical ones. The devil is in the details and if planning is not executed properly, retailers could easily fall down in this area.

Giving customers the ability to return an item quickly and conveniently and having a mechanism in place to maximise the chances of re-selling it without having to mark it down should be key features of every retailers' business and service strategy. With some industry associations estimating that 25-50 percent of online purchases are returned, retailers need to build returns into their overall inventory management approach. Plans need to be made in terms of re-routing items to wherever the demands is, merchandising goods so they can be presented in pristine condition for re-sale, and expediting the entire returns process so goods can be made available for purchase again as soon as possible.


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