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Friday, 29 April 2016, 18:00 HKT/SGT

Source: HKTDC
Evolving with Consumers - Retailers Embrace Change
Seminar Invites Experts to Explore Top Gifts & Premium Trends

HONG KONG, Apr 29, 2016 - (ACN Newswire) - Retail industry experts took part in the Trendwatcher: Gifts & Premium Retailing seminar held on 28 April, examining the retail scene and updating attendees on the latest consumer trends. The seminar, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), was part of the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair (27-30 April), which is underway at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Speakers included industry experts, Philippe Mechin, Journalist, BM2C Media Group, Andrea Rossi, Managing Director, Moleskine Asia Ltd. and Nowel Liu, Merchants Commercial Manager, Watsonsmall.com, eLab, A.S. Watson Group. They each spoke about their company's background and current consumer engagement strategies in light of the current trends impacting their business and the gifts and premium retail market.

Exploring the gift-giving culture

Highlighting his experience in the French market, Mr Mechin opened the seminar by exploring the importance of gift-giving in French culture and discussing the reach of this trend in the global gifts market. He emphasised the importance of the gifts industry saying that, "as soon as you are born you will receive gifts until the end of your life." He explained that in French culture gift-giving is a romantic practice and that, in general terms, a "gift must be useful" otherwise people will re-sell and recycle the gifts online. Mr Mechin stated that some of the top trend categories for gifts are gift boxes featuring travel or other experiences, high-tech products, company gifts and green products. He stated that as a Western nation, these trends in France extend to Europe and other Western markets. Focusing on company giving, another French gift-giving practice that is also important globally, he said it is "not a question of price, it shows that a company takes care of you". He explained that company gift-giving is a "stable and big market" valued at over EUR 1 billion.

Understanding changes in consumer behaviour

During his presentation, Mr Rossi explored the changes in consumer behaviour and the challenges facing retailers today, in particular those entering the Asian market. Referencing Moleskine's history and "fast growing company story", Mr Rossi examined brand mind-set and strategy as a key solution to appeal to consumers. He explained that Moleskine has chosen to present themselves as a lifestyle brand and marketing company rather than a retail goods manufacturer. He defined Moleskine's target audience as the "creative class in a modern concept", a group of "not just artists, poets and thinkers" but extending to international travellers, college students and business professionals. He said that the modern "creative class" has a "high level of education, lives in an urban environment and is highly digitalised". He noted that even though buyers can easily find a wide variety of quality notebooks in the market, Moleskine is different because "we are not manufacturers, we are marketing people" and "we work to position ourselves as a premium lifestyle brand" with a global reach. Discussing the evolving behaviour of consumers, he said that in the business-to-business (B2B) channel, corporate customers are unique because they are "people who are obliged to take rational decisions respecting some organisational constraints" like budget and organisational procedure. He said that it is important for a supplier to be "flexible" and "reliable" to minimise the risks for buyers of your product. Mr Rossi said that there is "growing interest from corporate customers for brands" and that B2B customers are shifting away from "cheap, unbranded products". In the business-to-consumer (B2C) market, he said that consumers are different because they are "driven by emotion". Touching upon obstacles faced when entering the Asian market, he stated that it is important for brands to create a strategy to deliver a "local product proposition consistent with Asian consumer tastes". For Moleskine this meant finding a "balance point between European traditional culture and heritage of our brand and what is appealing." To further appeal to local tastes, Mr Rossi suggests partnering with the "local cultural and artistic environment", like Moleskine did with the Hong Kong Film Festival, to create products with local appeal.

Adapting to Consumer Needs

Ms Liu shared the current strategy of A.S. Watson Group to use "omni-channel" consumer engagement and examined the growing trend for retailers, in Hong Kong and globally, to cater to consumers' evolving and diverse needs. She said that "consumer buying behaviour is changing the total retail ecosystem" and that their lifestyles have changed in today's "fast-paced world". Examining the Hong Kong experience as a bricks-and-mortar retail operation, she said that companies should embrace an "omni-channel" sales and communications strategy to adapt to shifting consumer needs in addition to dealing with rising rent and operation costs. She explained that A.S. Watson Group is adapting to consumer needs by implementing an "omni-channel strategy" that blends online-to-offline (O2O) sales, customer relationship management (CRM), Big Data, social media, physical strategy, and mobile communications. She also detailed A.S. Watson Group's plans to launch Watsonsmall.com, an online e-commerce market place, in the third quarter of 2016 to bring value-added products and new customer experiences to the Hong Kong market. She explained that her company chose Hong Kong as their launch market because it is an "international business hub" with "international business know-how" and the gateway to Asia.

The 31st edition of the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, which concludes Saturday, features a record of more than 4,300 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions showcasing various gifts and premium products.

Fair Website: http://www.hktdc.com/fair/hkgiftspremiumfair-en/

Photo Download: http://bit.ly/1SUBTRv

To view press releases in Chinese, please visit http://mediaroom.hktdc.com/tc

Communication and Public Affairs Department
Joe Kainz
Tel: +852 2584 4216
Email: joe.kainz@hktdc.org

Topic: Trade Show or Conference
Source: HKTDC

Sectors: Trade Shows, Retail & eCommerce
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