Electronic Retailing Takes the World by Storm

Electronic retailing, or e-tailing, has revolutionised the whole retail business as more consumers shop online for products and services.

WOU’s School of Business & Administration (SBA) Senior Lecturer Lilian Yap was addressing an online talk on ‘Retailing to e-tailing: Evolution to Revolution’ organised by SBA and the Penang Regional Centre on 11 April 2021, and attended by 15 participants.

She cited distribution as having the highest impact on the success of e-tailing. “Logistics is important. Your distribution network will either kill your business or make it a success. People will not buy again if the delivery takes too long.”

She said that a retail business and an e-tailing business both consist of location, store design, merchandising, pricing and customer service/communication, with e-tailing additionally having distribution in its mix. Examples of retailers are a shop, kiosk (small cart), hypermarket or supermarket such as 7-Eleven, Focus Point and Poh Kong, while firms that are retailers and wholesalers include Giant, Lotus (Tesco), AEON, Sunshine and Mydin.

She said the generic strategy for retailers is to identify their customers, competitors, the target market, the product and service mix, and the long-term comparative advantage. “You should target customers with your products and services, and you also want to do the business on a long-term.”

Yap highlighted that customers are attracted to an online retail store mainly because of price, followed by product presentation, product selection, shipping & handling, on-time delivery, ease of ordering, customer service, product information, privacy policy and website navigation.

“To retain your online customers however, the first is customer service, second on-time delivery, and third product presentation,” she said. The other retaining factors, in descending order of importance, are shipping & handling, privacy policy, ease of ordering, product information, website navigation, product selection, and price.

She quoted statistics to illustrate the increasing trend of e-tailing. About 1.8 billion people worldwide purchase goods online, 63% of shopping occasions begin online, 50% consumers shop on mobile rather than in-store, 42% prefer e-wallet payment and 62% online buyers shop at least monthly. “The world of retailing is turning very much into e-tailing,” she pointed out.

Based on 2020 figures, the biggest e-tailing market is Asia Pacific, with a retail e-commerce market sales of US$2,448.33 billion, next comes North America with US$749 billion, followed by Western Europe with US$ 498.32 billion.

Yap also shared the September 2019 survey results of the past month for those aged 16 to 64 years in Southeast Asia, which showed that 93% searched online for a product or service to buy, 88% visited an online retail store or site, and 83% purchased a product or service online.

The online shopper are young and single, 25-40 years of age, with an income between RM20k and RM72k per annum, dual income household with kids, technologically competent, high disposable income, time starved, fashion conscious, and white collar, professionals, she added.

She announced that WOU will soon offer a digital marketing course for its Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Sales and Marketing (BBSM) programme.