Consumers and sellers. The same distribution challenges, different perspectives

The act of selling.

The distribution world, which comprises a fundamental activity of business, is facing a paradigm shift.The epicenter of this change is consumers’ rapid shift towards e-commerce. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the e-commerce market for general consumers in Japan has expanded to be worth more than 15 trillion yen.

At a glance, it may appear that this has provided consumers with more convenient, enriched lives. But with so many choices from a multitude of ever-diversifying purchasing channels, a new problem has surfaced. Now, consumers are having difficulty finding and buying the things they truly want.

On the other hand, sellers are facing numerous challenges in their business. These include growing competition resulting from the number of stores being greater than is commensurate with demand, a workforce shortage due to Japan’s aging society, and a domestic market that is contracting over time.

Based on its experience in tackling distribution-related challenges in the midst of fierce competition for customers and manpower, Toppan is working on new solutions. Toppan provides cutting-edge support for digital transformation that brings benefits for both the consumers who buy and the businesses that sell.

Digital Transformation by Toppan

Let us first show you how Toppan, a printing company, has been involved in the distribution market. Printed sales promotion materials, such as advertising flyers, will likely come to mind for many people.

However, the process of creating an advertising flyer is not limited to printing work. We naturally support marketing activities for creating flyers that reflect the characteristics of stores, areas, products, and customers, but we have also created a wide range of technologies and solutions for various areas of business, such as management of membership systems and customer information as well as the dispatch of direct mail.

Toppan is currently focusing efforts on digital transformation, which means using IT to meet distribution challenges by integrating, managing, and using huge amounts of related information. Here are some examples of digital innovation made possible only by a printing company with an extensive knowledge of day-to-day distribution work.

Creating new customer experiences with marketing automation

Let us introduce marketing automation as an example of how Toppan is currently working to support digital transformation.

With conventional IT-based sales promotion, companies mostly distributed email newsletters based on broad customer segmentation. However, this method did not make individual customers feel that the message was tailored to them.

To take on this challenge, Toppan aimed for customer-centric marketing which offered individual customers the right information at the right time through capturing detailed data about each customer.

One example is scenario marketing. For customers who purchased soccer cleats at a sporting goods store, digital data on usage and weather is collected for a period of time after their purchase. Using this data, shoe care information is sent to them at the right time to maintain their interest and encourage another visit to the store.

As another example, in-store beacons or Wi-Fi and messaging apps like LINE are used to notify customers of recipe information or coupons via push notifications.

Additionally, IC tags are beginning to be used in innovative ways to offer smooth and efficient shopping experiences to individual customers by providing instant food product information such as the production region, name of the farm, calories and ingredients.

Of course, behind this marketing automation lies Toppan’s advanced technology, which involves managing huge amounts of customer and product information, creating content for distribution, linking with open data like weather information, and maintaining airtight information security.

Toppan aims to design appealing customer experiences by using marketing automation that maximizes the use of digital data, leading to an understanding of the customer’s journey.

Dramatically changing in-store environments through digital transformation

The responsibilities of supermarket, clothing store, and other retail outlet managers include stock management, staying abreast of competitors’ activities, keeping an eye on the changing seasons and weather, and monitoring consumers’ preferences, which requires them to plan and review sales activities every week.

Toppan aimed to support these busy retailers by using IT to enhance work efficiency. An electronic payment platform is one such example.

This service makes operation efficient by simplifying the integration of electronic payments and eliminating the hassle of having to give change. It allows coordination with point services, online payments, and smartphone payments, which have been increasing recently. Currently, 150 companies and 300,000 shops use it as their payment system.

We also offer solutions that make use of RFID (IC tags), an automatic identification technology that will conserve labor resources in the distribution and retail industries. We are preparing for the coming of next-generation unmanned stores by integrating electronic payment and product information management (PIM) systems.

The use of RFID tags on store fixtures is broadening the horizons for new marketing possibilities. Smart shelves equipped with RFID readers in stores can accumulate information on product purchases as well as on situations in which the customer returns a product to the shelf after changing their mind, thus enabling customer interest in new products and the effectiveness of shelf displays to be ascertained.

Toppan is also beginning to offer sales support app solutions to retail and service industries that have started to suffer from a shortage of labor. We are alleviating the workload of sales floor management by centrally managing inventory, shelf displays, lost and found information, shift management, cash register training videos, and other functions related to store operation and customer service.

Toppan is shaping the future with digital transformation

You’ve caught a glimpse of the role Toppan plays in the world of consumers and sellers. But this is just a small part of the work Toppan is undertaking in the field of digital transformation. By confronting the unique challenges faced by each industry, Toppan is continuing to offer the best solutions for the consumer goods, financial, and service industries.

Creating customer-centric, added-value experiences and dramatically improving productivity are the common goals we share for all industries. To achieve this, our mission is to provide highly effective solutions by bringing together knowledge and experience accumulated over many years of tackling challenges in business.

Big data and AI are becoming more sophisticated while the IoT and robotics are streamlining operations. We are striving to bring about business innovation by fusing various evolving technologies into a single solution. We are enhancing the lives of consumers and the business of sellers. Toppan’s challenge for the future continues.

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