Oracle’s tech innovations builds resilience in uncertain times

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted trade and impacted economies across the world. As countries in Asia-Pacific, including Japan, ease social restrictions, businesses have come to realise that consumers have changed behaviours, sentiment and beliefs.

"The shifts in consumer habits are clear. As people are limited in what they can do offline, they start turning online. Even those who do not usually shop online are doing so now. In response, the more proactive companies are introducing new strategies to connect deeply with their customers,” observes Fitri Abdullah, managing director of Oracle Malaysia.

Connecting with customers using new business models

The ecommerce industry in Malaysia was already thriving before the health pandemic. However, in the first few months of this year, online transactions surged, especially during the Movement Control Order. A research study by Commerce.Asia saw year-on-year growth of gross merchandising volume soaring 149% in the first quarter of this year. The study also notes that people were acquiring more practical essential items.

This compelled businesses to adapt to changing consumer trends and uncertainties in the economy. "Some companies have been massively disrupted while others entered prime growth stage with massive demand for what they have to offer. But all companies have had to adjust their business models to align to the new environment,” says Fitri.

He points to online companies in the country that implemented new and innovative ways to ensure their supply chain wasn’t severely disrupted during the pandemic, so their products were constantly available for consumers. “There are many reasons that compel a shift in the way business is done. For example, some businesses have to change to keep their operations running, others look to turn threats into
opportunities and, maybe, diversify their customer base,” says Fitri.

“We are witness to a great shift in the commercial world into the digital  space now. This can be seen as conventional marketplaces go beyond their comfort zone and include online platforms in their repertoire. During the Hari Raya festive period, for example, many cookie sellers started using digital technology to connect to their customers and boost their sales. They also used e-hailing services to deliver their cookies to customers who were practicing social distancing and staying home,” he adds.

The next wave of ecommerce trends

Fitri sees a number of trends that are likely to have a profound influence on ecommerce and the retail value chain in the post-pandemic new normal. One emerging trend is the convergence of livestreaming and shopping on an online platform.

“Brands are aggressively trying to provide the in-store experience to digital consumers. Think of a livestream broadcast that offers an interactive, experiential and real-time shopping experience to online consumers. This is increasingly gaining traction across Asia,” says Fitri.

The next few trends in the retail industry leveraging on technology include greater automation across business processes and cloud storage. “The retail industry is not a stranger to automation. I expect automated commerce, better known as a-commerce, to drive the future of shopping. A-commerce refers to automated warehouses and the automation of browsing, recommendations, purchasing, delivering arrangements and others. More business operations are being managed remotely now. In such a case, increasing automation in departments such as finance and human resource, and across their supply chain, can improve remote work productivity and enhance customer service as new forms of customer engagements are created.”

“I also see data as imperative if brands want to move to the next level in retail. Brands can harness their data reservoirs, from the back office to the shop floor, to deliver an insight-rich personalised user experience in order to stand out from their competitors. Cloud storage is the answer for this to happen,” he adds.

Taking stock in the cloud

Cloud storage and computing provides scalable architecture that a business needs. It also enables ecommerce platforms to cater to changing demand and market scenarios. “The path ahead is unknown. For retailers, this means that their first point of order is to manage their operations. Given potential obstacles in the management of their supply chain and logistics, it is important that they leverage on the cloud to streamline operations and ensure minimal disruptions at the store-front,” notes Fitri.

The largest ecommerce fashion company in Southeast Asia, Zalora, demonstrates how an ecommerce platform can enhance its platform with the right technology to cater to a sudden shift in demand. During the pandemic, Zalora responded in real-time to each customer interaction. This enabled the company to extract the necessary data to provide the customer with a great experience. “Zalora used Oracle Customer Experience (CX) Cloud Suite, an integrated portfolio of digital marketing solutions, to orchestrate personalised conversations. With this, their personnel could speak to customers in a relevant and tailored manner. The flexibility and adaptability of Oracle’s technology enabled Zalora to respond to customers quickly and drive continuous growth during a challenging and uncertain period,” says Fitri.

Besides personalised connections with customers, businesses must also pay attention to how customers are responding to changes that have been made. Insights can be drawn from the customer’s purchase history, preferred communication channel, shopping behaviour and social media activities. “All of these are data points stored in the cloud that retailers can tap into to stay connected,” he adds.

A spree of possibilities
“The road ahead for the retail industry is unknown but brands that reinvent and adopt new ways to overcome challenges are the ones that will succeed in the next era. By making sense of their data, retailers can access a spree of possibilities,” says Fitri.