Earlier this year, we released our 8 Executive Trends for 2020. Much has changed since then, yet the core insights have only gotten more real and relevant.

Observing the consumer and retail space in Asia, the shifts we identified seem to have intensified due to the outbreak of COVID-19. But the game isn’t over. The market has changed, and smart business leaders and versatile candidates have a prime opportunity to evolve their strategies and approach to not just survive but actually thrive in the new normal.

FROM COMMON KNOWLEDGE TO COMPETITIVE STRATEGY

When the pandemic emerged, there was an initial sense that companies, employees and consumers were “all in this together.” Then reality hit. Brick and mortar retail was decimated (except for grocery retailers), regional economic trade wars were exacerbated and China’s domestic market began steaming ahead.

Domestic retail in Asia surged, and companies that produced packaged foods, small domestic appliances, cleaning and personal care products triumphed, while restaurants, hotels and leisure venues tanked. A major cultural shift got underway in many ways and for many people. Asian consumers tend to go out to drink, food and beverage establishments had to swiftly adapt and revise their strategy and rethink their overheads. Fast.

FLEXING THE DIGITAL MUSCLE

Asians are the world’s largest digital consumers, and companies with a solid e-commerce strategy have weathered the storm and even steamed ahead, while others have found themselves at a crossroads – active digital strategies or disappear. Consumer goods no longer fly off the shelves, they are delivered to the doorstep. Companies have had to rapidly adapt their strategy, and evolve their supply chain. Thankfully, Asia has a robust online retail eco-system and consumers tend to buy with purpose: impulsive purchases and returns aren’t generally part of the culture. The competition may be high, but companies that develop and maintain a strong e-commerce platform can prosper.

Digital dexterity has also become a core element of customer service and team cohesion. We have a wealth of video-call services at our fingertips, and business leaders need to develop a sixth sense to keep their customers happy and their teams engaged. It’s about replacing IQ with EQ and regularly taking the pulse on how our people and our consumers are feeling.

RETAIL RECRUITMENT IN THE NEW NORMAL

Many companies in the retail space are letting go of talented employees, but recruitment specialists have a key role in facilitating new hires. Larger firms are setting their sights on acquisitions and recruiters can provide placement services, guidance and resume building services. They can also offer CSR support and help companies and candidates through webinars, by bringing in experts to talk about how they deal with pandemics.

Companies can smooth the transition by being supportive and taking care of their employees, engaging with them emotionally in these turbulent times. Candidates can also self-propel by being patient, proactive and savvy when it comes to selecting the positions they apply for. The formula is pretty simple: engage your network, be resilient in the face of pushbacks, and find a good head-hunter.

If you’d like to discuss retail and consumer trends in Asia, please reach out and contact me, I’d be delighted to share insights.

Steve Parkes

Steve Parkes
Senior Partner, Hong Kong
[email protected]

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