Bespoke solutions key to digital retail’s fast fashion world

By: Divyesh Dalal, Head, Payments and Cash Management, HSBC India

Asian companies that have set the global pace in eCommerce retailing must embrace a fresh wave of digital change if they are to hold on to cost-conscious customers who have adopted digital channels for communication and commerce. It will be imperative to evaluate data to understand consumer behavior and preferences which will drive decision making.

With consumers at all income-levels increasingly willing to purchase a wide range of products exclusively online and with mobile shopping’s rapid growth, the challenge for the retailers’ is to enhance the consumer experience for a brand’s most loyal followers and bring new buyers into the fold while minimizing the risks associated with an ever-more international supply chain.

It’s a shift that could even force retailers which have so far eschewed eCommerce to re-think their strategies.

While unusual, there are a few brands at the very high-end that have not been eager to cater to an online audience at all out of fear of brand dilution. Others share their brand story through an online presence, but do not encourage or even enable consumers to make a purchase online. While this strategy may still be working for a select group, it is less likely to be viable in future

The digital trend isn’t just about establishing brand presence and pushing products online.
A successful digital strategy must involve daily social media engagement that delivers interesting and relevant content to customers and will need buy-in from senior management, dedicated staff, creativity, and the investment of time and resources.
Working with a local creative and digital partner in each market can be the difference between a successful entrance into a new market and one that falls flat or, even worse, creates a negative perception of the brand.

Smaller firms will typically benefit from using digital dashboards to get a snapshot of their entire online business presence, while larger companies should consider Big Data analytics to streamline information flow and generate insight on customer behaviour and buying trends. Data Analytics can be used to enhance consumer experience and consequently, brand loyalty.

While what works well for one company might not work for another, there are a few best practices that the digital domain demands to be put in place, regardless of the size of the retailer.

Payment preferences and cash management suddenly becomes much more important to understand and analyse, given the increased potential for cross-border commerce adding a new layer of complexity to already internationally-oriented supply chains. Retailers need to know in real-time the costs and risks associated with every component of these operations, particularly the smaller and regional brand owners which may need to set up supporting cross-border supply chain infrastructure for the first time.

Supply chain settlement is typically done in a variety of global currencies, but the right financial partner can tailor systems for retailers to track their money in real-time and its value in a single currency, regardless of what currency they have been paid in.
Companies with a presence in multiple countries will benefit from efficient foreign exchange solutions with cross-border capabilities as managing capital and liquidity more effectively is vital, no matter how big or small the company.

The market dynamics have undoubtedly changed, but the basic principles of retail remain the same. Brands must identify potential customers, engage them and ultimately complete a sale. The retailers best equipped to succeed will use technology to better understand their product sales cycles, consumer behavior and maximize margins which have been under constant pressure due to competition from e-commerce companies. Only then will they retain the customers they have and reach the customers they really want.

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