The APAC doesn't get the kind of innovation and attention it used to. Source: John MacDougall / AFP

The APAC doesn’t get the kind of innovation and attention it used to. Source: John MacDougall / AFP

Is the APAC falling behind in terms of e-commerce innovation?

THERE is no doubt that e-commerce is growing rapidly in the Asia Pacific (APAC).

According to one estimate, e-commerce sales in the region is projected to grow at 14.2 percent in 2019 to reach US$1.2 trillion. That’s almost four times the GDP of Singapore and nearly equivalent to the GDP of Australia.

Double-digit growth also signifies that e-commerce isn’t slowing down at all.

In fact, speaking with e-commerce giants in the region such as Lazada and Shoppee, it is clear that the platform owners, sellers, and customers all feel there is great potential in the market and perhaps that the sky is the limit in terms of where it all can go from here.

However, there seems to be one problem. There’s not much innovation going on in delivering real value to customers.

Platforms in the region are constantly investing their resources to make e-commerce more engaging and interactive — but they’re unable to improve service levels and provide an offering that is similar in quality to their counterparts in the US and the UK.

Recently, for example, Amazon debuted a new system that allows customers to retrieve parcels from retail counters in the UK and Italy.

The company has partnered with Next Plc in the UK to leverage its 500-plus outlets to provide the “click and collect” service — something which is growing increasingly popular in the target country.

The service is called Counter and is expected to help the brand go the extra mile to delight customers with yet another thoughtful service.

“There is a strong tradition of click-and-collect in both the U.K. and Italy and the plan is to roll Counter out further across Europe. Next (Plc) really understands click-and-collect,” said Amazon Lockers and Pickup Director Patrick Supanc.

Walmart, on the other hand, a traditional retailer that sells quite a bit of its products online now is rolling out next-day delivery services to counter Amazon’s recent move to cut delivery times from two days to one day for premium customers.

According to another Bloomberg report, Walmart customers in Phoenix and Las Vegas who buy more than US$35 worth of goods will get free one-day shipping.

Walmart aims to apply its offer to as many as 220,000 items and hopes to extend service to Southern California in the coming days and to about three-quarters of the US by the end of the year.

The retail giant is working hard to become a strong e-commerce player and is doing quite a lot to wow its customers.

Compare that to the rest of the APAC where players like Lazada and Shoppee barely have any control over when goods arrive because sellers often ship them directly.

Overall, while local players in the region are making efforts to augment their products, it does seem like they need to get more hands-on with supply chain innovations if they want to really delight customers and keep up with what peers in other parts of the world have to offer.

After all, customer experiences in one part of the world are bound to influence expectations and demands in other parts of the world quite naturally.