SINGAPORE: Retailers will need to be smart to survive as traditional retail faces a digital sea-change, a senior Unilever executive believes, with millennial habits forcing businesses to adapt.

"You'll have to be good to survive, as simple as that," said Badri Narayanan, Unilever's Global Vice President of Customer Development, in an exclusive interview with Warc.

"You won't survive in this era of e-commerce (and) digitized economy… you will not survive the next ten years if you're not good enough," he added. (For more, including how the company is helping traditional retailers, read Warc's exclusive report: The Evolution of Retail: Unilever Adapts For Asia's Millennial Future.)

"Regardless of whether it's a traditional family or legacy business or not – today, everyone is a consumer. The store owner is a consumer: his access to digital technology, mobile, e-commerce and what's happening out there in the world is maybe even better than us," he said.

Narayanan cited the emergence of 'Click To Buy' as a "fundamental disruption" and was frank about its importance for retailers in Asia: "if you don't have a 'Click To Buy' button after you have engaged the consumer, you will not survive," he said.

When bringing together traditional and online elements to present Unilever's products for customers, Narayanan says the most important factor is "consistency", particularly in the look and feel of the products between physical stores and online.

But even for a company like Unilever, adapting to the omnichannel landscape has not been without challenges.

"(Driving) the consistency in millions of major applications and so many sites is a huge, huge, huge challenge," Narayanan said, noting that Unilever is working to put processes in place in terms of how it works with partners, and what kind of images are used to portray Unilever products.

The multi-channel path to purchase has only made consistent presentation of the brand across platforms more urgent.

"From an omni-channel perspective, you need to realize that a consumer doing research offline can end up buying it online. He can research online (but) end up buying it offline. Or he could do both online and offline," Narayanan said.

"Your ability to manage the physical world and the virtual world has to be the same."

Data sourced from Warc