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Retail sector recorded RM88b sales in 2012 [21-08-2013]  
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Last year, the retail sector in Malaysia generated RM88 billion in sales and for this year, the figure is expected to grow by 6.4 per cent.

This sector, according to Tan Hai Hsin, managing director of RGM Retail Group (Mslaysia) Sdn Bhd, is one of the key drivers of the economy.

In his presentation on "Shopping trends in Malaysia's retail market", Tan, who is also a retail consultant, said a growing segment in the retail sector that is contributing towards the increased domestic demand and consumption is online shopping.

He observes that the online shopping, which is mostly for food, goods and services, is now shifting to the mobile platform.

He puts this down to the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, which sales are increasing.

This, in turn, is reinforced by social media applications (apps) like Facebook and others, which are seamlessly integrated to the smartphones' operating systems, helping spread word about products easily.

This year, online sales is expected to account for three per cent of the total retail sales in Malaysia, he said, adding that the trend is on the rise, driven mainly by the smartphone-savvy Gen-Y consumers.

Tan describes Gen-Y youths as a bargain-hungry lot who are intent on getting the best value for their money.

"Gen-Y are smart consumers who look for genuine discounts.

They want quality products, like food, drinks, bags, spa treatments, boutique hotels and flight tickets, but they want cheap deals. They want to enjoy life with the limited money they have," Tan said.

Meanwhile, Ho Heng Yew, who is marketing director of Werebits Sdn Bhd, said that the fear that was spread in the early days of online retailing -- that online businesses will wipe out retail business in the real world has all but disappeared.

Speaking on "Apps for retail: How to make your brand APPening", Ho said the threat was a false notion.

In fact, he said retailers have instead fully integrated themselves to the online world and practically every business has an online presence today.

He cited the example of some businesses that alert their smartphone-using customers of special offers or packages the moment they step into a shopping mall where the shops are located.

This complementary roles played by the retail and online worlds is expected to pick up speed in coming months.
The marketing director advocated that retailers take a long term approach to their online presence and embrace the app world.

Werebits is the developer of Chopink, a mobile app for retail.

On September 6, Werebits is set to launch another app called Chop-Stick -- an app that allows users to review products and services in the retail sector.

"An app must be more than a name card. An app follows your customer wherever he or she goes. And, 84 per cent of smartphone users will try an app," Ho said.

However, Ho cautioned that the app must be well thought out because studies have shown that an average smartphone user only maintains 41 apps on their smartphone at a time.

With the retail sector business growing another six per cent in 2014, according to Tan, online commercial activities are expected to grow further. 

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