Photo - Masaya Ueno, President and Chief Executive Officer, Rakuten Online Shopping
In Malaysia, we announced our plans to launch Rakuten Online Shopping in May 2012 and the website went live with more than 11,000 products from top local retailers on 1 November 2012. Over the last 12 months, we have seen online retail propositions grow in sophistication, moving away from price driven transactions towards richer, branded shopping experiences. With so much choice a few clicks away, encouraging customer loyalty and nurturing shopping experiences will be essential for retailers as we move into 2013.
In the next year and beyond, we expect the rapid development of the e-commerce sector to continue, driven by three key trends as below:
1) Online retailers strive to deliver personal touch
Some things in retail haven't changed; the secret to success is still engaging customers to keep them coming back to your brand and recommending it to their friends. Social channels have made it possible for retailers to not only enter into personal dialogue with fans but reach friends of fans too. Ultimately it's not the number of fans that makes a difference, but how vocal they are. We anticipate more online retailers striving to reach out to their customers more than ever before through loyalty building programmes, service enhancements and tactics to encourage positive word-of-mouth. This may in turn drive more consumers to take their shopping online to reap the rewards offered.
2) Curated commerce
Getting a second opinion before committing to a purchase is nothing new, but now rather than taking a friend shopping, shoppers can take their entire social network with them. Social media tools, such as photo-sharing network Pinterest, are quickly gaining popularity, allowing users to organise their favourite items into themed collections that they can share with friends. Not only does this fuel personal expression in shopping, but other shoppers will use these collections to inform their own purchase decisions.
3) Increased mobile integration
Whether it's a mobile-optimised site or dedicated app, most retailers are coming to terms with the need for a smartphone or tablet solution. In a report released this year, PayPal shares that the Malaysian mobile commerce market is expected to grow more than seven times to hit RM3.43 billion by 2015. In the next year, we expect to see more integration in-store, through the use of apps, QR codes and augmented reality experiences as well as shifts in the payment tools available.
As 2013 beckons, it is highly important to recognise that mobile and social uptake provides retailers with the opportunity to engage with customers on a more personal level. The customer is central to success in e-commerce, as in any retail business. Online businesses need to look at innovating the ways in which customer loyalty is built in an increasingly multi-channel retail environment.