Ongoing disruptions have impacted economies around the world.  Both in Australia and across the Asia-Pacific region, it’s important businesses understand changes in consumer behaviours, sentiments and beliefs, and introduce new strategies to connect more deeply with their customers in the long-run.

Safe distancing measures implemented by many governments have driven an increase in online shopping. According to Australia Post’s most recent report, ecommerce activity in Australia surged more than 80% year on year in the 8 weeks following the WHO’s pandemic declaration. Further, Australian consumers are becoming increasingly cautious, paying closer attention to pricing and looking for locally made products.

These shifts in consumer habits are clear. With 5.2 million new and existing online shoppers in April 2020, businesses have accelerated their adoption of online technologies to continue meeting customers where they are. In addition to standing up or improving their online storefront, retailers were also investing in advanced customer service and supply chain solutions to ensure business continuity.

Here are some tips for businesses to ensure their adjustment is successful now, and moving forward:

Find new ways to connect with customers

Over the past six months, businesses have been adapting to uncertainties in different ways. Some have been massively disrupted and others have found ways to adapt and are even seeing increased demand for their products.

One thing they all have in common, however, is they all have had to adjust their business models to align to the new environment5. Some online grocers in Australia have adopted innovative ways to overcome logistical challenges by working with ride-hailing services to help with deliveries.

Innovate and differentiate

Brands are aggressively trying to bring the in-person experience to consumers via their small- and big-screen devices.  In Asia, live-stream shopping – a combination of e-commerce with livestreaming to produce an interactive, experiential and real-time shopping experience – is gaining traction. Australian brands looking to differentiate from their local competitors would do well to look at nascent trends from other markets for inspiration.

Moreover, the retail industry is no stranger to automation trends. From automating browsing, recommendations and purchasing to delivery arrangements, automated commerce (a-Commerce) is here to stay in the future of shopping.

Use quality data to make informed decisions

We know that for brands to take on the new next in retail, data is key. From back-office to the shop-floor, retail brands need to harness their data reservoirs to deliver an insight-rich, personalised user experience in order to stand out from competitors. The answer to this is in the cloud.

When retailers are faced with an unknown path ahead, the first point of order is to manage the shift in their operations. Given the supply-chain and logistics obstacles faced, it is important for brands to leverage the cloud to streamline operations and ensure there is minimal disruption at the shop-front. Business operations are now being managed remotely and adding more automation to finance, HR and supply chain jobs can increase remote work productivity and drive enhanced customer service as organizations create new forms of customer engagement.

For instance, Vinomofo, a South Australian online wine retailer with operations across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, leverages Oracle Cloud Supply Chain Management (SCM) to obtain real-time data on inventory and sales. With the recent restaurant and pub closures, Australians have gone online to purchase wine for home consumption, rather than risk going out. By automating processes and fine-tuning their inventory and delivery speed with Oracle Cloud, Vinomofo has been able to scale up operations to enhance customer service, with minimal disruption to logistics operations. As a result, Vinomofo has been able to deliver wine three times faster than before, resulting in increased traffic to their platform, as well as higher conversion rates.

On the other hand, as businesses shift their operations to cater to their consumers, it is equally important for them to pay attention to how their customers are responding to the changes they are making in how they go to market. Customers’ purchase-history information, preferred communication channels, shopping behaviour and social media activities are all relevant data points in the cloud that retailers should be tapping into to stay connected.

Dan Murphy’s, the Australian liquor store giant is using Oracle Cloud Customer Experience (CX) to create personalised marketing to target customers. By using data from its 3.8 million rewards members, Dan Murphy’s is able to refine audience segmentation to recommend products based on customer preferences. According to the company,  80 percent of its rewards members signed-up to receive personalised emails after the strategy was rolled-out.

A spree of possibilities

Although the road ahead for the retail industry may be unknown, one certainty is that brands which reinvent and adopt new ways to overcome challenges are the ones which will succeed in the next era of retail. By making sense of existing data, retailers have the potential to open a spree of possibilities in a new shopping environment.

Adrian Johnston is senior vice president of cloud applications (SaaS), Japan and Asia Pacific at Oracle Corporation