Key themes of the 2019 Asia E-tailing Summit

With the Asia E-tailing Summit concluded on December 5, here we summarise four key themes that emerged across the two days of this year’s event in Hong Kong.


There are ample ecommerce opportunities in Asia

Online retail revenue in Southeast Asia is forecast to grow at a CAGR rate of 23% to reach US$53 billion by 2023, according to Forrester. Governments in Malaysia and Indonesia are actively supporting ecommerce in their respective countries, and Rakuten from Japan is partnering with Chinese to offer logistics solutions. Similarly, Indonesia’s is partnering with and Kaola to offer better ecommerce capabilities to merchants.

Cheong Chia Chou, CEO of PrestoMall, predicted that Chinese ecommerce platforms would increasingly go to Southeast Asia to extend their geographic reach. On the other hand, Terry Iu, Facebook’s Head of Digital Natives, also predicted brands and retailers may need to partner with fintech solution companies to offer better payment solutions.


People are trusting AI more, yet AI has its limits

People are trusting AI more, and retail managers and directors are starting to endorse AI. That said, AI still has its limits, for example not having enough data, data not clean enough, or that the algorithms are not strong enough. To further gain customer trust, retailers need to explain better how AI works, obtain customers’ consent before getting data from them, and to include human-centered design when creating AI solutions.


Panelists also shared their views on what retailers need as must-have AI applications for the next 5 years, with suggestions ranging from visual search, predictive segmentation, eye tracking, digital footprint tracking, product recommendations and voice search.



Omni-channel retailing means consistency and better communication
In the era of new retail, customers no longer purchase from siloed channels, but increasingly in an integrated manner. Omnichannel retailing means communicating with customers in a better way, and about providing convenience to customers so they can buy anytime and anywhere, said iClick Interactive Asia’s Frankie Ho. PANDORA Jewelry Asia-Pacific’s Daphne Lee added that omnichannel retailing should also include increasing product availability.


Panelists cited multiple benefits that omnichannel retailing can bring to retailers, including higher sales conversion rates, increased repeat customers and reduced frustrations for shoppers. Yet, omnichannel retailing comes with challenges such as establishing price consistency between channels, technical issues and the amount of investment needed. Talking about the future role of stores – they still have a role to play, but will act more like a showroom where customers can physically touch goods and interact with staff.



IoT can help retailers improve supply chain, reduce costs and implement dynamic pricing
IoT is no longer new to retail and benefits that retailers can achieve through it include improvement to the supply chain, offering an Amazon/Alibaba type of experience to customers in terms of faster delivery of goods, helping with business process automation and facilitating better inventory management. IoT also enables retailers to better locate where stock is and can help reduce transportation costs.


Panelists cited multiple examples of IoT applications within the retail industry, which includes Kroger using smart shelves to eliminate the need for printed price tags, Alibaba’s smart warehouse that provides automated warehouse solutions, and Walmart using smart locks to let delivery drivers access homes when consumers are out.

Terence Ng

Terence Ng

Terence is a Retail Analyst at Hong Kong-based retail innovation company Tofugear. Over the last eight years he has worked at multiple market research firms, including Coresight, Nielsen and Ipsos, as well as at Hong Kong retail giant AS Watson. Terence started his career as Assistant Consultant in Cimigo