Online shopping still good post-pandemic

Pure-play retailers that mainly sell online, had enjoyed a spike in their businesses during the lockdowns but saw transactions fall by 20% to 90% after that, said RGM managing director Tan Hai Hsin.

WHILE organisations still see good response in online shopping, retail association Retail Group Malaysia (RGM) has witnessed a 20% to 90% drop in online shopping activities, following the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Physical stores that offered virtual shopping during the lockdowns had seen a 70% to 80% drop in business since early 2022; online business at food and beverage (F&B) outlets had fallen by 50% to 60%.

Pure-play retailers that mainly sell online, had enjoyed a spike in their businesses during the lockdowns but saw transactions fall by 20% to 90% after that.

Continuing to enjoy stable sales are those offering unique and specialty products, said RGM managing director Tan Hai Hsin.

It is a different scenario at some organisations.

RHB Banking Group had seen a 49% increase in online spend post-pandemic, and a 9% quarterly growth recently.

That is an indication that online shopping is going strong; it is most likely that the preference for shopping via digital channels will continue, said RHB Banking Group head of digital business, group community banking, Calvin Wong.

The average value of shopping transactions might have dropped but OCBC Bank (M) has not seen a significant drop in online transaction volumes.

Consumers are already accustomed to shopping online from the time of the pandemic, when they began to recognise more fully the convenience, affordability and rewards of online shopping.

Merchants are also benefitting from lower operating costs and round-the-clock sales opportunities, said OCBC Bank (M) managing director and head of consumer financial services, Anne Leh.

On Shopee Malaysia’s 9.9 Super Shopping Day, on Sept 9, local sellers had, for the first time, achieved an average sales uplift exceeding five times, with health and beauty, home and living as well as mobile and accessories among the top categories sold.

ShopeeFood online orders had seen increased sales on the 10.10 Brands Festival on Oct 10, compared to 9.9.

Consumers are now incorporating both digital and physical aspects when they shop; they may view the products at physical stores before making the purchase online to enjoy the discounts and deals.

The rising trend in cashless payments is also a boost to online shopping; consumers expect frictionless payments across all touchpoints – online and offline.

In Malaysia, there is a strong push for cashless payments among micro businesses such as cafes, stall owners and small grocery stores.

Besides convenience, consumers also look for enhanced security where their personal information is encrypted and secure.

Across generations, Malaysians online want access to information that helps them shop smarter, according to a recent survey by Shopee Marketplace, conducted from Sept 28 to Oct 21, with 2,459 Malaysian buyers and 1,035 Malaysian sellers.

The most popular type of influencer content, said a third of Malaysian buyers, are reviews, vlogs and unboxing videos.

RHB Banking Group engages with customers through social media to better understand consumer wants and needs; this information is then fed into a product development lifestyle.

With the prevalence of online scams, RHB Banking Group also stresses on consumer education on scams and the importance of shopping on legitimate digital channels.

Customers should be kept informed of the latest scam and fraud trends so that they are aware of potential threats.

Through the ups and downs, online shopping is here to stay; the future of retailing is in multi-channel distribution.

Retailers who are winners, invest in digital infrastructure in terms of software, hardware and human talent; this allows consumers to purchase their products and services in multiple formats with ease, said RGM managing director Tan Hai Hsin.

Surprisingly, there are many retail businesses in Malaysia that refuse to digitise their operations; during the Covid-19 pandemic, they used WhatsApp as a temporary measure to survive, asking shoppers to show proof of payment before delivery.

Some retailers even closed down temporarily and waited for the government to announce further relaxation of standard operating procedures.

The main challenge in shopping today is in the complete integration of both physical and online formats; integration enables consumers to buy online and collect or return the product to the store.

They can also visit the store and buy online while still at the store, or buy at the store and return via online.

Consumers must be able to buy online via desktop computers, laptops, tablets and handphones.

Winning F&B outlets offer multiple ways of delivering their food products and services such as dine in, online order and pick-up, online order and delivery, drive-through, drive-in, curbside pick-up and food truck.

Many retailers in Malaysia that had set up online shopping platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, need to improve on the quality of their online offerings.

Many are taking a long time to load or deliver without the tracking of packages, have limited selection, while at times, it is difficult to get a refund, said Tan.

Online shopping should be taken seriously with proper resources and planning being dedicated to this future trend that has shown its potential and benefits especially during the lockdowns.

Online and offline shopping should be seen as providing enhanced convenience, seamlessness and delight in customers’ shopping experience.

Yap Leng Kuen is a former StarBiz editor. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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