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Five takeaways from ECR Asia Pacific

Find out more about the key developments in the Asia Pacific region, as heard at the 2015 Efficient Consumer Response conference in April

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The great and the good of the retail and consumer goods industry gathered in Hong Kong for the 14th edition of the Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) Asia Pacific Conference last month. IGD senior research manager, Shirley Zhu, went along to find out about key developments in the region

1. Collaboration

The theme of this year’s ECR Asia Pacific Conference was ‘Collaborating for a better future’ and it’s true that collaboration between retailers and manufacturers is more critical today than ever before.

Challenging economic conditions coupled with a greater desire for personalisation mean that consumer expectations in the Asia Pacific region are rising. Retailers and manufacturers need to work together to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of their consumers.

A successful collaboration begins at the top, with a steering committee of senior leaders who not only define the vision, but also allocate the necessary resources to support it. Recently, we have seen manufacturers working very closely with retailers to improve on-shelf availability, which is a great example of collaboration in action. Read our on-shelf availability factsheet here.

Speaking at the conference, Alex von Behr, global chief customer officer at Unilever, said that collaboration is the only way to truly win with the consumers of the future.

2. A seamless omnichannel experience

The shopping process has evolved. Consumers are more informed, empowered and enabled and want the flexibility and convenience of shopping through multiple channels, often simultaneously. Retailers need to offer a seamless shopping experience between online, mobile and in-store channels and also capture and act upon the data gathered along the path to purchase.

According to speaker Marrianne Timmons, president of GS1 industry engagement, 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online and 50% of consumers expect to buy online and pick in-store; only 32% and 33% of retailers respectively can satisfy these demands.

Damien Veilleroy, regional operation officer Asia at METRO Cash & Carry, told delegates that the in-house competencies needed for successful food e-commerce include a flexible, user-friendly online interface, lean warehousing and efficient routing and outbound logistics.

According to IGD’s recent survey on the Asia Pacific region, only 35.6% of retailers and 21.7% of manufacturers have a long term omnichannel strategy in place for the region. Building an omnichannel strategy and setting up the right structure within your organisation is essential to create a seamless experience for shoppers.

Long term omni-channel strategy

3. Food safety remains a fundamental requirement

Ensuring food safety and product quality remains the foundation of building consumer trust, meaning that retailers and manufacturers in the region have to ensure food safety is inherent within their supply chains.

Peter Johnston, ParknShop’s quality and food safety director for Greater China, showcased the retailer’s unique ‘farm check’ system, which ensures the safety of fresh vegetables imported to Hong Kong from mainland China.

Food safety remains a fundamental requirement

4. Talent management

More businesses than ever have shifted their view of their workforce from a cost centre to a revenue driver. IGD’s head of channel insight David Shukri told delegates that acquiring and retaining talent remains a challenge.

According to IGD’s recent Asia Pacific survey, 42.3% of retailers and manufacturers in the region consider recruiting and retaining talent to be one of the top three biggest challenges facing their business.

5. Cross-border e-commerce

As more online retailers expand their businesses abroad, cross-border e-commerce is becoming a hot topic. Some 20% of Ebay's gross merchandise volume was cross-border in Q3 2014. Another etailer, Alibaba, also aims to provide quality international goods to domestic consumers, to meet the rising spending power and demand of Chinese consumers.

According to iResearch, China’s cross-border e-commerce trade is projected to reach 6.5 trillion RMB (US$1.1 trillion) in 2016.

Plenty to play for

What became clear throughout the conference was that despite the challenges faced by companies in the region, there are plenty of opportunities for retailers and manufacturers in Asia Pacific to turn those challenges to their advantage. Collaborating to meet the continually evolving needs of shoppers, recognising the need for an omni-channel strategy and working to recruit and retain the best people into the retail and consumer goods industry will be critical to driving that success.

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