In 2018, China is an almost entirely cashless consumer economy, where popular mobile payment apps such as WeChat Pay and Alipay have enabled consumers to go straight from cash, to smartphone payments, leapfrogging the use of credit cards and cheques.
One of the world’s leading players in mobile or e-payment, China saw $15.4 trillion worth of mobile payments handled by third-party platforms in 2017 – more than 40 times the amount processed in the US.
Chinese consumers can buy a pancake at a roadside breakfast stall, order food online, pay credit card bills, or manage stock accounts, all with just their smartphone. In fact, mobile payments are so prevalent that use of cash fell from 63% of transactions in 2011 to just 33% by 2016.
When Alibaba founder Jack Ma carved out his payments business from the ecommerce giant in 2010, he pulled off a coup with multibillion dollar implications. But it was a move by WeChat a few years later that really set the category alight.
The sending and receiving of red packets containing cash (also called lai see in Cantonese, and hongbao in Mandarin) at Lunar New Year is an important tradition across China. But historically red packets were always tangible items, real cash in a paper envelope. Then, in 2014, WeChat introduced digital red packets. The ability to send festive cash to family and friends using just the WeChat Pay mobile payment platform. It was a revolution, and 4 years later in 2018, the idea of digital red packets had caught on to such an extent, that 80% of Chinese consumers sent a red packet via WeChat. This year only 69% sent a physical red packet.
WeChat’s success with digital red packets introduced and popularised the mobile payments category with Chinese consumers, and built a platform for the adoption of wider mobile payments functionality across money transfer, taxi ordering, online shopping, bill settlement, wealth management, for both WeChat – and it’s competitors.
Alipay and WeChat Pay have also made their presence felt abroad. Both companies extended their payments services to hundreds of thousands of merchants in regions like Southeast Asia and Europe, targeting outbound Chinese travellers and encouraging them to settle their overseas shopping bills with the apps. Adoption is still low, but merchants are keen to facilitate easier transactions for high volume and wealthy Chinese tourists.
Within China however, the game is up. The dominance of mobile payment means not only that companies like Alibaba and Tencent manage consumer financial transactions, but as a by product they also control huge lakes of valuable personal data. Already this data is being used to close the loop on the consumer purchase cycle, and up-sell other financial products such as loans, or retail experiences. Alipay has also built Sesame Credit, a personal credit rating platform and Chinese government social rating system, linked to it’s mobile payments footprint. While English language media tends to describe Sesame Credit as an authoritarian system straight out of Black Mirror, Chinese social media users seem to focus more on the advantages than the burdens.
Ay, there’s the rub! As the West agonises over Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, WeChat and Alipay have already built the future of mobile payments. Convenience trumps all, if you let it.
Below we’ve collected key takeaway resources covering WeChat, Alipay and the mobile payments ecosystem in China.
Mobile Payment Usage in China 2017
Tencent: The Growth of the Digital Payment Ecosystem in China
Social Networks & Digital Payment in China
Alipay and WeChat Pay: Reaching Rural Users in China
Digital transformation in China – Take aways from the Alibaba Global Dreamer Program
Fashion is the biggest ecommerce category, while payment methods and delivery issues are the biggest concerns for online retailers and marketers in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, according to a new report from Econsultancy and Shopee exploring challenges and opportunities in ecommerce across the region.
The results revealed that 51% of online retailers and 41% of marketers saw their online sales rise, but for 28% of online retailers and 29% of marketers, online sales remained the same relative to the past year.
Fashion and accessories was the most popular category on online marketplaces, with 23% of online retailers and 16% of marketers active in it. Health and beauty was the second most popular category, with 17% of online retailers and 15% of marketers offering choices in it.
The survey also revealed that marketers in Vietnam (11%) were the most active in the computers, camera and mobile phones category, edging out Singapore (10%) and Taiwan (10%).
While around a third of online retailers (32%) and marketers (33%) indicated that they did not sell internationally and had no plans to, the ecommerce market in the region is poised to grow with 54% of online retailers and 39% of marketers planning to offer their wares and services to other countries.
