For most shoppers in Asia, the retail experience is not as advanced as it is in the West--say, in Europe or North America.
Even in Singapore, a favourite shopping destination in the region, the retail landscape is still mired in a culture of the past. For example, it was only recently that I spotted a self-checkout counter in Singapore's popular retail chain, NTUC FairPrice, at its Toa Payoh branch (I tried it once but unfortunately, the experience wasn't smooth--I had to call a clerk to help me as the machine could not read one of the item's barcode).
Even if it is just an experiment at NTUC FairPrice, I see it as an encouraging sign because I haven't seen any self checkout counters at hypermarkets like Carrefour or Ikea or Robinsons in Singapore or in the neighbouring countries. Mustafa Shopping Centre, Singapore's famous 24-hour hypermarket, has as many cashiers and clerks as the number of aisles on each of its floors. Probably more.
Hopefully, things will change for the better for shoppers in the coming months and years.
Retail in detail
I got a glimpse of the future of retailing in Asia at the Asia Pacific Retailer's Convention and Exhibition Singapore about two weeks back (11-13 October).
Motorola Solutions, with its partners, is trying to change the retail landscape in Asia, with cutting edge mobility technologies and innovative applications. These technologies and solutions include video analytics, personalised self-shopping, store management solutions and mobile sales force automation solutions.
For example, I had a chance to use the demo unit of Motorola/Re-Vision My Scan device. This kind of self-shopping aide is already popular in Europe. It makes the shopping experience so smooth. As you enter the store, you pick up a scanner. During the shopping trip, you can scan the items and pack them in your shopping bag or trolley. Having finished the shopping, you can proceed to pay either at a dedicated manned till or at a pay station. After you have paid, you are done, ready to leave the store.
A device like My Scan benefits the customer in many ways: it saves time, gives him better control over his budget and it is an overall improved service for him. For the retailer, the benefits are even better: among other things, it reduces cost and increases revenue.
Similarly, the video analytics technology is quite sexy. By placing cameras that keep an eye on your store's shelves, the system can alert you if you are running out of stock of certain items. So, it helps retailers gain real time asset visibility in clothing and fashion stores or fresh goods in supermarkets. If you have a system like this in place, your customers may never face out of stock situations.
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