Meeting the shoppers where they are

Published July 19, 2020, 11:26 AM

by John Legaspi

HELPING HANDS—As consumers are still hesitant to be in crowded spaces, retail establishments like SM Supermalls are now doing door-to-door deliveries and curbside pickups to keep shoppers and employees safe (Photo by Noel Pabalate)

Over the past months, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted the people’s focus from living their lives to the fullest to keeping themselves healthy until it is safe to go out again. Apart from its health perils, the pandemic has also affected how various businesses are being run and relating with customers, adapt to the dramatically changing consumer attitude and behavior. 

As everyone has to stay home in observance of quarantine protocols, the world gets smaller and tighter inside smartphones and other devices, where industry players now find  more and more of their retail space. 

Convenience, along with safety, is the new luxury, as no destination or merchandise is worth risking health or life for. While consumers are largely hesitant to go out, retailers provide their needs one click at a time right in the comfort of their homes.

WHERE CUSTOMERS SHOP

According to Senen Perlada, director of the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB), businesses should look at marketspaces on online platforms rather than geographic spaces during and after the pandemic.

“If there’s one thing that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has taught us, it’s that we can explore the possibilities in the digital space,” says Perlada. “We are now driven to accelerate our digital transformation. To thrive during this time, businesses should strengthen their online-to-offline platforms. Customers can buy online and then just have their orders for pickup or delivery.”

Doing business online does uphold sustainability and safety benefits for both the business owners and consumers. Based on a survey done by Rakuten Insight, 63 percent of its respondents in the Philippines said they increased their online purchases as of May this year. This is because of the closure of all non-essential businesses during community quarantine, and to avoid activities outside as the virus continues to spread.

For years, e-commerce platforms have enabled new and innovative ways in which the retail industry might operate. Because of the home confinement brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, going digital has become the future of retail. 

RETAIL GOING DIGITAL

Retail giants such as SM Supermalls and Rustan’s, which are known for serving great shopping experiences inside their brick-and-mortar spaces, are extending their mall customer service through online platforms.

A CLICK AWAY—Many consumers are depending on digital stores, like SM Supermalls e-commerce website, to get their daily needs

Although their stores are now open in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), the retail establishments are still heightening their digital presence with their e-commerce sites, providing curbside pickups, as well as personal shoppers attending to their customers’ purchases and the delivery of the purchased items door to door. All of these services are processed online.

“Digital and e-commerce will most definitely play a larger role now and going forward,” says Donnie Tantoco, president of Rustan Commercial Corporation. “We were happy that we launched [rustans.com] in August of last year. We now have the advantage of having both physical stores and a digital one.”

SAFETY IS A LUXURY–For Rustan’s, giving the same level of customer service online as it did in its traditional stores is important

“One of the things we are doing for 2020 is digital transformation,” says president of SM Supermalls Steven Tan in a story by Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “It’s not just what our end customer sees, it also has a lot to do with the processes to make everything more efficient, to make it easier for our tenants, for our customers. It’s a form of service as a matter of fact, this digital transformation.”

THE FUTURE OF E-COMMERCE

Due to loss of jobs, even regular Filipinos are heading to the internet to find ways to make a living, selling anything from gadgets and homemade meals to thrifted pieces and health essentials. 

This month, the DTI revisits R.A. no. 8792 or the “E-commerce Act of 2000,” which is committed to implementing policies to strengthen and grow e-commerce in the country. 

“Twenty years after this pioneering legislation was passed, we need to revisit that law to make it more relevant to the times, and to future-proof it too,” says DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez. “We need to take into account the substantial developments in technology, the widespread use of the internet, and the growing e-commerce sector.”

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez

To enhance the country’s e-commerce efforts, the DTI is supporting other bills relating to online enterprises, particularly the House Bill (HB) 6122 “Internet Transactions Act” authored by Wes Gatchalian, Trade Committee chair representative. This bill seeks to build an e-commerce bureau that will focus on promoting the development of online business, establishing trust between sellers and consumers, reinforcing stronger online consumer protection, safer online payment channels, easier business registration, and formulating other policies and programs to increase the number of online merchants and consumers.

In line with the department’s initiative, Congress is also studying HB 6927 or the “E-government Act,” principally authored by Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. Lray Villafuerte, the HB 6926 and Senate Bill (SB) 1469 on the national digital careers act, and SB 1470 on the National Digital Transformation policy.

“With e-commerce growing and evolving, we need to tackle structural and legal impediments to digital marketplace growth,” says Sec. Lopez. “The upshot is that this is expected to boost our economy in terms of opening markets to facilitate sales and consumption, upgrading traditional manufacturing and services, and developing new industries for business opportunities.”

 
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