Using customer relationship management (CRM) or data management platform (DMP) data to accurately target audiences across web, mobile browser and apps, Criteo Audience Match provides marketers with a new way to re-engage their customer base with paid display campaigns. Criteo has built a foundation of deterministic IDs within Criteo Shopper Graph, enabling beta customers to see a match rate of more than 60 percent of their existing client lists with online profiles.
Criteo Kinetic Design with Video automatically optimises every visual aspect of an ad to inspire and engage a shopper. Kinetic Design already allows for more than 17 trillion variations from one base design in display ads. This has been now expanded to incorporate video, creating personalized video ads that feature relevant products based on Criteo’s complete understanding of the shopper. These video ads are created automatically, on-the-fly, and appear across web and mobile.
“Collaboration in an open ecosystem levels the playing field and paves the way for commerce companies to shape their future. This is especially crucial for eCommerce companies in Asia-Pacific where the market is expected to grow to more than US$3 trillion by 2021,” said Huang Hanming, “We have developed Criteo Commerce Marketing Ecosystem to unleash the value of collaboration and the power of data to all who participate.”
As consumer video consumption continues to grow, Criteo’s clients can now use video to relevantly re-engage shoppers without production time, resources, or costs. Video is delivered in a non-intrusive manner to provide a seamless browsing experience – in app, in feed or on a website. Criteo’s video capability also allows marketers to take advantage of video ads on a cost-per-click basis.
“Understanding consumer purchasing behavior is challenging for retailers given that shoppers are on more platforms than ever before, with collected data being difficult to integrate and analyse, at scale,” said Alban Villani, General Manager, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Criteo. “To help retailers and brands overcome this challenge, Criteo Audience Match and Criteo Kinetic Design with Video, as part of a robust suite of commerce marketing technologies, will support the full shopper journey, enabling brands to create relevant and engaging experiences for customers online and offline.”
With Valentine’s Day hot on the heels of Chinese New Year – itself coming about a month after Christmas – there have been and will be great opportunities for retailers to capture the gift-giving market. Yet, it’s been well publicized that the retail industry is flagging, with data showing that the average vacancy rate of suburban malls, has doubled from less than 1 per cent in 2013 to 2.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The problem is that we’re no longer in an era of business as usual. Retailers cannot employ the same tactics which have worked for years and expect customers to come flocking back. In today’s age, customer experience is the new currency. The strategy of leveraging products to gain a competitive advantage is obsolete when you are fighting with “everything stores” like Amazon and Alibaba which offer almost infinite choice and cheaper prices. When everything is available all the time, at any price, experience is the remaining true differentiator
How can retailers generate powerful experiences to capture today’s new customers (and their Valentine’s day gifting dollar)? It’s a journey to get from being a product-based business to an experience-based business. In its recent “Path of Experience” report, Adobe sheds insights on the 5 milestones to experience-driven commerce:
Segmentation: The first milestone on the journey is to truly know one’s audience. They exist, but the challenge is in finding them, and defining them. Not by demographics, but through shared attributes and behaviours. In practical terms, this allows a retailer to reach many individuals with a collective message and expect a certain desirable result. Each audience has to be large enough to make a difference in revenues, but small enough to be distinct. The answer to this is big data – be it through first party, second or even third party data. This is where a data management platform comes in, pooling all this information so retailers can experiment with traits that help them find these natural groupings
Personalization: With the data, you can now create a special and specific experience for each audience segment. Wooing a customer with a one-sized-fits-all approach is no longer effective today, akin to giving a girl roses when she in fact prefers lilies. Whilst personalization is nothing new, today’s difference is that it can be delivered at scale using automation. By using the digital fingerprints that customers leave behind after every interaction, retailers can build a progressive personal profile that allows them to understand how customers feel, what they do, and ultimately, what customers want.
