Online shopping won’t replace malls, says research firm

A retail research firm says shoppers will return to malls although they will have to put up with some inconvenience for now.

PETALING JAYA: Online shopping will emerge as a major channel for retail goods and services in a post-control movement order (MCO) era although it will not replace malls, an independent retail research firm predicts.

Retail Group Malaysia said the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing MCO have forced many retailers to focus on online shopping. Since the partial lockdown, it said, online business has boomed, with some retailers seeing as much as a 100% increase.

The group’s managing director, Tan Hai Hsin, said demand was high for groceries and pharmaceutical products during the MCO, with retailers in these two categories benefiting the most.

Once the MCO is lifted, he said, these retailers will invest more effort and money in this platform.

Tan said retailing is omni-channel, a strategy many would use to improve their customer experience.

“Traditional retailers cannot rely solely on physical stores to grow. They need to provide multiple channels to reach out to modern consumers. Even online retailers are doing so (adopting a multi-prong approach),” he said.

However, he said that in the long run, shopping behaviour would return to pre-Covid-19 times, although retailers would operate a little differently.

This includes enforcing social distancing, conducting temperature checks at entry points and providing hand sanitisers.

“However, I believe shoppers are willing to bear with this inconvenience for the time being,” he said, adding that they realise it is to contain the spread of the virus and would only be temporary.

“Plus, it is better than having the non-essential shops remain closed.”

He noted that during the MCO period, grocery retailers were still generating more businesses from walk-in customers than delivery services despite the inconvenience caused by social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, a software and solutions provider for e-commerce companies said the Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the retail industry.

Vaibhav Dabhade, founder and CEO of Anchanto Malaysia.

Vaibhav Dabhade, founder and CEO of Anchanto Malaysia, said the crisis serves as a wake-up call for many retail businesses.

“Once the outbreak is over, the eCommerce industry will never be the same again. Businesses will realise that being offline will never be enough,” he told FMT.

Dabhade said businesses will start exploring and leveraging direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategies and make the most of the third and fourth quarters that have many special season sales lined up.

He predicted more investments in eCommerce and its infrastructure, saying many businesses experienced volumes of up to 10 times – similar to the “9/9” and “11/11” sales – during the lockdown period.

These businesses, he said, realise they need the capacity to manage such volumes not for a couple of days, but for months.

Hence, there will be more focus on eCommerce, and spending will be directed more in that direction than in retail.

Dabhade said the eCommerce landscape will evolve much faster, with more businesses embracing eCommerce than ever before.

“It will also encourage aggregators, marketing agencies, consultants, development agencies and similar businesses to help more retailers to adopt digitisation,” he said.

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