Sunday, December 30th, 2018


Retailers, mall operators embrace high technology

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian retailers and mall operators are jumping on the technology bandwagon, adopting technologies such as shopper tracking systems and facial recognition cameras, using data analytics to capture important shopper information.

Sunway Velocity Mall general manager centre management Danny Lee said the mall completed the installation of its shopper tracking system in early December that identifies a unique ID of each mobile phone carried by shoppers, and is testing the system now.

“It enables us to know how many times a person comes to the mall and where they go. At the same time it tells us the number of shoppers at the mall and is able to give us an accurate count of how many people visit the mall every week or month. This is phase one.

“This will then later link into us getting data of who they are so that we can use that as an intelligence system to know our customers and to push promotion to them. For example, we’d be able to detect automatically if it’s your birthday today when you visit the mall, and if there’s a special promotion in certain outlets during your birthday, you’d get certain discounts. We’ll be working on that in phase two,” Lee told SunBiz recently.

“How the system works is that it will detect shoppers who carry smartphones. The shoppers’ travel history, traffic pattern will be recorded. Insights of shopper traffic flow in the mall, visit frequency (new traffic or returning traffic) and dwell time can be viewed on the online portal. There is also provision for integration with mobile application (to identify shopper profile to offer more personalised engagement), as well as additional reports based on user requirement.”

Adding that it has a formula to include children and discount double counting, Lee said Sunway Pyramid had rolled out the shopper tracking system first, followed by Sunway Velocity.

“It lets us know whether our campaign for a period of time is effective or not compared to other campaigns. In this mall (Sunway Velocity), we have 55-56 sensors throughout the mall. So it covers different zones and it can track where a person goes to, from one zone to another, and capture how many people are there. At what time, how many people are there in this atrium… we’re able to generate reports on that,” explained Lee.

He revealed that the set-up costs for this system range from RM120,000 to RM150,000, with recurring costs of RM10,000 every month per mall.

“Some malls have (this system) but not many have this in the Klang Valley, compared with malls in Singapore that have a lot more.”

Meanwhile, MRCA Academy, the training arm of the Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA), is promoting awareness on technology adoption, especially in the areas of facial recognition and data analytics, to help MRCA members be more efficient in running their retail businesses.

MRCA Academy deputy chancellor Stan Singh-Jit, who is also National ICT Association of Malaysia councillor, said technology will be a catalyst that will help retailers grow their business and that it is a tool that retailers should take advantage of.

Stan is the founder and principal consultant of Ironhorse Asia Sdn Bhd, which provides solutions for in-store point-of-sale requirement, head office merchandising needs, warehousing, supply chain management, web-store, internet business, social media consultation, maximising return on investment via customer analytics, harnessing on merchandising analytics, among others.

He said while the recording of images is illegal due to the Personal Data Protection Act, there is another facial recognition technology that captures the identity of shoppers in a different way.

“It tails the person… it tells you whether the shopper is a male or a female and gives you the person’s age group. If I have data today that tells me the people that come to my store, their age and gender groups, I’m able to do more of what I’m selling. This is an important factor that is missing in the retail scene.

“Facial recognition can tell whether the person is a staff or supplier. If a customer walks past your store but doesn’t walk in, it can also tell you how many people didn’t come into your store. It’s a way to find out why people don’t come in. And if my store is here but you spend more time looking at the merchandise there, that tells me a story,” explained Stan.

He said this method differs from a footfall counter machine, which counts every walk-in, walk-out and hence the latter may not produce accurate numbers.

He disclosed that since this facial recognition technology is new, there are five proofs of concept for such technology in the Klang Valley at the moment, of which one is for a department store. He said that a camera may cost some RM130. A department store may have three to four floors and many cameras on each floor.

“All good things about buying begins at the store and there are many touchpoints in the store. As a customer walks into the store, how do you capture those points… how do you prioritise the value…. we’re helping MRCA members to understand the technology and how they can use it,” he said.

Toll hike freeze seen as ‘mildly positive’ for concessionaires

PETALING JAYA: TA Securities views the toll hike freeze on 21 highways across the country next year as mildly positive for toll concessionaires, as the operators can avoid traffic reduction arising from higher toll rates imposed on road users.

