Taking stock of retail readiness for the holiday season

Hong Kong's retail industry continues to grapple with one of the worst downturns in recent years, and many will be eyeing the end-of-year holiday season and hoping for a change in fortunes for the sector.

Hong Kong’s retail industry continues to grapple with one of the worst downturns in recent years, and many will be eyeing the
end-of-year holiday season and hoping for a change in fortunes for the sector.

As summer gives way to autumn, Hong Kong’s retail industry continues to grapple with one of the worst downturns in recent years, and many will be eyeing the end-of-year holiday season and hoping for a change in fortunes for the sector, according to Helen Wong, director, Partner & Product Strategy Asia-Pacic, Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

So what can retailers do to deliver the technology-rich and tailored experiences that consumers have come to expect? Wong suggested an IT checklist with key items that should be part of every retailer’s inventory:

  • Compelling and user-friendly digital storefronts matter: It is critical for online retailers to frequently test what their customers encounter once they have followed the digital path to the retailer’s website, revealed Wong.

“Is the functionality user-friendly and fast? Is it easy to get customer service support if needed, and will your associates recognise returning customers? How good are your analytics for predicting inventory needs and customer preferences? And, most significantly, can your e-commerce and m-commerce platforms handle  traffic increases around holidays and promotions?” she asked.

Flexible and secure network infrastructures, bolstered by robust IT hosting environments, are essential underpinnings of a sound operational model.

  • A sound unified commerce strategy can attract a loyal following: Recognising your customer and their shopping preferences and habits whether they are online, mobile or in-store — without being intrusive — can earn the sought-after brand loyalty that is the holy grail for the industry, said Wong. How can this level of insight be reached? Achieving a ‘single view’ of POS and CRM systems combined with e-commerce, m-commerce, in-store and call centre channels can enable one view across entire business for streamlining operations and ultimately improving customer’s experience, she said.
  • Shore up security: In the era of multi-channel retailing, ensure that online and mobility channels are secure, Wong advised. Protect public-facing websites and mobile applications, which can be magnets for cyber thieves. While EMV, or chip and pin, appears to be helping prevent credit  card fraud for in-store purchases, cyber thieves continue to focus on digital assets to find vulnerabilities.

“Also, use mobile device management for safeguarding employee access to corporate information; encrypting data; protecting against viruses; and remote lock and wipe of critical corporate information from devices,” she said.

Will the 2016 holiday season be the start of a turnaround for Hong Kong’s retail sector? Wong said: “Only time will tell what the season will bring, but it’s safe to say that the retailers who make the most of technology and anticipate their customers’ needs will fare best.”