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Analysis of Taiwan's shopper trends

On 17 April, the ECCT's Marketing Club hosted an event on the subject of Taiwan's shopper trends and what retailers need to know to lead and keep winning in the market. The guest speaker was Terri Kang, Director of Retailer Services for Nielsen Taiwan

While Taiwan's GDP is modest, the low inflation rate means that there is less pressure on consumers this year, which is good news for retailers. According to Nielsen's market analysis, fewer Taiwanese consumers feel that food prices have risen compared to the previous year. This means that while the price is still important, fewer consumers will change their shopping behavior based only on price.

 

Promotional activities are deep-rooted and expected in Taiwan but they are not necessarily the activities that attract shoppers the most. According to Nielsen's analysis, 91% of shoppers go to the same store to shop. This sounds like good news for those retailers at the top of retail rankings but Kang said that retailers need to avoid complacency and continuously improve their business services and product line ups. While loyalty is important, shoppers will get bored and could easily switch stores given the diverse and stiff competition in Taiwan's retail market.

Shoppers are concerned about saving time. According to Nielsen, 48% of shoppers are willing to spend more money on an item if it would save them time. This is one reason for the continuing growth in e-commerce (which doubled between and 2005 and 2013 and continues to expand into new sectors. Business to Consumer (B2C) e-commerce was once primarily the domain of consumer electronics but now clothing, ticketing and even Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) items, especially bulk discounted items such as tissues, are being sold online to save consumers time. The desire to save time has also led to a drop in percentage of shoppers who like to browse entire stores. This should ring alarm bells for retailers because it will cut down on the chances of spontaneous purchases.

Convenience stores (CVS) are the most visited type of retailer in Taiwan in terms of traffic, followed by supermarkets and hypermarkets. While visits to CVS and supermarkets are mostly flat from the previous survey, the number of visits to hypermarkets has declined, meaning that hypermarkets will need to make some changes to increase customer visits.

According to Kang, there are three winning formulas for success in the retail space: speed, innovation and differentiation.

Shopping online has continued to increase because it is convenient and delivery speeds and modes have continued to improve. Some deliveries can be done within as little as eight hours while having goods delivered to convenience stores of the consumers' choice has helped to speed up and improve logistical convenience.

Innovation that attracts shoppers' attention is another important factor. According to Kang, once consumers are in stores, 70% of them will buy additional items they had not originally intended to buy. To capitalize on this tendency, retailers need to attract shoppers to visit their stores more often. CVS's in Taiwan have done a good job of continuous innovation. Besides delivery services and remodeling to mimic coffee shop interiors, they are introducing new services such as laundry services and new products such as soft serve ice cream. These are good examples of innovative services to cater the needs of consumers.

Differentiation is the third important factor for success and, given the tendency for competitors to copy the best ideas, retailers have to constantly find new ways to differentiate themselves from the pack. Good examples adopted in recent years include introducing private labels and exclusive items. While FMCG market growth in Taiwan is only about 1.6% per annum, one retailer achieved a 26% growth rate for a type of chocolate in its stores – a very successful example of differentiation.

Finding ways to excite shoppers is necessary to keep them coming back. To do this, retailers must continuously introduce new products and services. Another good example Kang cited was the giving away stickers for purchases over a certain amount, which, when enough have been collected, can be used to exchange for gifts. This provides a "little enjoyment" and fun to certain consumers, which not only prompts them to spend a little more but also to visit more often.

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