CBK White Paper Series: Retail Marketing in the Digital Era


Professor Hao Shen, Department of Marketing, CUHK Business School

HONG KONG SAR – Media OutReach – 13 June 2023 – COVID-19 has done much to change the purchase habits of consumers around the world, especially by significantly accelerating the adoption of online commerce. Around the world, retail stores shut down as countries entered lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus during the start of the pandemic. Online commerce boomed as consumers flocked online to purchase a wide array of goods.

Social media has become a crucial part of any e-commerce plan.

Social media has also become a crucial part of any e-commerce plan, with the popularity of platforms such as Instagram, Tiktok to China’s WeChat all surging as people sought to maintain social contact at the height of the pandemic. Many of the current generation now use social media as their main conduit with which to learn more about the world around them, including where to shop and what to buy. In this age of the rise of social media, how can companies leverage off new and exciting ways to communicate to their customers and spread the word of mouth, and how can they shape consumer feedback to their advantage?

What we found was that speaking about a brand tends to increase a person’s connection to it, as opposed to writing about it. That’s why marketing professionals should consider encouraging consumers to utilise channels where they can offer feedback in verbal or spoken forms. By encouraging consumers to provide spoken feedback on their products on social media platforms through video or audio, we found that at least popular brands stand to reap benefits associated with a strengthened consumer connection, whether that be increased resistance to criticism against the brand, or a stronger willingness to wait for products to become available again in cases of stock-out.

The Surprising Impact of Touchscreen Menus

Finally, physical retail itself has been transformed as customers have gradually make their way back to brick and mortar stores, with more and more businesses making use of touch interfaces to communicate and interact with customers. Do their use affect consumer choice and what could be potential implications for consumers and policymakers?

In our research into how restaurants and other food and beverage outlets make use of self-service kiosks, we find that when customers use a touchscreen menu to order food, it makes them more likely choose food which make feel better, such as a piece of cheesecake, rather than something which they know is healthier for them, like a salad.

The two-prong challenge of the arrival of the digital age and the spread of the global pandemic has done much to change how people make purchases. Consumers are continuing their shift into digital shopping and increasing numbers of consumers around the world are shopping online for the first time, likely drawn by its convenience and access to a potentially wide variety of goods. As brands venture into this post-pandemic world that is increasingly driven by e-commerce, they need to adjust their strategies to take advantage of changing habits in order to thrive.

Like most industries, retail will find a way to thrive in the digital age. But it will only be able to do so if marketers possess a deep understanding of how customer habits and behaviours continue to evolve as a result of new technological improvements. At CUHK Business School, we look forward to exploring these ongoing developments as they happen and sharing how they will impact on brands and marketing professionals alike.

Read more: https://cbk.bschool.cuhk.edu.hk/research-whitepapers/retail-marketing-in-the-digital-era/

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