It was a much anticipated – yet predictable – announcement by Disney last week to announce the debut of its flagship e-commerce store, shopDisney, for consumers across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. The site offers over 1,000 products, including authentic Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel merchandise. In the current climate, where e-commerce has been a key part of retail even pre-Covid, it could be argued that Disney’s e-commerce rollout for the APAC r
C region was slow. By comparison, many retailers around the world began focusing on their digital strategy two years ago when the pandemic first hit and stores were closed. Dr Jason Pallant, senior lecturer in marketing at Swinburne certainly believes that there is a shift towards an omnichannel strategy being essential for brands across many sectors. He feels that this is a positive shift by Disney to become more ‘local’ in their e-commerce offerings. “Disney has previously had e-commerce options that could service other regions but they were often being facilitated and distributed internationally. Given the many supply chain issues we have seen globally it makes sense to have more targeted options,” he explained. Digital nuances Ayush Narain, retail analyst, at IDC Insights Asia Pacific, mentioned that retailers in the region are still at different points in their digital transformation plans and are catching up to the more digitally mature retailers. “As per the 2021 IDC retail survey, top priorities for retailers in the region are [firstly] increasing store sourced revenues 70 per cent and secondly, increasing e-commerce profitability 43 per cent,” he said. Around last year, Disney had begun closing some of its 60 stores in the US and Canada as it shifted to focus on e-commerce. Critics argued that shutting these stores, which were basically gateways to the magic of the Disney brand, could be detrimental to the greater good. Challenging Times Pallant believes store closures are a challenging strategy to analyse. On the surface it’s about reducing operating costs, but stores are also uniquely positioned to provide magical customer experiences that certainly align with the Disney brand. “At the same time, research suggests that moving to e-commerce in fact increases the value of stores as experiential showrooms rather than decreases them. So while shutting stores may benefit costs in the short term, there may be long-term costs that are less obvious to see,” he emphasised. Narain also noted that an increased focus on e-commerce has led to not only store closures but also a transformation to warehousing strategies, delivery hubs as well as click and collect points. Different customer segments, and even individuals, have different channel shopping preferences. So while it can be tempting to think of online and transactional and stores as experiential, not all consumers view them this way, Pallant added. “A challenge for brands like Disney is to cater to these different consumers. That can mean having some stores being more transactional while others focused on experiences,” he said. “Or even thinking about zones within stores where those who want the magical experience can get it, while others can get in and out conveniently if they desire.” Augmented experiences Another aspect to take into consideration is the need for each channel to augment each other. “Rather than focusing on e-commerce rather than stores, better consumer experiences tend to happen when online supplements and builds on the in-store (or in-park) experience, and vice versa,” noted Pallant. New technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are perfect examples of enhancing the online experience. “Our research suggests many consumers are still wary of these technologies due to a lack of experience and perceived benefits…so like with the discussion of online and stores, to me, AR and VR are about augmenting existing experiences, not trying to replace them,” he said. As per the 2021 IDC retail survey, Narain mentioned that 89 per cent of retailers with increasing e-commerce profitability believe that customer experience (CX) is the key to achieving profitability. This is where AR, VR and Web3.0 will come into play. Ultimately, Pallant hopes that Disney’s e-commerce rollout embraces the cultural nuances of each region, and not just adopt a single strategy for its growth. “So a move closer to the region is a positive step, but still requires a balance to consider how to localise offers enough to be meaningful while still creating efficiencies,” he concluded. Market realities As per the 2021 IDC retail survey, among the retailers focusing on e–commerce profitability, 47% of them feel that the supply chain is the most difficult challenge that they face. According to research from the 2021 IDC retail survey, last–mile delivery optimization is among the key applications with 38% of retailers currently implementing it and 28% planning to implement it in the next 12 months. “The overall objective of these retailers is to have applications that are integrated across all processes and automation,” Narain added. A benefit of Disney’s latest online foray for consumers will be reduced delivery times and convenient access to highly anticipated global collections that are differentiated, Mahesh Samat, Executive Vice President of Consumer Products, Games and Publishing APAC, at The Walt Disney Company, pointed out. “We can curate services and products that are unique and localised, while also ensuring we enhance our offerings across all our franchises, he said. According to Samat, Disney is always committed to creating new digital experiences to engage, entertain, educate and connect: “We do that by leveraging our complete digital ecosystem – creating experiences that resonate, inspire imagination, and can be enjoyed by fans, whether it is through our content, services or products.” Focused to delight “shopDisney is truly a fan-focused e-commerce platform and creates a wonderful opportunity for us to deepen the emotional connection fans have to our stories and characters, through innovative, best-in-class products from across the world, into the hands of our fans,” he said. Samat elaborated that shopDisney products are largely designed and developed for Disney Stores and Parks, with a focus on premium product range. “We continue to work with our extensive range of licensees (stockists) who also develop Disney Store products.” The APAC region, according to him, has a high affinity for Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars as these stories continue to resonate across different backgrounds, cultures and generations. Previously only accessible to local shoppers via global partner websites, long-time fans and indulgers will gain access to products like the popular Mickey Mouse: The Main Attraction limited edition series, Disney x COACH collection, as well as a contemporary and stylish homeware catalogue inspired by favourites such as Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse. “We believe the launch of shopDisney in the region will delight long-time fans and indulgers as we provide varied incremental shopping opportunities via a wide array of elevated product assortment that focuses on in/out limited editions, collectibles, and premium gift ideas,” he concluded.