From new retail to smart retail: how to build resilience in the new normal


    New retail has been in motion as far back as 2017. That was when Alibaba first coined the term to indicate the blending of online and offline commerce through the digitization of the retail value chain. The pandemic has only accelerated the trend, triggering a massive digital shift, in response to evolving consumer behaviour.

    Most retail businesses have gotten the memo: digital transformation is a must in adapting to a new-normal. However, the deeper conversation is happening around resilience. This is especially important as shocks that affect global production are becoming increasingly common. Just around the corner are new pandemics, cyber threats, socio-political unrest and climate change.

    What the future of retail looks like

    According to the 2020 e-Conomy Southeast Asia report released by Google and Temasek Holdings, 40 million new users went online in 2020, compared to 100 million in the previous five years. A third picked up a new digital service during the pandemic, and of these, 74% in the e-commerce space remain active to this day.

    Clearly, consumers are embracing their digital-shifted lifestyle. According to PYMNTS, 84% of consumers who have shifted online for retail purchases say that they will stick to these habits moving forward – signalling to retail SMBs that online is the way to go. But that doesn’t mean that brick-and-mortar is out. Instead, consumers now crave better in-store experiences – ones that deliver an engaging and immersive brand and product experience.

    In the U.S.,main street SMBs that have made the shift early expect the most benefits. Of these, 68% said that they expect their 2021 revenues to exceed 2019 levels in defiance of the turmoil of the pandemic. As reported by The Business Times, retailers in APAC are forging ahead with optimism, with more than half making plans to improve customer experiences, adopt new business models and expand geographically over the next 12 months.

    Tips for building retail resilience

    We already see omnichannel strategies in motion, but in this retail revolution, more new and advanced technologies will come to the fore. That includes augmented and virtual reality, the internet of things, sensor-driven packaging and connected appliances. Where should retail SMBs – tight on resources as they are – focus their digital efforts to build long-lasting business resilience?

    Start with the supply chain
    Even in a pandemic, consumers have little patience for shipping delays or the inability to deliver a product they need. In the upheaval caused by COVID-19, it has become clear that supply chain responsiveness and resilience are critical to keep business-as-usual and uphold customer confidence.

    Retail SMBs should take this opportunity to redesign supply chain processes for agility and resilience. Digital technologies that will enable transparency and integration across networks of suppliers will come in useful, as will partnerships with logistics to support e-commerce, and fulfilment centres to ensure that customers get their products whenever they expect to.

    Make the retail experience seamless
    Customer expectations of the retail experience has shifted in several ways. In-stores, they expect their health and safety to be prioritised through robust social distancing measures – that means quick, seamless and contactless shopping journeys and transactions. Smart retail solutions that can track customer flows and crowd density, and image recognition tools to facilitate lightning-fast checkouts could be game-changers for retail SMBs who want to deliver an optimal experience at physical stores.

    As we progress to greater levels of personalisation and customisation in retail, front-desk employees also need to be equipped with the right tools to perform. Retail staff should be able to access customer data and inventory logs, make smooth transactions and present product information through engaging interactive displays from anywhere on the retail floor or over the web. Powerful, small form factor and modern PC devices will keep them plugged in yet mobile, ready to service customers with the next level of retail.

    Enhance security and backend operations
    Successful digital transformation is one that lasts. To ensure resiliency, retail SMBs must invest in platforms that enhance transparency and control over the networks and devices that business depends on. The last thing retailers want, after all, is to expose customer and business data and risk their reputations forever.

    There are centralized IT management platforms on the market that make it easy and cost-effective for retailers to do so. These platforms should be capable of monitoring servers, workstations and commercial products including notebooks, desktops, all-in-one PCs and even digital signage. On the security front, retail SMBs will want a platform with robust information security controls that can quickly detect and stop unauthorised access through a range of devices.

    The future of retail is in no way bleak. While small and medium retailers have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, many players are taking the opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation journeys. The key now is to build businesses that can last for the long-haul, and that means resilient supply chains, adaptable and dynamic workforces, and reliable security and backend processes for the new age.

    Recommended products for smart retail

    • ASUS ExpertCenter E5 AiO series (21.5-inch E5202 / 24-inch E5402) is the world’s only business-ready PC with ASUS VeriView1 — an optional second, outward-facing touchscreen for two-way interaction across diverse business scenarios. Brand video or advertising can be presented on ASUS VeriView, catching the attention of customers as they wait in the queue.
    • Featuring the 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processor, high-speed connectivity, VESA mount compatibility, Modern Standby efficiency and enterprise-grade privacy security features, ExpertCenter E5 AiO is the no-compromise solution for forward-thinking businesses.
    • ASUS Chromebook Detachable CZ1 laptop is packed with protective features, including a wrap-around rubber trim, shockproof cover and durable 3D-textured finish. It features a free-angle adjustable stand cover and full-size keyboard with 1.5 mm key travel, plus an ErgoLift design — all to facilitate productivity, flexibility and comfort. With a garaged stylus, a world-facing camera and an all-day battery life, CZ1 is perfect for being used as PoS or inventory management computer.
    • ASUS IoT Smart Retail Solutions provide tailor-made retail solutions with pre-validated systems, ready-to-use software to gain better consumer insights and the single board computers, Tinker Board series and edge computers for digital signage, PoS terminals, self-checkout kiosk, and interactive information kiosk. ASUS IoT Cloud Console (AICC) also enables you to collect and analyze comprehensive information to assist you in making the best decisions at the right times to seize business opportunities.

    1As of June 1, 2021. Based on internal ASUS market analysis comparing the form factor of ExpertCenter E5 AiO to competitor products from vendors including Acer, HP, Huawei, Lenovo, Microsoft and Samsung. It’s optional, spec features may vary by specification and region.