eTail Asia Exclusive Interviews: Gen Lehn, spearheading Vietnam fashion

April 19, 2022 by
Frank Calviño

Smart retailing, digitalization, tech and system integrations, and the future of physical stores, are some of the key topics that will define the future of e-commerce, especially in Asia, the potentially largest and most competitive market in the world: According to Statista, Asia's e-commerce revenues are predicted to grow by 22.4% to USD1. 36 trillion in 2020 and reach USD 1.92 trillion by 2024. By then, Asian economies will account for 61.4% of the global e-commerce market. 

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That’s why today we join forces with our partners at eTail Asia to present you with a cycle of exclusive interviews with industry leaders from the e-commerce world!  

Today we inaugurate this cycle with Gen Lehn, Country Head of Inditex at Mitra Adiperkasa, to learn from her experience how is Asia reacting to the omnichannel trend, what’s going on with RFID, and why retail above all things, is about people. Let us begin! 

Inditex in Vietnam: Real-time data, shorter delivery times, and faster Customer Service! 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and MAP?

I am the Country Head of Inditex at Mitra Adiperkasa, one of Indonesia’s largest public listed retail groups. MAP’s franchise portfolio includes over 150 brands, such as Inditex (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull, and Bear, etc) or Starbucks, Sephora, Boots, Digimap (Apple), Galeries Lafayette, and many more.

In my role, I manage Inditex brands in Vietnam. This market is very important for us since most of our stores are top stores. I oversee the full business operations where I need to be hands-on and roll up my sleeves. 

“Our business requires immediate actions since we work with real-time data, therefore we work closely with the store teams, strategizing and making sure our customers are getting what they are looking for and we provide the best customer service possible.”

Nowadays, e-commerce is a very important part of our daily lives. Especially when it comes to fashion. Can you tell us a bit about the essentials when it comes to selling clothing online in Asia?

For Inditex brands, we are employing our brand’s integrated systems that have been tested and worked for all markets. Real-time and integration are the keys to a successful omnichannel business. 

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Understanding real-time inventory, sales history, and demands is critical for omnichannel. Shorter delivery times and fast customer service on refunds and returns are also crucial for fashion online retail while providing sufficient information on product details and features will lower the risk of returns.

What are some tips you can share amid increasingly fierce competition from domestic and global e-commerce platforms in the region?

It is important to understand the customers’ needs and wants and add simplified processes into the system with user-friendly features. It is a shame to lose a customer at check-out, just because the app does not work well on mobile or has overcomplicated features. It is still challenging how to bring the shop floor experience and customer service to e-commerce, but there is great potential in augmented solutions.

Which future technology excites you the most and why?

I believe that RFID technology will be more important in our lives. Getting real-time answers on inventory, the customer and product journey will dominate the retail industry. 

“One of the beauties of RFID is its integration into your POS, e-commerce, or inventory. In the past, we were taking inventory for weeks, with RFID it is just a matter of hours.”

Also, I believe predictive AI can transform the business to new levels and provide smart data that we can transform back into strategy, creating a feedback loop. Augmented solutions at this point still need further development to be spot on, but I believe they can be a game-changer for the future to lower product returns from e-commerce or to have better engagement with customers. 

Asian retailers seem bent on seeking cutting-edge new store formats that optimize omnichannel reach, why?

While e-commerce is vital, I believe that the physical retail space is a must since shopping is a lifestyle and experience that will always remain important to the customers. We are physical beings; the 5 senses are critical to our decision-making. 

Retail is about the people. Now, the question is how to reinvent the retail space to suit the new norms. It seems that recently the customer journey has been simplified since in recent years the customers developed a minimalist mindset therefore integrated channels and data-driven solutions are necessary to push the right products to the stores and to customers. 

Customers are making decisions faster therefore incorporating digital features, apps, and smart tech into the physical store will help to close sales.

A future for fashion, based on data and smart retail

What kinds of future transformations do you believe will take place in the SEA retail industry in the next 2-to 3 years? 

Looking at the changing trends and tech integration into our retail business I believe data, and smart retail technologies will have a major role in retail. 

For example, Check-in before checking out systems with customer identifying AI, facial scanning, and predictive software. The focus will be on enhanced brand experience, with engagement and a smart merchandising system pushing products to stores based on customer profile.

Customers are looking for not only the experience but convenience and benefits, therefore it is important to incorporate new value-added elements into the retail space. But again, I would like to highlight that it should bring value to both parties, the customers, and the organization as well. 

“To launch a new technology just for the sake of entertaining customers makes no sense. We must think of our ROI in terms of smart data and financial benefits as well.”

Since you are a Ph.D. researcher in Smart Retail - what are your thoughts on how combining technology and improved in-store experiences is changing the retail paradigm today?

The implementation of smart retail technologies has multiple benefits for the retail space. Starting with having real-time data on customer preferences, we can have sustainable outputs, resulting in sustainable inventories. Transparency and real-time data provide us with instant information on actions to be taken from all business aspects. Therefore, with our integrated smart system we can offer the same customer service to our customers regardless of the channels.

  What Gen Lehn will be sharing at eTail Asia 2022  

“I will be talking about top technology trends that are transforming the retail space and how organizations can tap into them to boost sales and productivity. I will be also discussing what the future of stores will look like. When it comes to the Retail Apocalypse, 2020 taught us a very good lesson: retailers must adapt or else they will die. 

Thankfully, smart retail can address many of the issues current years brought our way. With the help of RFID, IoT, AI, going to “Phygital” or using smart data analytics, we can build a source of data that will help our physical stores, but also can boost e-commerce. These are exciting times for retail transformation!”

What Gen Lehn wants to learn about at the eTail Asia 2022  

“I am excited to hear more on smart retailing, digitalization, tech and system integrations, the future of stores, or case studies from other researchers/organizations on both successful and failed technology implementation.

These projects require careful planning and execution; therefore, we can learn from each other on how to improve. For my Ph.D., I am working on a Smart Retail framework, and listening to these case studies and other retail experts ‘experiences, will help me to have a better understanding of how to design successful smart retail stores”

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