The Technologies that Creates Your Home Sweet Home
A technology overhaul is never easy for a 3 decade-old business, it requires determination, persistence and comprehensive strategies. Observing the changes in consumer behavior, Derek Ng, CEO of Pricerite Home, realised technologies like AR / VR, big data analytics, e-commerce, are vital to help them stay relevant to today’s people hectic lifestyle and millennials’ purchasing habits, and he is resolved to see it through.
“Most people don’t just go to store to buy furniture, they also do a lot of research across different channels and discuss with family or friends. And only after thorough examination would they place their orders, in the most convenient and bargain way available like in-app with promo code,” Derek shared his insight of the customer behavior. “For millennials, they behave vastly different: they not only seek recommendations and reviews from KOLs or social media channels, but they also look for personalised experience, interaction and association with the brand.”
Housing Today Consumers’ Needs
are part of the reasons why Pricerite Home is investing in technology to cater to the needs of today’s consumers. To allow customers visualise how a piece of furniture fit in their own apartment, Pricerite Home developed an augmented reality/virtual reality app that present a virtual 3D furniture with 1:1 scale on smartphone screen against the real environment.
“We setup some typical types of show flat in store, some rectangular and some diamond-shaped, to show how our furniture pieces can facilitate the family to utilize their home space smarter, offering them more decorative ideas.” Derek said. “And if the family members can’t come together to our store to check out the furniture, they can still use our app to picture how it will look like at home.”
Piecing Together the Data
The most challenging part of the digital transformation that Pricerite Home went through is not a fancy app, but its data system. Pricerite Home needs a single data platform that consolidates all the data including product, point-of-sales and customer data. “We need to standardise all our data to make it meaningful for business analysis: for example the product dimension, the legacy data might be in inches or centimetres, among other varying product attributes, so we need to have them all standardised so that we can offer more relevant, personalized promotion to our customers.”
Pricerite Home also plans to tap on publicly available data, for instance the weather data by the Government, to make linkage with their own and customise promotion to different members. When the weather forecast shows certain districts in Hong Kong will be humid or with serious air-pollution, the system will send out pre-set marketing messages about their dehumidifiers or air purifiers to members whose address records show they are at the vicinity.
Orchestrating Omni-channel Efforts
Derek believes omni-channel is no longer a “nice to have” element anymore, but an integral part to compete in market, and Pricerite Home is of no exception. With full-fledged e-commerce and mobile app developed, one daunting task for Pricerite Home is how to increase online sales without cannibalizing physical store sales.
“Our frontline staff earns a commission for every piece of furniture they sell, so they are motivated; but with online platform, they might want to close the deal when the customers visit the store instead of letting customer buy online. This contradicts the consumers’ behavior and our omni-channel business direction.” said Derek.
“Thus we devised a scheme to incentivise our staff to sell, no matter offline or online, by giving each staff a unique promo code that can be shared with customers, so that when customers buy online using the code, they will enjoy a small discount, while the staff can still reap the same commission equivalent to in-store sales.”
Derek believes the sales growth of online store will double this year. The company has already integrated the warehouse management to allow real-time availability of every furniture piece, for both online customer and offline staff. Once the online segment takes off, Derek plans to optimise some physical operations to become more an experience venue.
The company believes a happy customer is a repeat customer. Pricerite Home is accredited with GS1 HK’s Consumer Caring Scheme for 2 consecutive years, which mean it lives up to the standards in demonstrating excellence in consumer care through effective use of technology and consumer centric strategies, ultimately helping to lift up the industry's overall capabilities in customer experience.
Government Has a Role to Play
When asked about the major obstacle in current business, Derek whined about logistics. “Logistics has always been the bottleneck for us, it’s costly, difficult to arrange, and easily jeopardises our brand image.” Pricerite Home relies on 3rd party logistics partners to deliver most of the products, and lately introduced a dynamic scheduling timetable for customers to choose delivery time at their own convenience.
He hopes that the Government could play a role here, to drive down the logistics cost and strengthen its efficiency. This is crucial to the development of e-commerce, he believes, especially when many neighbouring markets have already achieved next day delivery. “The Government deserves our applause for introducing the Faster Payment System, which will bring substantial benefits to us as it is expected to bring some improvement in profit margin. I’m hopeful the Government will support us further on logistics, and to weather the recent economic uncertainty.”