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by Jillian Q

January 14, 2019

News & Trends 7 min read

2019 Consumer Trends in Southeast Asia – How to Boost Your Sales

Countries across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are home to the world’s fastest-growing economies. Cambodia leads the pack with a rapid GDP growth rate of 6.9%. The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are on its heels with promising GDP growth as well.
Southeast Asia can count on its young demographic as a major driver of this change. The younger, tech-savvy population have delivered a digital wave — pushing the region to embrace trends such as ecommerce, social media marketing, and digital financial services.
For your business to succeed this 2019, get to know the latest trends that are shaping Southeast Asia’s competitive marketplace below.

Win More Customers This 2019: Trends Shaping Southeast Asia

Cash on delivery still rules over Southeast Asia

Cash on delivery still rules over Southeast Asia

Payment methods around Southeast Asia vary per country. There’s cash on delivery (COD), bank transfers, credit cards, and even mobile wallets. But apart from economic giants like Singapore, a majority of Southeast Asians remain unbanked. As a result, credit card use is notably low in the region.
The lack of a proper banking infrastructure pushes most Southeast Asians to transact through COD. In fact, COD makes up more than 70% of all processed transactions. It hasn’t stopped mobile wallets from penetrating the market though. Contenders like Singapore’s Grab continue to take strides to convert SEA into a cashless society.

Southeast Asia continues to market to a mobile-first generation

Southeast Asia continues to market to a mobile-first generation

Consumers in Southeast Asia spend 10% more time using mobile internet than any other market in the world. The average consumer spends 3.6 hours a day on mobile internet. Thailand runs ahead of its Southeast Asian neighbours with users spending as long as 4.2 hours on their mobile phone
So what does this translate for businesses? Two words: Mobile marketing.
The mobile-centric trends mentioned above push advertisers to rethink their engagement strategies. Think apps, rich media, videos, and more targeted ads.

Case in Point: Coca-Cola Vietnam's Mobile-First Campaign

Coca-Cola Vietnam's Mobile-First Campaign

After slowed down sales in Vietnam, brand leaders Coca-cola launched a plan to encourage consumption among the youth. “You Got a Call” was Coca-cola’s mobile-first campaign involving video ads and a simulated “call” experience with local celebrities Phở and Quỳnh Anh Shyn.
The campaign proved to be a success — reaching 19 million Vietnamese mobile users and delivering more than 33 million impressions around the country. Ultimately, it also achieved its goal of increasing consumption among its target market.

More stores will integrate into ecommerce platforms

More stores will integrate into ecommerce platforms

Consumers are no longer drawn to businesses that display a simple catalogue of products. They’re looking for a full-suite experience — a fast-loading website, simplified checkout process, and added features like e-payment options or support for multiple currencies.
An ecommerce platform is the easiest way to integrate these features into an online store. These sophisticated systems give you the tools needed for SEO/mobile optimization, order fulfilment, and sales management. To maximise customer reach, ecommerce platforms are a must-have for every business out there.

Customers are buying bigger on desktop than mobile

Customers are buying bigger on desktop than mobile

Mobile transactions continue to show promising growth— claiming 72% of overall ecommerce traffic. However, customers around Southeast Asia are surprisingly still turning to desktop when buying in bulk.
Take a look at the chart below:

The takeaway? Shoppers are more likely to browse on mobile and then buy on desktop.
Bulk orders are at its peak between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. On the other hand, Singaporeans enjoy evening shopping with purchases peaking at 10 p.m.

Brands that take an omnichannel approach are winning more customers

Brands that take an omnichannel approach are winning more customers

As mentioned, Southeast Asia’s economic boom is largely credited to its younger generation. This new generation of consumers prefers shopping across multiple channels and devices.
For example, a customer finds something they like in-store, find out that the store only carries limited sizes, and then head online to check inventory and complete the purchase.
Singapore has a thriving market for omnichannel retailing. Singaporean consumers — the biggest market of “omni-channel-buyers” in SEA — connect with brands on every possible channel: websites, physical stores, apps, etc.

The Future is in Messenger Marketing

messenger marketing

By 2020, spend 10% more time using mobile internet will be maintained through technology — specifically messaging apps.
The staggering data should come as no surprise as over 2.5 billion people around the world have at least one messaging app running on their smartphone. By leveraging social messenger applications like Facebook or China’s WeChat, businesses not only provide fast customer service but also accelerate their sales.
At the centre of the social messaging trend are chatbots. Chatbots are described as a “must-have” for Southeast Asia’s ever-growing social commerce industry. Given that chatbots are deployed in Facebook Messenger, Viber, and SMS — expect this technology to expand in the years to come.

Ecommerce Tips to Winning More Customers In 2019

Tip # 1 Weigh the pros and cons of cash on delivery

Weigh the pros and cons of cash-on-delivery

Cash on delivery is the most preferred form of payment by customers in Southeast Asia. But like any payment system, cash on delivery has its set of pros and cons.

