StartmeupHK Festival 2020 – Day 2 Highlights – Connected Cities Conference

Connected Retail Experiences by Bailey Communications: Why Retail Still Matters in an Increasingly Digital World

Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said that Hong Kong is a competitive market that will continue to move forward, in spite of the challenges. He added that there are a few lessons that we can learn from the pandemic and that we can turn a crisis into opportunities.

For the last two years, Hong Kong has undergone not only the pandemic but also social unrest and trade tension: ‘We have been taking a very tough attitude that we want to fight and we [have] for the Covid-19 war against the epidemic… also fighting the war against the very slippery economic recession. At a time like this, we need greater solidarity and by creating collective change, [not splitting] force among ourselves and [marching] on, we can face the unknown’, he added.

Stephen Phillips, Director-General of Investment Promotion, Invest Hong Kong, started the day by sharing how InvestHK could help companies seize the opportunities in Hong Kong. ‘InvestHK’s goal is to help companies from across the world to both set up and expand in Hong Kong to capture the exciting opportunities in the city, in the Greater Bay Area, in China, in ASEAN, and beyond.’ In addition to their startup team in Hong Kong, he stressed that they also have teams that specialise in the retail and consumer products sector that can help shape business strategy. He closed the session by urging the viewers and industry leaders alike to reach out, as InvestHK is ready to help.

With so much of our activity going online in response to Covid-19, it’s easy to think traditional retail is dead. But David Berkowitz, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Outernets, shared his vision for the future of retailing: an all-round, deep integration between brick-and-mortar stores and digital experiences that he called ‘Omnishops’. By employing technologies including computer vision, machine learning and data analytics, retailers can maximise shopper engagement across multiple contact points both offline and online, make better decisions, and ultimately boost sales.

No matter how amazing your product is, if you don’t make sure your client is happy about it, you probably won’t keep them for long. Antoine Vatar, CEO, Albert Technologies, gave a presentation on the essential role of data in understanding user behaviour and improving their experience. However, Vatar explained that it was equally important for a company to translate such data into digestible insights for clients to make sure they understand your value and impact. ‘Free services are not free – we are paying with our data, said Vatar, while touching on the relationship between online platforms and their users whose data are being collected. ‘Data must benefit its owner. Our data are not a product anymore.’

Retail Still Matters

Bernie Brookes Chairman of Funtastic Australia and Chairman of Dotz Australia shared the hints and tips for the ever-evolving retailer. He said we’ve forgotten the importance of education. No longer can retailers sell products to an uninformed consumer. People what to be educated on products but with that comes a lot of online activism.

Next up industry thought leaders talked about emerging trends during Covid-19. Each panelist discussed trends in respect to their own markets. Sarah Fung Founder and CEO, HULA, reflected on HULA’s experience in sales growth over Covid-19, and said that one of the biggest trends is that sustainability is such a big factor. People are buying pre-owned items or not even at all. The shift in buying less is something that is resonating with consumers now. She said that there is a contradiction in “green washing”, but you cannot condemn a brand for doing it because it is what we all should be working toward, and it will take time. Louisa Zhang, Vice President, Vectr Ventures, said offline stores will be used for very different purposes than what it is used for now. The focus has shifted to favouring the experience with services like better return and pickup, product alteration and customisation. She said it is important not to see offline and online as two different challenges but one and the same.

Paul Martin, Chair, Global Retail Steering Group and Head of Retail UK, KPMG, said he did not expect retail sales to reach pre-Covid levels until 2022. The e-commerce channel is growing the fastest. It is important to highlight in this context that online still only represents about 16% of all retail sales. The role of the physical environment is also changing. He highlighted the six drivers of consumption that will continue to shape consumer purchases decision during and in a post-Covid world, namely value, convenience, experience, choice, purpose, and privacy and safety.

Technology is transforming the retail sector. The latest trend in retail technology is the acceleration of digitalisation and reliance on technology in driving collaboration. Those who have been winning are those who have adapted quickly and learned to collaborate effectively internally and with consumers. Noah Herschman, Senior Retail Industry Architect, Microsoft, said that retail is nothing but forecasting and prediction, which is built for artificial intelligence and machine learning processes.

Richard Claydon, Chief Executive, Organisational Misbehaviourists, presented reasoning behind how fostering trust can immediately boost sales. What we know about choice is that learning to choose is hard. Consumers have the difficult job of knowing what they want to buy. People experience choice overload, when it is difficult to compare products. By reducing choice, retailers know what to sell. By reducing the choices to a smaller number, customers tend to buy rapidly. Trust is the currency of interaction, as money is the currency of transaction. Trust in institutions is at an all-time low, so people innately do not trust you. It is very easy to lose the confidence of consumers now. Trust needs to be made a core design component of sales.

To wrap up the day, Joanna Dai, Founder and CEO of London-based womenswear brand Dai, shared her personal experience in creating her own successful fashion start-up which has been on a tremendous growth trajectory. The concept, never quite done right before, is formal but also functional.