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Thai retailer offers ‘seamless’ luxury shopping experience via WhatsApp

A MAJOR retailer in Thailand has launched a service which allows customers to interact with its luxury brand websites and make purchases via WhatsApp.

According to the Bangkok Post, the Central Group on Tuesday launched what it calls the “world’s first cross-border e-commerce luxury brand shopping experience”, a first for the group in mustering a network of global luxury department stores across eight cities, including locations in Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Germany, among others.

The group’s chairman and chief executive, Tos Chirativat, said the launch was part of Central’s pivot towards an omnichannel strategy to cater to the digital lifestyle of its customers.

“The move is calculated to serve the lifestyles of Central Group’s new customers by providing seamless integration of online and offline shopping channels,” he was quoted as saying.

“That is the vision of the group moving forward.”

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With the service, users who add the luxury department stores in Whatsapp would be able to make inquiries about the availability of products through live chat. They will also be able to make purchases and payment through various options and either collect their items or have them shipped to their homes.

Apart from serving as a digital magazine and newsletter, the network’s website AuxVillesDuMonde.com provides information on points of interest, fashion, food and culture in the cities featured. The website also supports eight languages and is available as a mobile app for Android and iOS operating systems.

Central Department Store Group chief executive Yuwadee Chirathivat was quoted as saying the company spent GBP500,000 (US$665,351) on the AuxVillesDuMonde.com site.

“Cross-border shopping at nine stores in eight cities is a new retail phenomenon,” Yuwadee said.

“Through the application’s WhatsApp live chat option, Thai shoppers will be able to order products [without an added 18 percent tax] from Europe and have and have them shipped to Thailand in two to five days.”

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She added shoppers would be required to pay import tax depending on which country the product was bought.

“The chat channel is designed to reduce shopping time for customers that already have a preferred product in mind,” she said.

The launch of the WhatsApp-based service comes a month after the group introduced Central On Demand that was made available through another chat app Line, allowing customers to ask about products.

The group plans to make Central On Demand available at all 22 branches nationwide and serve an estimated 100,000 users by the end of the year.