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The Years of Transformation for Retailers and Developers

12 Jun 2019




The retail industry is undergoing one of the most profound periods of technological transformation in history. The evolving retail landscape and consumers’ changing behaviour has led to the emergence of new retail formats and adoption of new technologies. Traditional retailers are continuously being forced to evolve and invest in digital transformation. 

The growing future supply in Bangkok will put more pressure on older centres to renovate and upgrade in order to remain competitive. As of Q1 2019, the total retail supply in Bangkok was almost 7.8 million square metres according to CBRE Thailand, increasing by 3.70% Y-o-Y. The total new retail supply in the whole year 2019 will be one third higher than total new supply last year. And by the end of 2021, we expect that the total retail supply will exceed 8 million square metres, with the majority of the increase being in large mixed-use developments in the downtown area. 

To survive, big retail players are venturing into new retail formats such as mixed-use development and outlet malls to diversify their portfolio. However, smaller players who are unable to reinvent themselves have been struggling. E-commerce is having a significant influence on consumers’ behaviour. The impact is increasing as it provides the consumer with choices and convenience which malls cannot fulfil. According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), the value of Thai e-commerce grew by 14% in 2018 to about THB 3.2 trillion and the growth is expected to reach 20% this year. While the retail sales only grew by 3-4% Y-o-Y. 

According to Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Thailand’s digital economy will play a critical role in every industry and is expected to reach 25% of total GDP by 2027. The country’s four largest banks have all dropped digital transaction fees since April last year to retain retail customers. 

Customers are more demanding than ever, forcing retailers to invest heavily in digital transformation. According to Gartner, global retail tech spending will increase by 3.65%, to USD 203.6 billion this year. Leading Thai retail players are shifting investments towards (1) Data analytics (2) Omnichannel (3) Artificial Intelligence (4) Digitalised in-store experience and (5) Personalisation/Customization. 

Thai retail giant like the Central Group are focusing on building cloud-based consumer data, personalized loyalty platforms and omnichannel experiences. While 7-Eleven who just expanded to over 11,000 stores, have been expanding into banking and embracing artificial intelligence to gain customer insights and create personalized in-store experiences. Globally, China’s largest tech giants, Alibaba and Tencent, have been spending billions of dollars on an omnichannel ecosystem to create seamless a customer journey across online and offline channels.

Despite the surge in e-commerce and other technology, the majority of consumers still value the personal experience in a physical store. A study conducted by IBM and the National Retail Federation validates that 98% of Gen-Z shoppers still prefer to make their purchase in bricks-and-mortar stores. Another recent Retail Customer Research by Accenture also found that by 2020, there will be Gen-Z population of 2.56 billion and 98% will own a smartphone. This means retailers need to constantly adopt new technologies and innovative strategies for both online and offline channels to remain relevant to ever-changing consumer demand. The retail industry is signalling a tipping point where retailers must reinvent themselves to survive. The wining retailers are the ones who are ready to move away from the traditional retail models and rethink their strategies in alignment with customer expectations.

An article written by Pichamon Chomanan, an analyst at Research & Consulting, CBRE Thailand for Bangkok Post dated 12 June 2019.