Omnichannel: Now that retailers have gotten the ability to achieve customer intimacy, the third experience milestone is putting those relevant, personalized experiences where they count. Different customers use channels in different ways—without differentiating between touchpoints and channels, inbound and outbound. The consumer is everywhere. Retailers need to be there as well. And the best way to do this is via the mobile – the most personal device ever. Because of this, mobile often serves as a second-screen or cross-channel resource especially in brick-and-mortar selling. This opens the door for intelligent contextual marketing, where mobile is viewed as a behavior rather than a separate channel or technology. Because the behavior is constant, brick-and-mortar retailers can use mobile to augment the store experience, using various technologies.
Dynamic Content: Experience-driven commerce requires that retailer reimagine what shopping looks like. It’s more about telling a story rather than telling the customer why they should buy the product, instilling a perception of increased value that differentiates from the competition. Dynamic content and shoppable media can bridge that gap, using the latest tools to tell compelling stories that take buyers straight to the checkout line. A great example of this implementation is Amazon Go – reducing barriers to commerce to make shopping a breeze
Real-Time Analytics: As no two customers will share the same purchase journey, it’s important to always know where customers are at. Real-time data allows retailers to watch over the customer’s shoulder, understand the journey and smooth out any rough spots. It makes it easier for retailers to lead the customer from awareness to conversion. Analytics also provides optimization opportunities – and the chance to fine-tune the customer journey through a simple three step process: Measure (customer interactions), Adjust and Improve (the customer journey).
While the journey might sound a bit daunting at the outset, the key is to start small, move forward, and not stagnate. By carefully evaluating their ability to act on the five capabilities described above, retailers should get a better idea of where they need to go. And as they do, the customer experience will surely improve.
For more information, please download the full report here.
Stephen McNulty, Managing Director Asia-Pacific and Japan at Progress, discusses the importance of gaining a comprehensive view of each customer’s journey and following a targeted approach based on the insights.
There are many challenges facing today’s marketers: pressure for growth, ever-growing marketplace competition and ‘always-on’ expectations from both customers and employers. According to a Forrester estimate, 57 percent of businesses across Asia Pacific are experiencing rising customer demands in this digital age. The mounting pressure to prove and improve marketing return on investment (ROI) adds yet another significant burden. Meanwhile, rules of business continue to shift underfoot and change the playing field in which marketers operate. Thanks to modern technology giving us instant access to many sources of information, the way consumers are engaging with brands has changed. Customer decision-making changes according to the engagement channel and customers are better informed than ever before. Often they make buying decisions long before the first contact with a sales representative or stepping into a store. As such, there is a need for marketing and sales teams to adjust to these new customer behaviours.
Successful marketing in this new environment begins with objectives based on accurate insight into the customer journey. According to Forrester, in Asia Pacific, “businesses increasingly recognize that success will hinge on their ability to close the gap between available data and actionable insight”1. These insights will enable marketers to build customer personas, improve engagement tactics, leverage metrics, create targeted messaging, adjust the marketing mix and craft plans to drive future growth. However, exploding volumes of data and siloed systems can often stand in the way. Multiple marketing channels are proving a double-edged sword: on the one hand they give marketers greater reach, yet on the other they make it much harder to track and measure potential customers.
Working with only a fragmented customer view weakens digital marketing efforts. To gain a single customer view – as quickly as possible – marketers need tools that compile data from all marketing, sales and customer information channels and systems, including data from real-time known and unknown customer interactions. Organisations need a way to integrate data siloes to gain a comprehensive view of each individual’s customer journey, and discern trends that can be affected by marketing programs and campaigns.
Managing data assets
Developing a marketing plan which truly complements the new digital consumer-driven buying journey, combined with more traditional offline activities isn’t a simple task.
On-and-offline engagement data sets – click through rates (CTRs), data from CRMs, and social analytics – are too-often siloed and stored in different systems and formats. Data derived from emerging technologies such as smart sensors, connected devices and social channels only adds to the pile-up.
Manually completing the time-intensive task of unifying siloed data, often across multiple spread sheets, risks static data becoming obsolete.
