Thursday, February 22, 2024

PH retail industry far from dead, says e-commerce solutions firm

The local brick-and-mortar retail has obviously suffered in the last few years, particularly during the pandemic. According to data from Colliers International Philippines, Metro Manila’s retail vacancy alone rose to 14 percent in Q1 2021 from 9.8 percent in 2019.

Etaily CEO and co-founder Alex Friedhoff

Alex Friedhoff, co-founder and CEO of e-commerce enabler Etaily, said retailers are all standing in front of the same challenge.

“Offline traffic is significantly decreasing and online demand is significantly increasing, and this is structurally accelerated due to the young population, due to the immense shift into online, and symptomatically accelerated now due to the pandemic,” Friedhoff said.

Despite this challenge, Etaily said it is convinced that Philippine retail is not dead. In a webinar held on Monday, August 16, Friedhoff pointed out that the Philippines e-commerce landscape is growing, which offers massive opportunities for businesses to serve their customers.

Franco Varona, managing partner of Foxmont Capital Partners, added during the event that Covid-19 had a role to play in priming Filipinos for e-commerce.

“A lot of it is the pandemic itself. It forced us to have a digital evolution. We really are forced to do things online nowadays,” Varona said.

Etaily argued that traditional retailers with brick-and-mortar stores can thrive in this digital retail environment if these companies design online channels that complement their offline ones.

Often, however, companies lack the infrastructure, resources, and experience needed to create — much less sustain — this complementary system, said Etaily.

But for businesses that don’t have this expertise, e-commerce enablers can step in to lend theirs. While most e-commerce enablers focus only on a company’s online presence, Etaily said it creates a seamless customer experience both online and offline by offering omni-channel solutions that integrate these two channels.

Since it began last year, Etaily said its solutions have generated more than 1 million transactions and activated more than 10 offline retailers of different sizes for online capabilities. Among its clients is one of the country’s largest department stores, Landmark.

Etaily’s successes have clearly left an impression. The company announced at the webinar that it received $1.6 million in seed funding from Ayala ventures, Foxmont Capital, and Magsaysay Logistics, and Anthony Oundjian, managing director of Boston Consulting Group.

The company plans to use this funding to reduce the chances of the mass brick-and-mortar store closures termed the “retail apocalypse” in North America and Europe, as well as spur the growth and development of the e-commerce industry.

Jesse Maxwell, COO of Magsaysay Shipping and Logistics, explained at the event that one of the restrictions holding Philippine e-commerce back from playing a large role in the global supply chain is the country’s limited manufacturing capabilities.

With e-commerce enablers like Etaily, however, he noted that Filipino products could be known both regionally and globally.

Tatiana Cziormer, COO of Etaily, revealed how the company is intending to leverage this advantage. “With Etaily in the forefront of the e-commerce revolution, the next years is really about crafting customized solutions for the different SMEs depending on their journey,” she said.

“We know that we need to continuously innovate and create new technology for them. At the end of the day, our hope and vision is that Filipino brands and retailers can become competitive in Southeast Asia and eventually the global market,” added Cziormer.

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