There’s no such thing as global retail

Think you know all about retail in Asia? Think again. After interviewing Jeremey Sea, who is senior manager, commercial marketing Asia Pac for Sensormatic, it is clear that the US-centric and Euro-centric views on the future of retail simply do not apply in Asia.

Asia is not Kansas

The first problem is, Asia is a convenient catch all for politicians and analysts, but it embraces 60% of the world’s population across multiple countries that are no more like each other than Spain is like Afghanistan. While China sits at the heart of it in terms of size and population, it is important to remember that Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Japan and so on, all have very different cultures, languages and geopolitics which affect the way people buy and therefore the way retail is developing. This is perhaps well-known, but it is also easily forgotten when analysts try to talk about the trends in retail.

The store is flourishing

In short, there is no such thing as global retail. In the US and Europe, we are all talking about the crisis facing the store, never more so than during the Coronavirus crisis. However, in parts of Asia, the store is flourishing. For instance, ecommerce companies in Indonesia are using existing ‘mom and pop’ stores to distribute orders for click and collect, bringing these stores much needed new business and the chance to expand.

No big weekly shop here

Any brand or retailer that is serious about growth beyond its crowded home territories has been urged for many years now to look East, so it is critical that they understand just how different the countries in the continent are. For instance, in China, most people live in cities in small apartments, so the concept of the single big weekly shop is alien; where would they even store all the stuff that some westerners load into their trollies? And the Chinese are very sociable; they want to get out to shop for the day’s food, but they also want to meet up.

Understanding the shopper is key to winning them

And then remember that by 2025 it is estimated that 40% of the world’s luxury goods will be bought in China alone. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, brands will need to get a lot smarter about using technology to understand who is in their stores, in what density, clustering in what part of the store, operating at which stage of their shopping journey and so on. Beyond counting foot fall, advanced analytics are needed to enable the store to plan ahead in terms of location, layout, assortments, staffing, task management, workforce technology and customer service based on types of shopping journeys, many of which may have started on line.

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