Interview: Zebra’s Ryan Goh on the outlook for Asian retail

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Ryan Goh, Vice President and General Manager of Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific has a unique perspective on the future of retail in the region. We caught up with him recently for an in-depth discussion on mobility, IoT, and the increasingly important role of data in helping retailers make the right decisions, plus we took a look at some of the exciting new technology that Zebra will be bringing to the Retail Technology Show Asia on 20th-21st April 2016 in Singapore.

What is your view on South-east Asia’s retail outlook in the next 3 years?

There is tremendous potential for the growth of e-commerce in the coming year, as the region sees a rise in spending power, increased internet penetration and growing number of e-commerce players. Mobile is also rapidly gaining ground, as markets such as Singapore and Malaysia take the lead with a mobile-first mind-set – and mobile adoption accelerates rapidly across less developed markets in Southeast Asia.

We can expect significant movement in terms of offline players moving online, and vice versa. Retailers from brick-and-mortar stores will seek to engage more with their customers through online channels; while pure-play e-commerce retailers seek to establish a physical presence to market themselves better.

In this respect, delivering a seamless omni-channel shopping experience will be an increasingly important priority for retailers, as they face increasing pressures to deliver outstanding customer experiences in a highly competitive landscape. Inventory management improvements are key to omni-channel. The visibility enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the main driver of such improvements, as out-of-stock incidents are minimized, resulting in less lost sales opportunities and better customer experiences.

Retailers can leverage a wide array of technologies to gain greater visibility of their stock and assets, and actionable insights — such as customer buying patterns and stock trends that will improve customer experience. These range from hand-held mobile computers, mobile point-of-sale devices, tablets, smartphones and RFID for timely provision of information on stock availability and prices; to location-sensing and self-help technologies, that enable more personalized and enhanced shopping experiences.

Which countries will emerge as the key adopters of retail innovation?

The Asia-Pacific region continues to lead the growth in IoT. According to a Forrester global study in 2014, over 70 percent of Asia Pacific firms have an IoT solution in place, or are in the process of implementation. The same study also revealed that a majority of retailers believe IoT will be the most important technological initiative of the decade.

A separate study by Forrester also found that Asia Pacific contains both the largest and fastest growing eCommerce markets (China and India respectively) of Forrester forecasts globally. According to the same study, the total online retail revenues in just five markets in Asia Pacific surpass the combined figure for online retail in the US and all of Western Europe. In the markets included in this forecast — China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia — total online retail revenues will nearly double from $733 billion in 2015 to $1.4 trillion in 2020. We can therefore expect key adopters of retail innovation to arise from these countries.

Can you share a story in which Zebra technologies has helped your clients enhance their customer experience?

Retailers today have access to a massive amount of data, due to the growth of today’s mobile technologies, cloud and the IoT. The type of data that is already available to online retail – page clicks, time on page, visits versus transactions ratios and abandoned baskets – is becoming available for physical store visits too. A key challenge faced is in gaining meaningful insights from that data and making it actionable for their business strategies – increasing sales, creating a better customer experience which in turn creates loyalty and higher spending.

Zebra has worked with large retailers with brick-and-mortar stores to achieve the level of personalization and responsiveness normally associated with the big online merchants like Amazon and eBay. For example, one leading retail group has transformed the customer experience in its Middle Eastern outlets by aligning insights from customer loyalty schemes and browsing history, with real-time data on where customers are in store. Staff can approach customers as they browse, with relevant suggestions to help them make a selection.

Another retail business tracks how staff is using mobile devices in store, and monitors battery life to see how often each device needs to be recharged. The information allows them to make sure staff always have the technology they need to serve customers satisfactorily. At the same time, they can keep track of devices to minimize loss or theft, and avoid the cost of buying more devices than are needed to maintain a great customer experience.

Last year, Zebra shared on launching new solutions for retailers. Are we expecting to see more innovations at this year’s Cards & Payments Asia and Retail Technology Show Asia?

Definitely. We are always keeping ourselves abreast of industry trends and constantly in conversation with our customers to identify their common pain points. We’re always on the look-out for the next innovation that would help solve real, emerging business problems.

TC8000 All Views - Low ResWe’ve recently launched the TC8000 – a landmark innovation in warehousing technology that will drive significant gains in productivity and decrease worker fatigue. Zebra worked with users around the globe to completely re-think, re-design and re-engineer industrial mobile computers based on deep research and human factors analysis. Ergonomic and lightweight, the TC8000 mobile computer offers an innovative design that reduces muscle effort by eliminating the need for “tilt and verify” motions that warehouse workers repeatedly conduct with traditional devices. Shaving seconds off each repetitive motion can save up to one hour per worker per shift – increasing productivity by an average of 14 percent based on workflow.

Besides contributing significantly to greater efficiency in back of store/warehouse management settings, the TC8000 will also go a long way towards raising productivity in-store. Featuring the industry’s first hands-free proximity scanning feature, the TC8000 allows trigger-free barcode scanning when mounted on a cradle or a holster, making it an invaluable digital partner for retail assistants and sales associates. In a retail environment, TC8000’s unique form factor empowers sales associates to perform price audits and stock replenishments more quickly.

We will also be showcasing the all-new RFD8500 — our first multi-operating system RFID sled designed to easily add high-performance RFID and 1D/2D bar code scanning to Android™ and iOS™ mobile devices. It enables retail businesses to leverage their previous mobile device investments by adding world-class data collection capabilities. Its full-shift battery life also makes it ideal for inventory and asset management, product search and replenishment applications in retail stores, warehouses and healthcare environments.

Can you give us a sneak preview to excite our visitors at this year’s show?

Much has evolved since our acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise business. We are now in a better position than ever before to lead in the Enterprise Asset Intelligence space, which is about moving things to the cloud and implementing IoT and linking them together, helping customers improve supply chain, customer satisfaction, manufacturing process in the new frontier of IT.

Visitors at this year’s show would be treated to glimpses of Zebra’s latest end-to-end specialist technologies to support the personalized and seamless shopping experience expected by today’s connected customers.
As retail continues to change at a rapid pace with the industry constantly pushing at the innovation boundaries, the tenet of a successful retail operation remains the same: Connect with Shoppers. The advent of new technologies has completely changed the way shoppers interact with retailers, but the shopping experience can be the retailer’s strategic differentiator. With the IoT, retailers will be empowered with the intelligence to make strategic, informed business decisions that improve customer loyalty and associate effectiveness while creating exciting experiences for their shoppers.

To see more from Zebra Technologies register now for your free exhibition pass to attend the show, or upgrade and access the premium conference.

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