The day when the lower-case “e” was introduced to define the online nature of a transaction now ceases to have any meaning. In the era of application everything and the highly mobile generation, digital transactions are becoming the norm in most mature markets. For businesses in Asia, apps are already the majority and “e” or otherwise, is all just commerce.

The departure of the “e” will take with it the remaining mental barriers surrounding digital transactions. The line between the online and offline world is set to blur even further and increasingly integrate as brick-and-mortar stores enhance the physical retail experience through the convenient use of new consumer technologies.

Customers’ Expected Interactions with Companies

According to recent research by Econsultancy, multi-channel shoppers will make up nearly half of urban China’s consumers within a few years. Given this, consumers will expect their engagement with companies to be seamless, with each new interaction being personalised in the context of the last one.

To meet the consumers’ expectation and to capture the best of both online and offline opportunities, retailers and shopping malls are making every effort to expand their mobile services and emphasise their focus on Online-to-Offline (O2O) initiatives.

Examples of brands who have been successful with their efforts for online and offline retailing include Joy City, a shopping plaza in Shanghai who partnered with Alibaba to provide mobile payment services Alipay to allow consumers to settle payments in its malls.

Leveraging Data from O2O Initiatives

These tactics, besides offering customer convenience, enable retailers to leverage customers’ digital data to provide a genuinely personalised experience, using insights from the online world to effortlessly guide and offer advice.

Given the consumers trend towards Everything Apps, the winners of tomorrow will be those that find a way to complete the puzzle and build a comprehensive picture of individual customer needs and desires. This high level of customer knowledge – what we term Consumer Hyperawareness – enables organizations to tailor products, services and support infrastructure to meet them with previously unimagined precision.

Daphne, one of the leading women’s shoe brands in China, has 6,700 offline shops across the country while its various websites receive almost one billion visits per year. The company uses the data collected from its online and offline channels to make strategic decisions including consumer insights and supply chain management.

The timing is perfect: network ubiquity, processing power and analytics solutions are now capable of making it happen. And the social media revolution has made people more comfortable than ever about volunteering information and enjoying a rich mix of benefits for doing so. This marketing framework is a successful strategy that retailers in Asia can also tailor and implement to strengthen and retain customer loyalty.

Transitioning to Multi-channels

To transit from one channel to multiple channels, retailers need to keep their business services consistently available, while fending off security threats by the minute. This is especially crucial during seasonal rushes like Christmas and Chinese New Year. According to F5’s recent survey, 20% of consumers would switch to an alternative brand if a website or service does not work within just five seconds.

Retailers also need to address the need for a multi-layered dynamic security architecture in the times of rampant POS and DDoS attacks targeting retailers to secure not only service availability but also customer information.

As shoppers continue to interact with brands through different channels, they no longer will label a shopping experience online or offline. Instead, it will be retailers’ job to provide a consistent, secure, and always-available experience across all channels that tailors to users’ habits and preference.