Partner introduction: a Q&A with SmartOSC’s Thai Son

Over the last couple of years we’ve been increasing our presence in the APAC region, with offices opening in Melbourne and Sydney and a growing list of clients and partners. This week we’re getting to know SmartOSC’s co-founder, Thai Son, who’s working closely with dotdigital to support ecommerce businesses in Southeast Asia.

Could you please introduce yourself and the role you play at SmartOSC?

I’ve been luckily involved in ecommerce for the last 11 years, helping over 500 online retailers build and optimize their ecommerce websites through SmartOSC, the ecommerce agency I co-founded. We grew from a small team of four in 2006 into one of the largest ecommerce agencies in the region, with over 350 specialists. I am now responsible for overseeing the company’s growth and strategy across Asia Pacific, North America and the UK.

Your mantra (per the website) is “Focus on the journey, not the destination”. Could you expand on that and how it fits into the work you do at SmartOSC?

Firstly, I always believe in the power of being focused, and then you have to enjoy the work. At SmartOSC, we challenge people to do better every day and focus on delivering; everything else is noise. We celebrate wins, recognize success, learn from failures, and have fun together. So when we look back after years, it’s amazing to realize not just what we have achieved, but also how we have done it. That is exactly what we want to create: a memorable experience.

Thai Son, co-founder of SmartOSC

Could you please give us some background on SmartOSC? Your vision and mission?

The idea started with me in my last year at university while doing some part-time freelance programming, based on an open-source solution called OSCommerce. As things became more serious and larger clients came on board, we realized the need to invest more in acquiring the right talent, getting processes in place and focusing on delivering high value to clients. Today, SmartOSC is driven by mission to provide growth, in every partnership that we are involved with.

We now offer a full range of commerce services from consulting, creative, platform build, to conversion optimization. Being commerce focused and deeply experienced in certain platforms like Magento, Sitecore, Adobe, combined with a track record of successful delivery to enterprise clients, is what makes us unique.

You work closely with Magento. Can you give us further details on your partnership with them?

We first worked with Magento since early days of the platform in 2008. A few years later, we became a Magento Silver partner. We were lucky enough to grow together with Magento’s strong momentum worldwide. Our strong commitment to the platform is also reflected in the community events we organized. Meet Magento Vietnam, held since 2015, has attracted more than 1,000 attendees and contributed to educating the market about the flexibility that Magento provides to merchants.

We currently have 198 Magento 2 trained specialists which rank amongst the top solution partners when it comes to providing Magento 2 expertise. In Feb 2017, we have been officially recognized by Magento as an Enterprise Solutions Partner, becoming the only agency headquartered in Southeast Asia achieving this partnership level.

Do you have a client success story you can take us through?

While we have many successful cases to share, I would like to pick the one we implemented for Asia’s leading  luxury retailer, Club21, which manages brands like Donna Karan, ck Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel and Paul Smith, to name a few.

As online shopping becomes more popular, the consumer shopping habit also changes. They walk into a designer boutique, browse available products, try out items, then they leave the store and sometimes go online to purchase at a better price. This trend forces luxury brick-and- mortar stores like Club 21 to expand their business to re-launch its online presence.

The brand engaged SmartOSC for its ecommerce project, and after 10 months of planning, scoping, and developing, Club 21’s global site was re-launched during November 2016. The new site included an enhanced customer experience such as membership login, find-a-store function, and improved customer service at all online touchpoints. The site also provides loyalty program which allows customers to earn reward points.

The global site is also designed to house Kids 21, the exclusive ecommerce site for children’s designer wear. For making shopping a truly seamless experience, the site lets shoppers check out with one shared single basket across Club 21 global and Kids 21.

The Club 21 ecommerce site, together with its multi-label fashion stores, have truly created a seamless and varied experience across online and physical stores for fashion shoppers anytime, anywhere. As of today, Club 21 features over 22,000 products from more than 200 fashion brands.

What do you think about the power of email marketing automation? Why do you think it’s an important tool for marketers within the ecommerce industry?

Email marketing remains one of the most effective communication channels the internet offers, as it reaches your customers in their own personal place and under your customer’s control. Using email marketing right can help businesses create more relevant messaging, increase customer engagement and reach them at the right time.

Today, consumers’ inspiration for making a purchase decision can come from anywhere, so marketers need to know these inspiration triggers to attract and retain them. These touchpoints vary from social media to print ads, mobile or the website. Then once they shop via these channels, brands start to upsell, cross-sell and try to retain them with membership programs or incentives. Marketing automation happens across this entire customer journey.

What do you think is the future of ecommerce? What is the road ahead for online and offline retail in APAC?

The retail industry is approaching the fourth evolution. After single channel, multichannel, and cross-channel, omnichannel is no doubt the next trend where consumers have an immersive shopping experience with whatever brand they buy from. The challenge for retailers, however, is to create a seamless and connected experience between offline and online, and for each of the channels to strengthen their individual brand strategies, making sure they don’t end up competing with each other’s.

One example of a company that has strived hard to achieve this is Kanmo Retail Group, which manages a portfolio of more than 70 exciting brands across Indonesia, including Mothercare, Early Learning Centre, Gingersnaps, Karen Millen, Coast, Coach, Justice and T.M. Lewin. Kanmo is currently operating 134 bricks-and-mortar stores and serving tens of thousands of customers monthly.

SmartOSC was engaged to help build their omnichannel presence. Our solution allows Kanmo to manage multiple warehouses in a single dashboard, by putting their customers at the center of the system with online appointment booking and purchasing, as well as click and collect in store. A mobile application is also developed to enhance the customer experience by letting customers scan barcodes to order in store and through implementing a beacon system to personalize in-store services.

This merging of the online and offline stores is an example of a traditional bricks-and- mortar stores like Club 21 to expand their business to re-launch its online presence.

Could you explain how you plan to work with dotdigital?

Our partnership with dotdigital aims to enable online retailers to build and optimize their online business, with a focus on Southeast Asia, where the level of maturity in omnichannel has yet to be fully unlocked. dotdigital’s top-notch expertise in marketing automation practices, combined with SmartOSC’s scalable and cost-effective solution, will bring great value to our joint clients. Both companies have also built a good reputation in the market for delivering high-quality services and our recent dotlive event in Singapore in February 2017, which attracted a high level of interest from the audience, is a testament of that.

You can find out more about SmartOSC’s business via its website or, alternatively, get in touch with our APAC team.

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