Eric Toon, country manager for Southeast Asia & India at hybris
In an interview with Computerworld Singapore, Eric Toon, country manager for Southeast Asia & India at hybris, explains how the ecommerce space has changed and why retailers in Asia should embark on omnichannel retailing.
Q: How has the e-commerce space changed due to the proliferation of mobile devices? Is the change more prominent in Asia?
Eric Toon: APAC is expected to surpass North America as the world's largest e-commerce region in 2014, and B2C e-commerce sales are expected to reach US$525.2 billion in the region, according to eMarketer's article in February this year. One of the largest driving forces in the Asian e-commerce space is China, which has fuelled the rapid growth of e-commerce in Asia. Although China's growth cannot be attributed to any single factor, perhaps the growth of China and across Asia can be largely attributed to the high rates of mobile device penetration, which in turn influences shopping trends. According to Gartner, 443.5 million mobile phones will be sold in China this year and the country will have 1.08 billion mobile phone users by the end of this year. This will lead to smartphone penetration reaching as high as 95 percent this year.
Essentially, the greatest change due to the proliferation of mobile devices is the possibility of "anytime, anywhere" purchase. Mobile devices have allowed people to be active and flexible in terms of shopping; we see consumers are increasingly drawn to purchasing on-the-go, thus more and more shops and brands have implemented location-based communications, utilising real-time locating systems to provide consumers with customised services and promotions. Companies within the e-commerce industry that provide such services on mobile devices will also have to focus on optimising mobile sites to ensure the best customer experience, and enhancing payment security systems as surveys have indicated that 45 percent of consumers feel that mobile payment security is one of the biggest concerns.
Potential for future growth and business opportunities in the Asian e-commerce market is still ever expanding due to the presence of mobile devices, and the figures below should provide more concrete picture of the mobile trends in the e-commerce space:
- Seven out of 10 (70 perncet) APAC users believe purchases by mobile phone will become more important in the future
- 84 percent of APAC consumers are interested in buying goods and services through their mobile
- 36 percent of APAC consumers have purchased using mobile internetover the last year
Q: If enterprises are increasingly moving into e-commerce and m-commerce, is there a future for brick and mortar stores?
Over 90 percent of commerce in China today is done through online marketplaces. However, this may come at a cost for companies that rely solely on an 'online presence' and fail to integrate relationship-building into their strategy. Thus, companies that use online marketplaces are missing an opportunity to build brand awareness, loyalty and differentiation from competitors other than on price. Furthermore, many companies do not see this as a good option - for companies which primarily compete on price, having brick-and-mortar stores could lead to reduced margins. Vendors want to gather interest from a larger online consumer base by tapping into the local marketplace, making it inevitable to compete with other e-commerce rivals.
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