Aigens Industry Insights: The state of the Retail & Catering Industry – Interview with Vincent So

We were able to catch up with Vincent So, Chairman of the Hong Kong Retail Technology Industry Association on the first day of the Retail Asia Conference and Expo Hong Kong 2024. Watch our “Industry Insights” video and hear what Vincent has to say about the state of the Retail & Catering Industry in Hong Kong and SEA.

Below is the transcript of the interview.

Aigens: Can you please introduce yourself?

Vincent So: Hello everyone, I am Vincent, Vincent So. I am the chairman of the Hong Kong Retail Technology Industry Association, and also the Founding Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Smart Catering Association.


Aigens: What is the state of the Retail and F&B sectors in Hong Kong vs SEA/APAC?

Vincent So: In the current challenging environment faced by the Retail and Catering industries in Hong Kong, technology adoption can indeed alleviate their burdens and enhance efficiency. Innovations such as using technology for ordering and implementing kiosks can significantly benefit the industry. Beyond Hong Kong, we observe a thriving market in Southeast Asia where businesses are leveraging technology to improve their operations.


Aigens: What are the biggest pain points encountered by operators?

Vincent So: The industry is currently facing several significant challenges. Firstly, it’s difficult to hire staff, and secondly, operational costs are high. In other words, to run a successful business, you need to use technology to solve these issues and improve operational efficiency. Technology also helps deepen the understanding of customer data and your own operational data.


Aigens: What were the hottest tech solutions of 2023?

Vincent So: In 2023, the Catering and Retail industries saw many changes in eCommerce and eMarketing, including an increase in takeaways and online shopping. The industry needed to integrate with these systems, including order-taking systems that needed to connect with these platforms. So, in terms of progress in 2023, everyone was going online and coordinating with offline operations.


Aigens: What will be the hottest tech solutions of 2024?

Vincent So: In 2024, we indeed faced a shock in operations and sales, so using technology is precisely what can help the industry solve the problems they face. For example, in Catering, there’s an increase in smart ordering and the use of kiosks, which helps improve overall efficiency. In Retail, what we need to enhance, apart from social media, is to understand the data behind it, including CRM systems, to understand ourselves better, such as using more ERP and a comprehensive digital transformation system to continue improving your business operations.


Aigens: What is hot in Restaurant Ordering?

Vincent So: In terms of restaurant ordering systems that facilitate self-service ordering or kiosk systems can greatly reduce operational costs and increase efficiency for the Catering industry. It is believed that with the industry’s cooperation and government funding programs, there will be a gradual and comprehensive adoption of these systems.


Aigens: What is hot in Payment?

Vincent So: Indeed, the payment systems in Hong Kong need significant enhancement to meet the demands of the Retail industry. If the payment system can align with customer needs, such as allowing mobile payments after dining, it would be a highly anticipated service by the citizens of Hong Kong. The industry looks forward to comprehensive support from the payment systems sector to fully support the Retail and Catering industries in this regard.


Aigens: What is hot in Loyalty?

Vincent So: We often say: To do good business, you first need to understand your customers. Once we have a clearer understanding of our customers’ needs, you can do a lot of analysis and some forecasting. So, a good CRM system is not only about understanding your customers but also knowing what products they like, when to buy your products, and responding to their needs by promoting some discounts or the services or products they need.


Aigens: What about Ai?

Vincent So: This topic is indeed captivating, and our industry needs to understand and support it because Artificial Intelligence (AI) is precisely what reduces manpower and enhances overall operations. I also encourage the industry to learn more about and utilize AI, whether in Marketing, daily operations, Accounting, or Administration. There are already various AI systems that can assist everyone.
Digital transformation is now unavoidable. Instead, how we face technology and AI can significantly help the industry improve efficiency in all aspects. Let’s all strive for progress.