In Hong Kong, Lane Crawford is known as one of the Asia’s premier retailers. But not everyone realises the extent of their digital capabilities. Kenneth Shek, Head of Beta Labs (Data), The Lane Crawford Joyce Group, runs the company’s Beta Labs initiative that leverages data to optimise business processes as well.
“We are seeking to understand customers from all angles including what did they search for, buy, and the behaviour and intention behind the purchase, and taking these attributes and helping personalising experience for the customers and recommending products at the right time and with the most personalisation as possible, and cascading down to all layers of operations,” says Shek.
These touch points could be in-store, or via concierge styling service, rich content email, SMS, brick-and-mortar experience, and other digital channels. “It’s all about the right product, at the right time for the right audience,” Shek says. Beta Labs runs a model that shows how many times you can contact a customer on various channels before the company gets a negative backlash, which avoids the classic problem of online business: Avoiding spamming the customer but helping them with their personal lifestyle.
Adopting an omnichannel model means that whether online or offline, customers get a similar experience. “Hyper personalisation will be supported by AI and data analytics to get a deep understanding of customers and not just focused on driving more sales, but instead delivering a better customer experience and seeing customer lifetime value as the north star. Machines will be able to scale intelligence, with humans as the final gatekeeper with creative elements and the essential human touch, empowering all these with an AI superpower,” Shek adds.
For Janis Tam, Managing Director of Swire Resources Limited, which owns Hong Kong’s most well-known outdoor brands, transforming their traditional and very large business into a digital one that is nimble, flexible and adaptable to the times has been a years-long process.
“This generation has grown up with digital, these changes have forced us to think whether we can survive with physical stores,” says Tam. “E-commerce has been instinctive for us, and this has morphed into social media marketing and data as well,” Tam adds.
Over the next five years, Tam sees the company further embracing and accelerating digital, especially with COVID-19 accelerating change. “The pandemic has led us more and more into enhancing our beyond store initiatives and getting everyone to use digital tools like livestreaming and social media messaging to connect with customers wherever they are,” says Tam.
Traditional store workers have thus become salespeople working off and online in an entrepreneurial fashion. They are not just standing in the shop waiting for people to come in, but proactively following customers in digital environments. At the same time, the traditional sales reports one expects from retail, made on dreary Excel files, are making away for the likes of rich data visualisation and analytics. “Now the possibilities of working around the data are endless and this is very exciting for us,” Tam says.
At the heart of this process is looking at digital and physical in a unified way. “All customers are treated in a bespoke and personalised way whether found us online or by walking into a store,” says Kenneth Shek, Head of Beta Labs (Data), The Lane Crawford Joyce Group. “We approach everyone differently but it’s not specific to whether they came from an online or offline environment, there is no difference in terms of the approach and fundamental principles of a complete omnichannel experience,” says Shek.
To garner meaningful data, social media is crucial. People use online shops and social media in particular to look at a product before buying it. This is particularly true for the likes of automobiles and luxury goods that consumers may want to examine in person. When the dust settles from the pandemic, the retailers that have robust online capabilities will be the best placed to promote their physical stores, pop-ups and in-mall activations.
Lane Crawford Joyce Group take an approach that combines humanistic empathy and data accuracy. “It doesn’t matter where the customer converts, but we need to provide the right information for them no matter where the customer might be,” says Shek. “We only collect necessary data so we can personalise experience to our customers, while keeping data privacy as one of our core values. In the meantime, the empathy element plays a huge role in machine learning, from which you shall create a full understanding of your customers,” Shek adds.
And for all you retail naysayers: the physical location is still absolutely essential to this. “The store is still a place for inspiration and experience, understand brand stories, touch and feel and understanding brands, the physical store is still crucial, while expecting greater adoption for digital touch points. COVID-19 will go away eventually, and while we have seen changes, we always continue to enable our bricks and clicks as a complete omnichannel experience with our insights,” he adds.
Case study 2: Video is the star of the show
We often think of YouTube as having lots of annoying ads that make you want to tear your hair out. Maybe this perception is about to change. Zyetric Technologies ...
Case study 3: Robots are going shopping
If you are a traditional retailer, digitising a whole store seems like a complete nightmare. But what if a robot could take the hassle out of all it? That is where San Francisco-based start-up Zippedi comes in ...