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Explore Southeast Asia’s Mobile Market: How Your Business Can Ride the Wave

When talking about mobile commerce, there’s just no excluding Southeast Asia.

The region is home to the most innovative economies in the world — including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Mobile commerce is the catalyst driving Southeast Asia’s digital landscape. The influx of mobile users has given industries like ride-hailing, online shopping, and mobile games a foundation to grow.

Get a better understanding of SEA’s mobile revolution by analyzing the factors that have contributed to its growth. As an added bonus, we’ve included tips on how your business can adapt to consumers with a mobile-first platform below.

3 Reasons Southeast Asia (SEA) is Leading the Global Mobile Commerce Race

Affordable smartphone technology

Emerging brands like Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo are going head to head with industry giants Apple and Samsung. So what edge do these brands have in the saturated smartphone market? For starters, their models come with high specs and relatively low prices.

Until recently, affordable smartphones — particularly ones manufactured in China — were associated with low quality. But this perception is slowly fading out. It’s no longer rare to find a high-performance smartphone that’s a quarter of the price Apple offers.

Sure, it may not be on par in terms of specs, but these devices enable users to browse the internet, send and receive instant messages, and perform a variety of tasks.

The analysis here is simple:

Affordable smartphone technology = Increase in mobile internet use

The middle class is expected to have more access to affordable smartphones in the years to come. This is good news for startups looking to target low to mid-range market segments.

Greater adoption of mobile payment technology

Cash still reigns in Southeast Asia. But the region is slowly priming for the rise of mobile payment systems — with industry leaders GrabPay, Go-Pay, and WeChat Pay leading the pack.

Mobile payments pose a number of benefits for consumers and retailers, namely:

For consumers:

  • Convenience. Instead of pulling out credit cards or cash, mobile payments let consumers complete transactions via their smartphones.
  • Heightened security. In a time where fraud and cybercrime are rampant, consumers no longer have to give up sensitive information when shopping online.
  • Reward programs. Consumers get the benefit of earning reward points without the need of a credit card.

For retailers:

  • Low maintenance costs. Without credit card terminals, merchants can save on monthly bank fees.
  • Inspires customer engagement. By simplifying the payment process, you increase conversions and turn customers into brand advocates.
  • Access to customer shopping trends. Mobile payment systems are known to generate customer data — including how much they spend and how often they shop at your business. This allows you to generate a marketing plan based on their shopping behaviour.

From a sales perspective, mobile payment inspires customer engagement, conversion rates and loyal customers. That’s a win-win situation for businesses.

To conclude, the question is not if companies across SEA are fully ready to adopt mobile payments, but when.

The rise of augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is practically everywhere. Popular applications like Snapchat, Google Translate, and Pokémon Go have paved the way for AR technology, creating a new market that brands need to leverage on.

AR augments the user’s view of the real world through computer-generated input like sound, graphics, and video.

While Pokémon Go and other mobile games popularized the term, augmented reality isn’t exclusive to gaming. In Southeast Asia, companies have incorporated augmented reality eCommerce as a means to enhance the shopping experience, and then generate sales in the process.

Case in point: ZipMatch (Philippines)

ZipMatch Philippines

Online real estate platform ZipMatch is implementing VR technology on a massive scale. The Philippine-based company lets brokers showcase the property to potential buyers via a 360 virtual reality service.

This fun, immersive experience beats your traditional brochure. It also saves buyers (and brokers!) from braving the worst of Manila’s traffic.

How You Can Win Over Southeast Asia’s Mobile-Centric Market

As the mobile revolution continues to build up in Southeast Asia, the pressure is on for companies to start developing a solid mobile strategy.

One thing businesses need to keep in mind is that despite high mobile usage, desktop hasn’t become entirely obsolete. In fact, desktop accounts for 28 per cent of online transactions across the Asia Pacific — that’s 10% more than the sales accumulated by mobile websites.

Overall, shoppers are browsing on mobile and completing their transactions on desktop. It reinforces the idea that having multiple channels isn’t the priority anymore. Businesses must focus on connecting these channels (desktop, mobile, physical stores, etc.) to create a seamless and consistent shopping experience.

Discover three crucial steps to engaging Southeast Asia’s mobile-first mindset below.

Understand the role of mobile in omnichannel marketing

Southeast Asian consumers exhibit highly diverse shopping behaviours. They’re connecting with brands in every possible channel — from mobile apps to physical stores and contact centres.

Given these multiple contact points, it’s critical for your brand to adopt an omnichannel approach. In essence, an omnichannel approach provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience. It creates a new challenge for brands to close the gap between stores, desktop, and mobile.

Mobile is a classic example of an omnichannel device that unifies these channels. Think about it — consumers carry their phones wherever they go. They learn about brands by browsing on their mobile phones. Mobile also facilitates the purchase process by allowing customers to compare prices online before heading in-store.

Invest in a mobile website and application

You might be wondering: Should I invest in a mobile app or a mobile website?

Let’s take a look at the similarities. Both are accessed via a mobile device such as a phone or tablet.

Mobile sites are exactly as its name implies. They’re designed to be responsive and to adjust to different screen sizes.

Mobile apps, on the other hand, are developed for particular platforms like iOS or Android. Apps are separate from your website, therefore providing an extension for your brand. They’re understandably more complicated and costly to run.

Now, back to the initial question — should you invest in a mobile app or website?

Your decision comes down to your specific business needs. For instance, if you’re a startup whose goal is to deliver optimized content to a wider audience, then a mobile website is a good place to start.

However, if you want to create a more immersive online experience, then a mobile app is well worth the investment.

Track, measure, and analyse your mobile stats

For your mobile strategy to be a success, you need to measure the right metrics. What better way to evaluate your mobile performance than analytics? Here are key user engagement/user information metrics to focus on:

  • Number of visitors
  • Demographics (dimensions include age, gender, affinity categories, and in-market categories, etc.)
  • Number of new and returning users
  • Number of app downloads, installations, and uninstallations
  • Daily/weekly/monthly active users
  • Session intervals
  • User location
  • Device types and operating system
  • Click through rates (for mobile marketing campaigns)
  • Social shares

Measuring the right metrics helps your brand gain and retain customers. Use this data as a foundation for improving your products/services, UX designs, and campaigns.

Ready to take on SEA’s mobile market?

Growing a business is not easy — especially when you’re targeting a market as diverse as Southeast Asia. There are geographical, language, and cultural challenges on hand. Small to medium businesses are focused on creating a mobile-first platform to overcome these challenges. Your business can do the same to support your customer’s shifting needs.


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