RETAIL giant Tesco Lotus is launching an initiative to support the operators of startup ventures, as well as students with bright ideas and other would-be entrepreneurs, to develop their projects in line with the goals of the Thailand 4.0 technology policy.
The company says the move fits with what it calls its own Retail 4.0 drive and comes after it added around 100 stores last year, taking its network to about 2,000 centres nationwide.
Salinla Seehaphan, corporate affairs director of Tesco Lotus, said the company had cooperated with the government and the private sector in launching what it calls “a Hackathon event”.
“The Hackathon will allow students, startups and entrepreneurs develop new innovation, technology, applications and solutions to support the trend of Retail 4.0 and the needs of customers, including for digital transformation, healthy lifestyles, new family structures and an ageing population, convenience and experience, and sustainability,” Salinla said.
“Tesco Lotus is committed to using innovation to help us serve customers better as their behaviour is changing rapidly in the digital era. Innovation is also important for improving our operational efficiency and supporting customers in the new paradigm of retail. The Hackathon will be part of efforts to extend an opportunity for startups in the country to take part in coming up with innovation that serves the needs of digital era customers and solves business pain points.”
She said the firm expects that technology used by the winner of the Hackathon event will be applied in its Lotus Express convenience stores, “so that it can support the lifestyle needs and demands of customers in the digital era”.
She added: “It can be utilised by local community stores and will help uplift Thailand's retail industry for transformation into Retail 4.0. The firm also plans to promote the winner’s project in the global market.”
Applications are open until February 20. The event will held over 48 hours from March 16-18.
Salinla said the company would continue expand its online channel, which was launched four year ago.
She said the Thailand 4.0 economic model stressed the importance of adding value to traditional products and services using innovation and digital transformation.
“In our own business, Tesco Lotus has adopted innovation and digital transformation to improve our product and service offerings, as well as our customers’ shopping experiences, for example, by allowing customers to be able to trace where their fruit and vegetables come from via QR codes,” Salinla said.
“As our core business is around fresh food, we have an opportunity to work directly with farmers across the country and help them to become farmers 4.0 in line with the government’s goal for Thai farmers to transform themselves from being simply “growers” of food to “smart farmers” who use effective crop management and a market-led approach to farming.
“For example, we have recently worked with rice farmers in four provinces in the Northeastern region on a Pracha Rath direct sourcing programme. Through the partnership, farmers learn about product quality and safety, demand and supply, branding and marketing, cost management, and working with modern trade retailers. Beyond providing a distribution channel for farmers as well as local SME operators, we also focus on equipping them with the knowhow that will help them thrive in Thailand 4.0.
“What we are looking for is innovations that serve the needs of customers, which have been shaped by five mega trends, namely digital transformation, a healthy lifestyle, a new family structure and ageing population, convenience and experience, and sustainability,” she said.
“Retail plays an integral role in the daily living of people and also enables many other related businesses including food, agriculture, financial, and logistics, acting as a significant distribution channel and consumer touch point. The evolution of retail towards Retail 4.0 is thus crucial for the development of other businesses.”
Salinla said that digital technology continues to impact and transform the way people live and shop. Since the launch of Tesco Lotus’ online shopping platform, the company has seen consistent growth as customers embrace e-commerce and the convenience it brings. “Digital technology, especially mobile, has become the dominant part of customers’ lifestyles. To cater to these changes, Tesco Lotus has incorporated digital and mobile technology to serve the modern day customers better,” Salinla said.
“Our loyalty programme Clubcard now allows customers to collect and redeem points both offline and online. They can also check their points and retrieve e-coupons via the mobile application, whereas in the past, they had to wait for quarterly statements and coupons sent in the mail.
“Aside from the shopping aspect, digital technology also has a significant impact on customer communications.
“Platforms such as Facebook and Line have become crucial in reaching customers as well as for customers to be able to talk to Tesco Lotus. Currently, we have 3.6 million fans on Facebook and 32 million on Line,” she said.
Salinla said when it comes to retail, regardless of channel or platform, price, quality and convenience will always be key considerations for customers.
“Our goal is to continue to offer great quality products at affordable prices, with the added convenience of a seamless shopping experience for our customers,” she said.