Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020
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E-COMMERCE | The decade the internet changed retail

By Abigail Joyce Victorino Mendoza
Founder and CEO of StyleGenie Asia

Coming on the heels of the 2009 financial crisis — the biggest economic recession the world had to endure since the Great Depression — was the rise of the internet economy.

Suddenly, the startups doing business online became behemoths in their respective industries, all thanks to the perfect storm. The technologies available were advancing, consumer habits were quickly changing and capital for further growth offline was dwindling.

The two most visual and apparent manifestation of this may be social media and e-commerce. As advertising in traditional media, TV and radio became expensive, many turned to social media to push their brand messages. Similarly, as brick-and-mortar stores became expensive to maintain, small brands, especially, turned to online marketplaces as their main channels.

For the Philippines, this phenomenon may not have been that much apparent as malls continued to expand and grow in number. Still, these innovations came running to our shores all the same, and still, with much success.

Since it launched in the Philippines, Facebook has considered the country one of its 10 biggest markets. Virtually, all Internet users in the Philippines are on Facebook, too. As of 2019, YouTube is the third most visited social media site by Pinoy internet users. And there’s hardly a month that no Filipino pop culture-related keyword that doesn’t trend on Twitter.

To say Filipinos are social-media savvy is an understatement. And brands, upon this realization, slowly adopted digital strategies to get the market’s attention. And once they did, they never stopped. This phenomenon is one of the innovations serial entrepreneur and business strategy consultant Winston Damarillo fleshed out in the sequel to his 2016 best-seller, Ready or Not 2020.

As we enter a new decade, Damarillo narrated the biggest innovations that may potentially transform the way Pinoys live in the coming 2020s. It’s an interesting, informative read, and if one isn’t tech-savvy, may be quite overwhelming.

The first chapter is dedicated to e-commerce, where he showed how it has come a long way from its simple premise of digitizing store inventories and making them available for deliveries in as little time as possible. Now, brands are under pressure to be everywhere at once. As they grapple with the challenge to be present, available, and convenient in their delivery and product service comes the strategy to be omnipresent. Thus, came the development of different retail channels online.

Before, simply sharing one’s brand message on social media is enough to be “digital.” Now, one has to have his storefront on social media, complete with a customer service assistant and seamless payment and delivery options. With customers ready to air out their praises and grievances about a certain brand quickly on social media, it seems companies are now under so much more scrutiny to be at their best.

What it has led to is a consumer spoiled with choices — one who expects to have every product curated for him or her according to every price point and style. Before, e-commerce marketplaces were the only channel available for brands that want to go “digital”. Now they could sell through their own online sites, through livestream shopping channels and even through ride-hailing “super apps.” As long as the consumer is present, brands ensure they are there to be of service to the market they wish to reach and tap.

Not even the country’s long-standing retail giants, like SM and Robinsons, were spared from this trend. Each of them has their own respective online presence, and have invested a part of their capital to select e-commerce players.

On one hand it seems the e-commerce game is overwhelming and saturated; on the other, it feels much like the great democratizer it was once touted as at the start of the 2010s. With more options available, comes the chance even for the small players to grow and compete with the big leagues.

There’s a concept that Damarillo introduced that particularly piqued my interest — hybrid commerce. He says it’s what emerging countries like the Philippines and Indonesia have turned to, island nations that are separated by water, to deliver e-commerce in the most rural areas. As the infrastructure required for a more efficient e-commerce service, one that is expected from the more affluent economies like the US, hybrid commerce may be the solution to ensure every consumer gets to enjoy the promises of e-commerce.

I, myself, have been able to humbly benefit from this improved infrastructure both as a merchant and as a consumer. As the co-founder of StyleGenie, I’ve been able to share our StyleBoxes to consumers across the Philippines. I also frequently shop at e-stores relevant to my needs, such as large marketplaces like Shopee as well as niche sites like Poundit, which sells gadgets.

Again, it seems, in the 2020s, the customer is set to become a highly satisfied one. At times, he or she may be flooded with options he may not even need, but in the end, everyone’s set to keep him happy. And that’s a win.

Abigail Joyce Victorino Mendoza is the founder and CEO of StyleGenie Asia a fashion-tech company based in Manila. The first Filipina representative at the Alibaba eFounder Fellowship Program as part of the 1,000 Global Agents of Change for the New Digital Economy.

An experienced International Fashion Buyer and eCommerce Specialist. Also the founding partner of QratedCrates Pte Ltd (Singapore), an ongoing passion project dedicated to lifestyle subscriptions economy in SouthEast Asia. Graduated at the Asian Institute of Management with a certificate of completion for the Entrepreneurship Development Program (2017) & The University of Santo Tomas (2010) with a degree in Business Administration Major in Marketing Management.

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