In the past, toll highway operators typically experienced a slight decline in traffic volume immediate after a toll rate increase, followed by a gradual recovery in traffic volume as demand for toll roads is largely inelastic, it said in a note last Friday.

Additionally, it said, the toll operators will receive compensation from the government to cover the difference between entitled toll rates under the concession agreements and the actual toll rates charged on end-users.

However, on a broader outlook, TA Securities said, the toll concessionaires are still surrounded with uncertainties following the change of government, noting the Pakatan Harapan government is studying the best method to fulfil its 14th general election manifesto promise.

Last Thursday, the government announced its decision to freeze all toll hikes on 21 highways for all vehicles which are eligible for an increase in 2019, as well as a toll increase freeze for buses on eight highways, and the abolishment of motorcycle tolls.

Earlier this month, the Works Ministry said it would appoint an independent auditor in January to assist the government in preparing data analysis and recommendations, including reduction of toll rates in the short, medium and long term, and eventually abolishing toll collection on all expressways.

The analysis of the results is expected to be ready by May.

“With a reduced upside after a rebound in share price, we downgrade Lingkaran Trans Kota Bhd (Litrak) from ‘buy’ to ‘hold’, with an unchanged target price of RM4.54,” TA Securities said.

Separately, MIDF Research said it maintained its “buy” call for Litrak with an unchanged target price of RM4.92 per share, saying the toll operator is still a defensive player with decent dividend yield of 7.3% for financial year 2020 (FY20).

Litrak, which operates the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) and the Sprint Highway, closed unchanged at RM4.11 on 33,800 shares done last Friday.

MIDF Research said that following the freeze on toll rate increases, compensation by the government to Sprint will rise as the Penchala toll plaza is due for a rate hike in next year.

MIDF Research estimated that the overall compensation to Litrak is set to increase to above RM170 million in FY19 and FY20 while earnings contribution from the concessionaires will be unchanged.

However, it said there will be no changes in compensation for the LDP as the toll rates remain unchanged.

“As our current traffic volume and earnings forecasts have taken into account the freeze of toll hikes on intra-city tolls in the country for 2019 as per the Budget 2019 announcement, we are maintaining our earnings estimates at this juncture,” MIDF Research added.

Terengganu still waiting for rest of oil royalty payment

KUALA TERENGGANU: The Terengganu state government is still waiting for the remaining RM250 million in oil royalty payment which has yet to be settled by the federal government for this year.

Mentri Besar Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar said it was the responsibility of the federal government to review the comprehensive amount which should be paid to the state based on the distribution agreement signed between the two parties in 1974.

He said after the 14th general election in May, the federal government made three payments for a total sum of RM450 million which were channelled directly to the state government.

“We are not sure of the actual amount, but based on rough estimates at least RM250 million is still owing to the state government.

“With two days left before the year ends, it remains the responsibility of the Treasury or the Finance Ministry to ensure that the balance is paid to the people of Terengganu,“ he told reporters after the Eastern Pacific Industrial Corp (EPIC) Media Appreciation Night here.

Also present was EPIC Bhd acting chief executive officer Mohd Shamsol Bahrin Mohd Kamil.

Ahmad Samsuri said that if the state government failed to claim the oil royalty balance, the state’s expenditure for the first quarter of next year will still be maintained according to the budget tabled in the state assembly sitting in November.

“We will consider reviewing the budget after the first quarter.”

In another development, Ahmad Samsuri said investors’ confidence in the state-owned EPIC had not been affected although several of its senior officials were being investigated.

Petronas buys 10% of Block 61 onshore Oman

PETALING JAYA: Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), through its subsidiary, PC Oman Ventures Ltd (PCOVL) has acquired a 10% stake in Block 61, onshore Oman from Makarim Gas Development LLC (MGD), after the conditions for the completion of the transaction were fulfilled.

MGD is a subsidiary of Oman Oil Company Exploration & Production LLC.

Petronas said the completion of the transaction was formalised at an event held in Muscat, Oman on Dec 27.

Following the deal, MGD’s stake in Block 61 will be reduced to 30%, while P Exploration (Epsilon) Ltd as the operator holds the remaining 60% stake.

Petronas noted that the acquisition of Block 61 marks an important step in realising the group’s growth strategy in the upstream sector in the region and globally, as it aligns its activities to ensure sustainable energy supply.

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