These transformations are evident in the digital age, but what are retailers doing to cash-in on this golden opportunity? Offering exciting technology-driven in-store experiences is about to become a key focus in Hong Kong and mainland as new techniques converge digital and in-store, physical, retail. The future is unlike anything seen before. The bricks and mortar store definitely has an important role to play.
E-commerce and online shopping have reinvented how consumers want to shop and the ease with which they can shop. Hong Kong and mainland consumers are still way ahead of retailers. They want personalized shopping experiences which are convenient, interactive and provide unprecedented choice, whether they want to shop from home, in a physical store or on the go via mobile devices.
Surprisingly, Hong Kong consumers are still generally spending more in bricks and mortar stores than online - HK$1,634 per month at physical stores, compared with HK$946 per month online, according to CBRE research. Although it may seem that e-commerce is less popular in Hong Kong compared to other markets in Asia Pacific, shopping patterns are expected to change in the near future. Some 49 percent of respondents anticipate spending more online in the next two years. This is a good indication that e-commerce has an increasing influence on the local retail market, but physical stores are here to stay.
Marketers and business leaders need to appreciate that customers don't see channels, they only see brands. Marketing is part of technology and technology is now pivotal to marketing Return On Investment (ROI).
Technology is moving back into stores. Savvy retailers are now considering ways to stimulate customers through automating more of the shopping process - think "scan a barcode and go," using gesture browsing on interactive screens, providing Google glass to store assistants. They are also offering geo-location services for customers with limited time.
With the customer at the heart of business, technology is set to revolutionize the in-store experience. Soon the talk will be of how "online" selling is traditional. In-store technology experiences are about to multiply. But, to prepare for the next wave of retail transformation, marketers need to champion an easy and enjoyable path to purchase on every channel with which their customers want to engage. It's no longer going to be enough to merely have an "e-commerce" or "digital" experience. Today, it must be a seamless brand experience.
Chow Sang Sang, one of the leading jewelry brands in Hong Kong, having already fully embraced an innovative omni-channel retail business model. This is a great example of a retailer successfully blending interactive technology into a bricks and mortar store experience. The in-store interactive customer experience introduces new cutting-edge digital technology, where customers can design and "try" the accessories virtually on a display screen, take images, and share with friends. If customers are keen to share on social media, why not capture that photo in-store?
What's will the future look like when you walk into a store? Perhaps something like this:
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) retail - with a digital wallet you'll be able to bring your own smart phone into a store, pick up a product, tap its barcode to your smart phone and instantly pay and go. Your receipt will be sent via text or e-mail to you. No more standing in line. Self-service just got a lot smarter and faster.
Home manufacturing - with your own 3D printer at home you'll be able to buy the design and print your own tableware at home in the latest spring/summer patterns and styles. You could print off a matching vase to as a centerpiece for your next BBQ.
Super personalization - think gesture browsing Minority Report style and really smart advertising which understands you contextually with relevant offers that suit your lifestyle preferences.
Vending machines - are for more than chips and drinks. They are a network of stores that can sell across shopping centers, train stations, bus stops and airports. In other countries, companies are using them to sell fresh flowers, makeup, phone chargers, clothing and much more.
Vibrant street shops and large shopping centers will continue to exist in Hong Kong and top-tier cities on the mainland. It is just that the mechanics of shopping will be different - more consumer driven, faster and offering a unique experience. In the spirit of Chinese New Year, let's enjoy it to the fullest and also the allure of new "digital stores".