Marketing automation tools offer a far more efficient solution for pinpointing and engaging with the customer, leveraging available demographic data. Some even provide suggested execution tactics and a 360 degree view into the customer journey. Authenticated contacts – those that have provided their details when downloading whitepapers or attending events – are essential for marketing automation tools to run effectively. However, in most organisations authenticated contacts represent just 2-3% of all recorded interactions. Leaving masses of data ‘loose’ in the cloud means potential customers remain anonymous, and this limits the ability of marketing programs to drive those contacts towards meaningful conversions.
To compile and analyse data from customer touch points across multiple channels – CRM, direct marketing or social media engagement, from initial contact to long term customer, marketers should make the most of the latest technologies. For example, some tools provide a central repository of individual customer interactions, and integratewith third-party sources todraw data from key systems. They can collate anonymous user profile information, assigning each a persona based upon tracked behaviour.
These same leading technologies also leverage machine learning to relate how groups of customers and prospects interact through different channels. They provide conversion recommendation ranking, tracking and personalization of mobile apps for efficient real-time marketing as well as more tracking control for site administrators, amongst other benefits.
A targeted approach
An effective marketer will always keep on top of the latest technology. If this seems a low priority to others, they must take note that in today’s digital world the relationship between salesperson and customer is increasingly detached, and the constant flow of new data means the customer journey is ever-evolving. The right technology plays a vital role in arming marketers with essential insight, as well as offering cost and time-savings in the longer-term. Marketers can only map and react to the shifting customer journey appropriately, and prove the direct relationship between marketing investment and results, if they broaden their reach whilst improving the effective targeting of both anonymous and known individuals.
According to a recent Razorfish digital marketing report, Asian Marketers must be more innovative and forward-thinking than their western counterparts, to meet the technology-driven expectations of consumers in our region. Asian consumers are not only reporting higher ownership and usage of technology, they also hold higher expectations of brands and technology overall.
We talk to Joanna Kalenska, Managing Director at Razorfish Hong Kong, about Asian consumers, brands’ challenges and opportunities.
DIA: Hi Joanna, how are you?
JK: Doing fantastic, thanks.
DIA: So we’ll leap right in there. Marketers are underestimating the digital divide between Millennials and Gen Xers. How do you think this applies in Asia? Can we even say that Gen X exists in Asia?
JK: What’s fascinating about this region is the fact that when it comes to technology the differences between the generations are minimal. And this came as a clear finding during our global research report Digital Dopamine. It seems that enthusiasm towards technology is age independent in markets like the US or UK, where the differences are more prominent. But not in China for example, where despite a relatively low internet penetration people are more savvy and demanding when it comes to their technology expectations. This lack of legacy has allowed Asian markets to leapfrog directly to quite advance digital behaviors.
Also, culturally, in China, peer-to-peer purchases are part of everyday life, and so social commerce has become a widely accepted, very normal practice. And it is this that has also led to less of a gap between Gen X & Y in China, in so far as digital usage is concerned. Generation X in the West, has had to learn to trust new platforms from the start, compared to Generation Y, who grew up with this practice.
DIA: Brands need to focus more on being useful than on being interesting. Can you talk about how this applies to Asian markets? In markets where a lot of basic infrastructure is missing, do you think brands have more of a role to play?
JK: Absolutely, and precisely for that reason. To win, brands as a service must deliver meaningful utility / value everyday to stand out from the crowd. Digital Dopamine showed us Asian consumers adopt and embrace technology quickly. Often, quicker than brands are able to implement the correct infrastructure to enable experiences at the expected level. Consumers won’t wait for brands to catch up. This means that at the point where longer-term strategies are already defined, brands need to think in a fresh and innovative way. Tech-savvy consumers are not as much interested in a brand’s reputation as before, their loyalty is determined more by the total satisfaction of the brand’s omni-channel experience. Especially in Asia where there is a lot of noise and a lot of choice.
DIA: Omni-channel customers still encounter a number of friction points as they dip between online and offline platforms in search of cross-channel convenience. Do you see any interesting trends or consumer behaviours emerging specific to Asia to solve this issue?
