How mall operators and retailers should realign strategies amid softer demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of physical distancing protocols
We believe that most respondents did not factor in the extent of the pandemic and its potential impact on consumers’ mobility. Colliers believes that even if the government fully relaxes the lockdown imposed throughout Metro Manila, subsequent personal distancing protocols likely to be implemented will reduce consumer traffic. This in turn, is likely to result in a slower absorption of retail space all over Metro Manila. Colliers projects vacancy rising to 12.0% in 2020 from 9.8% in 2019. In our opinion, the reduced mobility, observance of physical distancing, and aversion towards the use of physical currency present opportunities for mall operators and retailers all over Metro Manila. These are likely to form part of the new normal in Philippine retail.
Mall operators and retailers may still tap pent-up demand according to our recent survey. By expanding online strategies and partnering with apps to facilitate seamless delivery, retailers should be able to offset any softer retail demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s implementation of a lockdown.
Rise in e-payments
Despite the survey being conducted during the ECQ, respondents still preferred to shop in-store. This is likely to change given the effect of the pandemic and lockdown on consumer preferences. Data from the Philippine Payments Management Inc. (PPMI) showed that e-payment transactions during the lockdown, covering the period of April 2020, reached a total value of PHP53 billion (USD1.0 billion) or an average of PHP6,130 (USD120) per transaction. In April, some 8.9 million InstaPay transfers were recorded, up by 32.2% from 6.7 million transactions in March 4. This indicates the growth of online shopping during the period.
The cash-on-delivery (COD) payment option for online purchases was also popular, with 65% of the respondents opting for it. Only 7.0% preferred to use online bank transfers and e-wallet options. Colliers sees this preference gradually shifting to InstaPay and e-wallet options given the rising popularity of e-payments due to their convenience and accessibility.
Social media marketing to surge
Close to 80% of respondents encounter advertisements for products and goods online via social media. Retailers could take advantage of this by further strengthening their social media presence to expand the reach of their products. Based on the results of our survey, among the most popular e-commerce platforms include Lazada, Shopee, Instagram, retailers’ online stores, Zalora, Facebook Marketplace, and Amazon.
Colliers believes that mall operators and retailers should strengthen their online presence by either utilizing existing e-commerce websites or setting up their own platforms to market their products.
Expanded partnerships with logistics firms
The social distancing measures have been compelling consumers to rely heavily on deliveries. Mall operators and retailers should consider firming up partnerships with delivery companies that have modernized warehouses and efficient logistics systems to maximize their shift from brick-and-mortar to online selling. The Colliers survey noted that more than half of the respondents that chose online shopping preferred e-commerce due to convenience and time-saving.
Expand offline-to-online strategies
The survey conducted by Colliers Philippines shows tremendous opportunities for retailers that are agile enough to pivot to the “new normal” in Metro Manila retail. The lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19 has forced malls to close, with only the stores supplying essential items such as groceries, medicines, and food for delivery open during the ECQ. Colliers believes that social distancing is likely be part of the new normal even if the lockdown is lifted. Hence, a significant number of physical retail shops are likely to remain closed for additional time. However, brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to tap the demand by expanding their online presence. Colliers expects more retailers to create their own e-commerce websites, utilize the existing sites of major mall operators, or use popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Ramp up client engagement to stay top of mind
We recommend that retailers, especially higher-end brands, be more innovative to stay at the top of consumers’ minds. This may be in the form of home deliveries or personal shoppers. Our survey showed that online shoppers with a monthly income of PHP80,000 and above (USD1,600 and above) spend more time doing online shopping.