The next phase of eCommerce would come from digitally transforming brick-and-mortar businesses into better in-store experiences
Online shopping has become one of the most popular activities worldwide. The e-commerce phenomenon has expanded how retail companies sell and profit. With faster delivery speeds, dazzling array of product and stock availability, intuitive apps and interfaces to buy from, customers are becoming more and more demanding of the buying experience.
According to Insider Intelligence, e-commerce sales in Southeast Asia are expected to cross US$100 billion in 2023, up from US$37.22 billion in 2019. In addition, Southeast Asia reported remarkable growth with a 20.6 percent expansion of e-commerce in 2022, the highest compared to other geographies.
With shopping behaviors constantly changing and customers always online, brands must be ready and flexible. E-commerce is becoming a monolithic element of a brand offering across the world, permeating to every touchpoint from physical stores, to web and mobile.
However, it is crucial to maintain a thriving in-store shopping experience. As a society, there will always be those who still value a personalized and physical shopping experience. Being able to touch products, try things on, and interact with a brand on the shop floor, ignites the multi-sensory perception of consumers and in turn, creates memories that form bonds with brands. While some consumers prefer an online rather than in-store experience, enticing customers to travel to a physical store typically leads to larger purchases. According to a First Insight report, 71 percent of shoppers spent US$50 or more when they visited a brick-and-mortar store. So, there is a business reason to merge the brick-and-mortar store with every digital touchpoint, to absorb every single purchase opportunity.
Unique in-store experiences
First, keep physical stores going, and make them great. Gone are the days of window shopping. Some shoppers visit retail stores with a goal in mind, and they buy what they want or need, and leave without wasting time. So retailers need solutions to capture shoppers’ attention, and entice them to spend more than what they originally intended to buy.
The store of the future would need to be radically different in layout, shelving, presentation of products and information. This may include technology such as 3D projectors, smart mirrors, mixed reality interfaces where customers can try on clothes or other products, enhancing the shopping experience beyond what e-commerce can present.
Adapting to the BOPIS trend
While online shopping has made it easier for shoppers, the immediate availability of owning the products remains one of the strongest perks to shop in-store. This brought about the rise of the latest trend, Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS). This retail strategy is giving shoppers the best of both worlds.
There are many intuitive technologies to assist retailers in adopting BOPIS. For instance, AutoStore’s newly launched PickUpPort, offers a solution for shoppers to pick up their online purchases with the help of robots. The PickUpPort serves as a public-facing port that gives shoppers freedom and flexibility. This will help brands maintain foot traffic to stores while providing greater convenience to the customers.
Introducing micro-fulfilment centers
As we continue to envision and shape the future of e-commerce, the introduction of technologies like robotics will reshape order fulfillment and shopping behaviors. Now, robotic systems can maximize and localize storage or warehouse space in stores or have adjacent micro-fulfilment centers. Businesses can meet local demand efficiently through the in-store collection by bringing warehouse storage to retailers through AutoStore’s cube storage automation, bringing warehousing in-store and reducing transportation, remote storage and other supply chain costs and hassle.
Digital advancements are propelling retail to new frontiers to maximize business and reduce costs, whatever the size or complexity of a retail business. It is time to reimagine the retail experience for in-store and online.
(About the author: Clement Yew is the Director of Business Development, Southeast Asia, AutoStore and the views expressed here are those of the author)