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Retail chains embrace digital revolution

Dec 10. 2014
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TOP MODERN retailers have reshuffled their business strategies to cash in on the booming digital economy in Thailand, which has not only facilitated their back-office operations, but also enhanced communication with potential clients.
Wanna Swuddigul, Tesco Lotus digital and online business director, said today’s customers wanted to be able to shop anywhere, at any time and in any way they like. 
Tesco Lotus is serving the needs of modern customers through multi-channel retailing, both through various store formats and digital channels, she said.
With the company’s multi-channel platform, customers now can choose to pick up food from a Tesco Lotus Express store near home, stock up on groceries for their family from a Tesco Lotus hypermarket, or simply order fresh food online. 
Tesco Lotus has seen positive growth of online shopping this year, she said.
Wanna said the application of a multi-channel strategy was more than just helping a retailer to sell more goods, as it could rely on various channels to foster customer relationships. 
“With digital channels, we can offer an even more personalised and value-added shopping experience for customers. For example, we are giving information on sales promotions and useful shopping tips via the Line application, a channel that reaches more than 8 million customers on a daily basis. 
“On the Tesco Lotus Facebook fanpage, customers not only learn more about new products, sales promotions and useful information, they can ask questions and interact with us,” said the director.
Apart from giving customers a better shopping experience, digital channels are useful in promoting SME trade, as small and medium-sized enterprises can now put their products on sale on Tesco Lotus online or on the Lazada marketplace. 
Tesco Lotus partners with Lazada to sell its general merchandise on the popular Lazada e-commerce platform.
Automated quality control
Kudatara Nagaviroj, executive adviser for corporate affairs of Big C Supercenter, said the hypermarket chain now employed digital technology in both its front and back offices with the aim of delivering maximum satisfaction and savings to customers nationwide. 
At Big C’s distribution centres, incoming and outgoing shipments are received, managed and picked by a computerised system that scans and matches the specifications and quality standards of each shipment with the incoming/outgoing order. 
The system will automatically advise the quality-control team to reject any shipment that deviates from the standard – for example, fresh food that does not meet the required chilled temperature – thus preventing it from being sent to stores and ensuring freshness and consumers’ peace of mind, he said. In-store, Big C uses digital technology in its loyalty system, stock management – and even price tags in certain stores. 
On top of data mining and tailoring the right promotions and savings for each individual customer, Big C will use digital technology to improve the shopping experience and convenience through in-store media, Kudatara said.
Through the Big C Shopping Online website and mobile application, customers can buy products through their devices 24 hours a day at the same low promotional price as those sold in store, as well as exclusive online offers. The products will be delivered to their doorsteps within the next day and they can either pay online or upon receipt, he said.
Big C’s online shopping has been growing at least threefold annually for the past three years, Kudatara said.
Raised corporate focus
Worawut Unchai, chief executive officer of OfficeMate – part of Central group – said that nowadays most corporates paid much more attention to digital marketing. 
Central group, as the major leader in Thai retail business, also focuses on online marketing strategies because of customer behaviour switching from offline shopping to online shopping, which is faster, more convenient, and more promotionally attractive, he said. 
Even though it will take time to increase customer usage of the online channel dramatically and educate them as to the mechanisms involved of shopping this way, it is certain that “a ton of people” will gradually become online shoppers, said the CEO. 
In terms of Central online shopping, it can be said that being able to shop on the group’s website, www.central.co.th, via smartphone, computer and tablet 24/7 is the main innovation of the new shopping model, Worawut noted. 
There are more than 50,000 merchandise items online, including high-volume purchases such as housewares, appliances, baby products, and men’s and ladies’ fashions. 
“We have decided to enlarge our target customer group for Central online shopping to overseas [customers] and also develop the potential to other online marketing types – for example, the iBeacon project, which enables us to know the exact location of customers and send them alerts with special offers. 
Duangta Pongwilai, corporate marketing manager of The Mall Group, said the company was focused on digital marketing with the introduction of applications for customers to engage with and receive benefits, such as the Beacon technology to receive up-to-date news on their smart phones, tablets and via other online channels. 
Beacon technology – or iBeacon – was introduced as The Mall’s response to the way that customers receive news. With this technology, The Mall can communicate with, offer benefits to, and provide information, activities, news, retail information and promotions to customers directly in real time as they enter the store, said the marketing manager. 
Fully integrated model
Mayuree Chaipromprasith, senior chief marketing executive of Siam Paragon Development, said Siam Paragon had brought in a fully integrated digital model by sweeping digital business-communication channels to reach out to international shoppers around the world. Positioning itself as a world-class shopping destination and a centre of entertainment, education and tourist attractions, Siam Paragon is preparing marketing campaigns next year that fully combine technology under such a fully integrated digital model, she said. 
“From now on, both offline and online media will greatly affect the customer’s decision. Siam Paragon therefore continues to provide unique services and experiences in communication with various digital tools in the marketing campaigns to serve the lifestyle of customers and shoppers worldwide,” she said. 
“As seen in ‘BIFW’ [‘Bangkok International Fashion Week’], Siam Paragon has created a new phenomenon of marketing content with the emphasis of its status and success as the international fashion centre, resulting in new social-media trends and online awareness. 
“As for mobile marketing and the community, in midyear we launched the Siam Piwat mobile application to inform and update customers about our shops, promotions and new arrivals. This application integrates augmented-reality technology and online chatting. 
“This is the first time a world-class shopping centre has had a chat platform to communicate on a real-time basis, and inform the customers of the latest promotions at Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery and Paradise Park,” she said. 
“In social-media marketing, Siam Paragon ranks as the world’s most Instagrammed place, beating New York’s Time Square and Disneyland in California. It has more than 400,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, with 10,000 additional fans per month. We expect to reach 500,000 followers by the end of 2015,” said the senior chief marketing executive. 
“As 2015 will mark our 10th anniversary, Siam Paragon is advancing with digital-marketing campaigns, along with all other events. The fully integrated digital model will become an innovative tool in marketing communication,” she said.

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