Local SMEs urged to take ‘omnichannel’ route

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

At the recent Omnichannel Asia Summit 2019 in SMX Aura Convention Center in Taguig City, participants composed of business owners in the Philippines including small entrepreneurs were told to take the omnichannel route in selling their products and services.

Omnichannel Asia Summit 2019 Panel Discussion
At the panel discussion for the media during the Omnichannel Asia Summit 2019 are (from left) Bevin Manian, VP of Retail Pro International; John Boe, senior director on consulting services of Genie Technologies.; Sriharsha Lindala, VP of JDA software; and Brian Fernandez, director for sales of Capillary Technologies

Omnichannel strategy means powering a business using end-to-end solutions – from the store to the app, desktop, tablet, and so on – allowing customers to buy products online and offline using a wide range of integrated platforms.

To go omnichannel means to push a product using the right channels, at the right time, at the right cost. It connects multi-channel listings, POS,  inventory, management, and others to consolidate data gathered throughout the buying process.

Speaking at the panel discussion for the media, Capillary Technologies director for sales Brian Fernandez mentioned that Philippine retail firms have loyalty programs and therefore have data. But what is important is how these firms are using and updating these data to engage their customers, monetize it, and grow their business.

According to John Boe, senior director on consulting services of Genie Technologies, another thing that is holding back local businesses is the typical Filipino mindset that says ‘I like change but you go first.’

For Boe, this is a tragedy for the Philippine business community because the opportunity exists right here in the country.

“In this country, there is a very high accessibility to mobile device,” Boe claimed. “That’s the opportunity.”

The fact many people are also now purchasing goods via e-commerce sites presents another opportunity, especially for small businesses.

But in order for them not to run the risk of spreading themselves too thin across multiple channels, Boe and Retail Pro International’s vice president Bevin Manian advised small entrepreneurs to start simple and have the proper strategy.

“You need to have a strategy. You [have to] start the business right, get your store online, get your department right, get your customer service right,” Manian said. “And then you slowly need to adapt to what channels work for you.”

“You don’t have to have a full omnichannel activity running your business,” Boe added. “You can start very simply. And if it suits your business, then add more online opportunity.”

However, Manian and Boe junked the idea that brick and mortar stores are on their way out with the emergence of the omnichannel approach.

“The unique and lovely thing about the Philippine retail world is that when you think of malls, you think of families,” said Boe. “Filipino families go to the mall, spend the day there. So I think the brick and mortar in certain cultures will remain.”

Manian agreed, adding that in the Middle East, people exercise at the mall.

Omnichannel Asia Summit 2019 gathered more than 200 retailers and around 10 solution providers. Thought leaders who shared their insights included JDA Software vice president Sriharsha Lindala, Grab Philippines country head Brian Cu, and Shopee Philippines associate director Martin Yu.

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