There was a time when cash was king and everyone shopped in brick and mortar stores. With the advent of technology and the Internet, that is no longer the case, and one area that illustrates this point effectively in the Asian market. Japan is home to one of the largest mature e-commerce markets in the entire world. Unbelievably, over 73 million people there shop online, with e-commerce penetration at a staggering 97 percent. That means almost everyone in Japan shops online.
In China, the story is similar, with 46 percent of the people there using the Internet, mostly to shop online. Less than half a country using the Internet may not sound impressive to you, but remember, China has 1.4 billion people. That’s 642 million users – more than the entire population of the United States. With the increase in online transactions in this heavily-populated region, retail POS systems for businesses are now “king of the hill,” with cloud based POS systems quickly reaching the pinnacle.
The Facts: Most Asian People Shop Online
In a report by McKinsey.com, the Japanese consumer’s buying habits are changing. First, they are seeking more value for their money, taking more time to check on features and pricing. Second, they spend less time at home and more time on the road, increasing the need to shop via mobile devices. Finally, they are more health and environmentally conscious then in the past, buying online in bulk to reduce their carbon footprints. One example is Amazon.com, which is doing amazingly well in Japan.
China holds the world’s largest e-commerce market, according to Economist.com, with predictions for spending to reach $540 billion by 2015. In November 2014, on Singles Day, a yearly online-marketing day in China, consumers spent $5.7 billion at Tmall, an e-commerce platform managed by Alibaba. In contrast, consumers in the U.S., only spent $2 billion on Cyber Monday, held just a few weeks later.
With such phenomenal growth in Asian online sales, companies that do not take note will soon be left behind. This growth is not only directed at large retailers, so leveraging modern POS solutions is a cost effective way for small retailers to compete in this market.
Adopting POS and Utilizing the Cloud
If you have a retail store with an online presence, a cloud-based POS system can streamline your operations. You can have all your data in one location, making it fast and simple to review it from anywhere. In addition, the system will automatically update things such as inventory, stolen credit card lists and customer orders for you.
The technology that a cloud-based system uses enables you to integrate all of your business and marketing functions into your POS system. For instance, you can process payments from anywhere within your business premises, instead of primarily at the front counter.
Modern cloud based POS systems, like the Vend iPad POS system, also come loaded with options like advanced barcode scanning using the iPad camera or by using a more traditional scanner mounted to the device.
Retail Stores Should Leverage the Magic of Multichannel Distribution
Large retailers and online stores, like Rakuten, depend on cloud-based shopping cart solutions. A POS system will help you do something that costs the large retailers millions of dollars to do – it will allow you to set up multichannel distribution system.
What is multichannel distribution? It’s a system whereby customers can purchase something in store or online and where they can either then pick it up in-store or get it delivered. Retailers are finding that all channels matter, whether in store, on a mobile device or online at home. Their ultimate strength lies in how they can make all channels work together to deliver customer satisfaction to all consumers, no matter where they shop.
The idea is that the lines become blurred between your physical store and your online one. Your POS manages the inventory and transactions behind the scenes. With traditional retailing, this would have been either too difficult or impossible to do on a cost-effective basis.
E-Commerce Supports Traditional Offline Direct Marketing
Some companies use POS systems in unique and successful ways. Take Uniqlo, a global fashion retailer with the third-highest retail sales in the world. The key to its success is using its e-commerce to bolster its traditional market efforts. The average percentage of sales coming from Japanese e-commerce for apparel companies is between 3 and 5 percent.
Uniqlo sits squarely at 3.3 percent – just barely within that range. It doesn’t have a solid e-commerce strategy, and doesn’t have a big budget for developing its online brand. Instead, they focus on traditional retail sales, while using their POS systems to tie into Internet sales and bring data and analytics to their retail operations.
This helps them make better marketing decisions, because they can use their online stores as a proxy for retail sales. If they put just the minimum effort in to maintain online sales, it’s less expensive than trying to roll out the more expensive direct mail test campaigns. This way, their POS works for them as an affordable way to test new marketing strategies.
Consumers Expect Fast Checkouts
Consumers now demand shorter checkout times, and iPad POS systems deliver. In fact, some stores are even migrating away from the traditional POS system into self-scan checkouts that combine cloud-based POS systems with newer self-checkout technology.
Consumers scan items using their phone and then pay for it using an online account and walk out the door. The most famous brand that started it all was, of course, Apple, with its self-pay option called AppleStore. You just scan an item, and then pay for it using your iTunes account.
Even in the remotest parts of China, increasingly digitally-savvy online consumers are seeking to learn all about the attributes and pricing of worldwide brands, stepping away from the old standards. As they become more discerning, multinational and multichannel brands are stepping up their efforts to prove their value, which will pay off for them in the long run.