Online marketplaces – the future of retail?

Retail Asia Expo 2018 is officially over and it has been another successful edition for the Tofugear team. Here we summarise some of our highlights from the three-day event.

The Tofugear Booth

Our booth attracted a steady stream of visitors and it was our pleasure to demonstrate how technologies such as smart mirrors, beacons, RFID tags and mobile apps can help to raise the customer experience. These are things that any retailer should incorporate into their omnichannel strategy as they look to fend off fierce competition from the likes of Amazon and Alibaba and adapt to changing shopping habits of the connected consumer.

Retail Asia Conference

The Retail Asia Conference ran alongside the Retail Asia Expo over the first two days of the event. Tofugear’s Head of Research, Philip Wiggenraad, delivered a presentation in which he unveiled the findings of our 2018 Asia Digital Transformation Survey. His three key takeaways were as follows:


Retailers in Asia recognise the need to adapt.

Over 85% of retailers say that delivering a positive customer experience is critical to their business. Yet over half also admit that they are currently unable to meet customer expectations. So while it is encouraging that retailers are aware of the need to adapt, further investment in the customer experience is required.


Organise for innovation.

Digital transformation is very focused on what it can mean for the consumer, but retailers should not overlook the changes that are required internally. The marketing department takes the lead in innovation at the majority of retailers in Asia, but there is evidence to suggest that dedicated digital teams – that operate horizontally across the organisation – can lead to more successful outcomes when it comes to digital innovation.



This has become a motto for Tofugear, but retailers really need to think about what changes they can make in the short-term to better serve their customers. In the fast-paced retail industry, there is no point making changes in two to four years’ time. Action is needed now and even if these are only modest initiatives, this is still a step in the right direction.



State of Digital in Asian Retail Panel Discussion


Carson McKelvey, Chief Experience Officer at Tofugear, also chaired a panel on the results of our digital transformation survey. Joined by APAC CEO of Roberto Cavalli, Filippo Gori; Vice President of Fossil Group Asia Pacific, Rasheed Shroff; and the Group Head of Information & Technology of Jebsen & Co, Brian Chan, the panel weighed in on the findings of Tofugear’s 2018 Asia Digital Transformation Report and focused on a number of key topics.

One that was discussed in particular was how ecommerce, and specifically marketplaces (such as Amazon, Tmall, Alibaba, etc…) have played a critical role in the transformation of the industry, despite only accounting for 0-10% of revenue for most retailers. The panel shared their experiences and provided the audience with guidance on how to effectively utilise marketplaces.



The panel also addressed the growing need to focus on the customer experience and how they are minding the gap between the traditional way of conducting business and customer expectations.

Finally, the panel offered their insights as to what they saw as the future of retail. Despite the hype, virtual reality (VR) and even more importantly, augmented reality (AR) is high up on the to-do-list to potentially unlock new streams of value for their businesses. At the same time, the panel agreed that data and business intelligence is critical for any retailer to be successful in the coming years.



Gen Z Panel


Tofugear’s Retail Analyst, Tiffany Lung, was back with yet another panel discussion featuring today’s young consumers. There is growing realisation that retailers also need to understand Gen Z – the demographic cohort that comes after millennials – if they are to successfully target the next generation of consumers.



Some insights from this discussion were as follows:

  • Despite H&M’s recent woes, the fast fashion retailer seemed very popular with Gen Z consumers. This was in contrast to a previous panel with millennials, in which Zara was mentioned most frequently.
  • Gen Z seems less idealistic than millennials. There was little appetite for buying from retailers with an ethical stance – particularly because this often entails higher price points. To his credit, one member of the panel apologised for his selfishness.
  • When asked on their views of online vs. offline shopping, the majority indicated that they preferred to shop in stores. Although the internet is used to research purchases beforehand, the panellists still preferred to close the deal in stores due to convenience and the importance of being able to view and try on items in person.



Trend Trail


Hosted by creative agency Fitch, the trend trail showcased innovative consumer solutions that will start to make an impact very soon. Tofugear was present with its anti-counterfeit and anti-tampering solution, both of which are encrypted by blockchain and make use of NFC technology. This is a highly relevant solution in a world in which the total value of counterfeited goods totals more than US$500bn.




Connect // Enable


In Tofugear’s first ever partner event, Connect //Enable, Carson McKelvey laid down his vision on why partnering is so important when it comes to retail innovation. Without partnerships, Tofugear would be unable to truly accomplish its mission of creating ecosystems that are hyper-personalised for consumers, maximise the value of existing investments and help brands unlock new value streams.


Underlining the importance of collaboration, Carson shared the stage with a line-up of high profile speakers that spoke of their personal experiences of the impact of creating ecosystems and partnerships.

  • Sankar Villupuram, Head of IoT & Business Development at JOS, highlighted some of the successes that collaboration had brought his organisation.
  • Wincy Chan, IoT Ecosystem Lead at Microsoft, discussed how IoT technology could have a profound impact on the average day of a consumer.
  • Eunice Chan, Director of Sales APAC for Identiv, reflected on the significant impact that RFID and NFC technology is having on the retail sector.
  • A panel consisting of Leon Tay (General Manager, Enterprise at Newstead Technologies), Marius Kriening (Director of Partnerships APAC at Olapic) and Jasper Chung (General Manager at Inside Retail Asia) discussed the thinking behind partnerships and how that should change. The panel was hosted by Jennifer Doman Flowers, Director at PwC.


Tiffany Lung

Tiffany Lung

Tiffany is a retail analyst at Tofugear focusing on unified commerce, digital transformation, innovation and consumer trends across all retail sectors. Her insights have been featured in local and international media and she can often be found patrolling the streets to capture the most innovative stores for her #TiffanysRetailPatrol videos.