, Singapore

SAP lays out groundwork for customer-centricity and digitisation for retailers 

A “new world of customer experience” and innovation await retail businesses during the pandemic.

Many Singapore retailers have been scrambling to remain afloat as the retail industry becomes one of the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. As they adjust to the new normal, two key priority shifts have been gaining more weight when it comes to managing and thriving amidst the crisis: personalised customer experience and innovation.  

These areas were the central theme in SAP and Retail Asia's 60-minute virtual round table entitled Customers take center stage: Using innovation to grow your business last 28 May, Friday. The virtual round table highlighted the importance of customer service during the pandemic, and showed how technology can better equip retailers in achieving this goal.

Adapting to customer-centric business model  

The event started off with SAP's retail industry and business architect for Southeast Asia, Aditya Utama confirming the need for retailers to focus on customer-centricity during the pandemic. According to him, the pandemic has created a new reality where retailers are balancing between disrupting the industry and serving the consumer in new ways while continuously making profit. And with the disruption predicted to happen until next year due to the second or third wave of the COVID pandemic, one important strategy of balancing both is to create in-depth experiences for customers. 

Adhering to this new retail customer experience include success strategies such as customer centricity. Customer-centricity, according to Utama, is putting the customer at the centre of all decisions, including pricing, promotions, and other omnichannel interactions. 

"We always tell to put the customer at the centre of the organisations, which focuses on customer-centricity to make every decision from the product that we are going to sell from the product that we are going to do to research and development for the future—or even taking consideration to get a feedback from the customer even for after-sales services that we are providing."

Aside from customer centricity, other key success strategies to serving the new retail customer is serving the segment of one; connecting the supply chain from suppliers to consumers for a faster response; redefining stores through brand experience center or fulfillment location; and creating new business models and opportunities using deep customer insights and platform scale. 

Understanding the Singapore retailer during the pandemic

Utama continued his presentation by citing an Oxford Economics report covering three broad themes that define the Singapore retailer today. First, personalised and digital experiences are becoming one of the most important priorities in retail businesses. Second, business processes, data analytics, talent and workforce are becoming the foundation of interconnectivity system thinking. Third, creating a personalised customer experience means becoming data-centric and digitalised. 

The third theme is highly relevant, with the pandemic spurring digital transformation in many companies clamoring for survival and growth. Utama suggested three things that retailers can do to successfully implement it in their business: 

"One is to work with the HR to plan the talents and even change the talent to fit the digital and innovations framework they are trying to build. The second is to see how they can improve the data sharing between the organization itself and also across organisations. And the third is to adjust and facilitate partnerships that can help achieve this goal," he said.

Creating a unified customer experience

Building from this discussion, Alfred Choy, Sales Director for Customer Data Management and Marketing, APJ for SAP Customer Experience, discussed the main issues involved in creating a unified customer experience. According to him, the challenge is not just creating good branding that can provide a highly-beneficial experience to the customer—it's also about merging customer data that can establish a unified customer experience across all channels. 

"It's about what you can do to increase your customer experience bit by bit in different areas," he explained. "It could be your customer service, it could be your logistic provider, it could also be your marketing, because marketing is literally sitting in the front line of the customer and this is how you communicate and engage with your customer every day. So, to power up these kinds of marketing and provide a good customer experience, the whole customer lifecycle data will become the core of creating a unified customer experience."

Choy ended the discussion by providing three case studies where they collaborated with Love Bonito, Clarins, and City Beach on how to drive customer-centricity into their strategy; create a unified, more omni-channel experience for their customers; and create a digitised, data-driven platform into their system. 

The question and answer sessions were joined by four more panelists, Gigi Ng, director of Dreiheit House International Pte Ltd; Bruno Zysman, director of Dominopos Pte Ltd.; Genie Osorio, director for strategy and insights at McDonalds; and Elizabeth-Anne Theodoros, owner and founder of Dipsy Dips.  Among key topics discussed were the challenges that retailers should prepare for during digital transformation, accelerating digital innovation across the retail industry before and after the pandemic, Singapore retail as a whole, investments retailers should focus on, and delivery service sustainability even after the pandemic. 

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