Pros Cons
  • Preferred by online buyers — especially those living in rural areas
  • Businesses build a sense of trust through a secure medium
  • Businesses are vulnerable to losses when the customer refuses to pay
  • Fraudulent activities: lack of authenticity can result in a loss for ecommerce sites

Tip # 2 Develop a solid mobile strategy plan

Develop a solid mobile strategy plan

Mobile websites

Mobile-optimized sites are vital for businesses marketing to Southeast Asia. Needless to say, a mobile-ready website should be part of your marketing plan. Start by making sure your web pages are optimized for tablets and other small screen devices.
Well-placed visuals and fast loading times are critical factors of a mobile website as well. A mere one-second loading delay could result in a drastic loss in conversions.

Produce mobile videos

Countries across Southeast Asia are slowly swapping their televisions for mobile phones. In fact, Google notes that mobile watch-time in Southeast Asia is growing at 125% versus the 78% growth in the United States.
Tap into SEA’s appetite for all things mobile by capitalizing on video marketing. Visual content, such as video, are more compelling than written ones. For example, start switching things up by introducing new products with a how-to video. Use it to showcase how the product works and what benefits it will provide.
Here are other engaging video marketing ideas for your business:

  • Company culture videos
  • FAQ videos
  • Educational videos
  • Brand story videos
  • 360° experience videos (best for Facebook and YouTube)
  • Video testimonials

Mobile Payment Systems and QR Codes

Businesses cannot simply overlook the growth of mobile payment mediums. Mobile wallets like Apply Pay, Paypal, and Google Wallet are slowly penetrating towards Southeast Asia.
The same goes for QR codes payments. Maybank is one of the many Malaysian banks that launched a cashless payment system with QR codes. The country has a goal of installing 800,0000 point-of-sale terminals that support QR codes b 2020.
Like how smartphones have replaced cameras, payphones, and GPS systems, mobile payments is a safe alternative for physical money too. Hence, your business is missing out on sales opportunities if you haven’t implemented them yet.

Tip # 3 Invest in high-quality ecommerce platforms

Invest in high-quality ecommerce platforms

While you could hire a web developer to launch your ecommerce site, the heavy costs could put a strain on your budget. Opt for ecommerce platforms instead. Make an informed decision and end up with the best platform for your business by considering the following factors:
Pricing and features. Whether you’re going for a self-hosted or hosted service — you’ll find that nearly all platforms require a monthly fee.
Remember that cheap doesn’t necessarily equate to convenience. So weigh your options first: What elements do you really need to set up your store? Do you plan to scale your business in the years to come? Make a list of features and compare them to your budget.
Think about your customers as well. Not all platforms support online payment systems — an inconvenience that could lead to cart abandonment and sales loss.
Mobile compatibility. With more and more customers on mobile, it’s become crucial to go for a platform that offers mobile-ready websites. In fact, consider developing your website with the mobile-first approach.
SEO friendly. It’s 2019 and SEO is still all the rage. Ecommerce is not exempt from Google’s cutthroat ranking system, so sharpen your SEO strategy with a platform that helps you stay on top.
Customer service. Server downtime, data errors, and software outage are something you shouldn’t deal with alone. Protect your brand by investing in a platform that offers 24/7 (reliable!) customer support.

Tip # 4 Personalise the shopping experience

Personalise the shopping experience

Ecommerce in Southeast Asia is a saturated and highly competitive industry. With the variety of shopping options available, personalisation has become more important than ever. Start curating your shopping experience to your target audience with the following strategies:

  • Data Analytics. Analytics tools let you monitor customer behaviour in all your business channels: website, social media, email, etc. Using these data-driven consumer insights, you can provide the right offers, products, and assistance for each stage of the customer journey.
  • Time to rethink your email campaigns. Nothing spells personal more than receiving a message on your inbox. Make your customers feel that you’ve gone the extra mile by personalising your email campaigns. Send birthday emails, loyalty rewards, and anniversary offers to increase click-through rates and conversions.
  • Leverage location-based marketing. Location-based marketing (or “geo-targeting”) is a buzzword that’s been around the industry for a while. The best part is that this technology is accessible to small businesses. Say for example you’re a music teacher targeting clients within your city. You can easily create Facebook ads and limit them to people within your zip code.

This 2019, let your business embrace technological trends

Businesses — no matter the size — should already be embracing the technological revolution by now. Whether you’ve been in the industry for a long time or are just getting started, continue to stay on top of trends to connect with consumers and keep your business relevant.

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Cash on delivery still rules over Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia continues to market to a mobile-first generation
More stores will integrate into ecommerce platforms
Customers are buying bigger on desktop than mobile
Brands that take an omnichannel approach are winning more customers
The Future is in Messenger Marketing
Tip # 1 Weigh the pros and cons of cash on delivery
Tip # 2 Develop a solid mobile strategy plan
Tip # 3 Invest in high-quality ecommerce platforms
Tip # 4 Personalise the shopping experience