JK: This remains a big challenge for most brands, and therefore consumers. Considering how long this concept has been on the table it’s quite surprising how slow brands are at adapting. The biggest obstacle for real omni-channel is a single view of the customer, which has been restricted because of legacy systems. Smaller, more agile brands have more chance to succeed but they often lack resources and funds to make a real and noticeable difference. To enable a smooth transition and be able to deliver on an omni-channel promise, businesses need the right data and technology infrastructure. This does not, however, stop brands from moving towards platform integration in smart and simple ways. Each business can deliver a short, medium and long-term solution to surprise and delight their customers, examples include extending catalogues online, order online & collect instore initiatives, pick in store & deliver to home or office, and more.
DIA: While we sometimes focus on the rational benefits of technology, digital interactions affect us on a biological and emotional level. Do you see marketers moving brand budget to digital yet at scale? We often think Asia is especially tech obsessed. Is this a more relevant trend here than anywhere else globally?
JK: Nowhere in the world are people as obsessed with their phones as here in Asia. Mobile first – brands have got to be mobile and social, because social proof makes the decision for the buyer.
Secondly, buying online here is very emotional and seen as gifting yourself, providing a digital rush of sorts.
DIA: What’s the future for agencies in a fast, nimble, social media world?
JK: A never-ending funnel of smart and simple ideas. We rely on clever people – that’s our IP. Being curious, quick, yet diligent and considerate has been keeping Razorfish at the top of the consideration list for our clients.
DIA: Do you think Asia has a talent problem in digital marketing and media?
JK: I think the talent problem in digital marketing is not only an Asia issue. Experienced marketers have not caught up with the ever-changing technology, and younger generation often believe that being a native user makes them know what’s required. There are very few professionals who can think and talk at the brand and business level, being at the same time connected to the target audience and the way they engage and embrace technology.
We also live in the time where everything is instant and there seem to be less time for understanding market, product or target audience context. I don’t think WHY is considered before the HOW is agreed. But this takes confidence and experience. In a world where people change jobs every 18 months, there is very little know-how building and seeing the results of your decisions or recommendations – both on the agency and the brand side.
DIA: Is advertising all about the algorithm now? Do you see data and automation emerging as serious trends in your markets?
JK: Yes and No. It can never just be about the algorithm. Real time marketing does require a deeper understanding of the audience and uses programmatic targeting and retargeting to reach them in context, when and where our message is useful. But it also requires smart human truth creative in order to be really effective.
The big problem we have in Asia is a real lack of data-led insights, because firstly, companies have never needed to collect data, they had it very easy until now, and secondly, if they have data, they are very reluctant to share it, because it might give away a competitive advantage. This will change in time once a few players have realized how great data-led insights and briefs can drive transformational execution.
DIA: We see a lot of hype around mobile, but is it really a channel to be taken seriously yet?
JK: Is this a trick question?!
DIA: Not a trick question! We are interested in both the buzz and the reality on the ground. How much attention are your clients putting towards mobile?
JK: Mobile as a content provider, mobile as a device, most of us can’t imagine life without or another channel to push advertising onto. We are asking about rational benefits but aren’t we past that, mobile is affecting us on a biological and emotional level. You can read about these effects in our report, Digital Dopamine. Digital Dopamine points out 87% of Chinese consumers report often feeling dependent on technology, that’s a pretty extreme demonstration of its importance.
Mobile-Mad is Asia, even more than the Middle East. Asian consumers are way ahead of brands in terms of how and what they use their mobiles for. Brands think that a mobile enabled site is enough, well it’s not nearly enough. Content has to be rethought to fit the smartphone screen in its entirety, and still too many clients are thinking about big screen content, which ends up looking ridiculous on the small screen. What’s worse, it doesn’t deliver the value consumers are looking for.
DIA: Oreo famously made a splash during the Super Bowl with a clever tweet during the blackout. Does something like that move the needle, or is it just something we talk about for a tiny cycle and then forget?
JK: I don’t think it’s always about moving a needle. Sometimes it’s about quick, fresh and clever thinking. Oreo did exactly that, clever thought using a popular platform. There was nothing groundbreaking about it, but it was spot on, real time marketing. So few brands are ready for it.
DIA: If you could choose between working in the sleek tech-driven world of modern advertising, or the days of Don Draper and Mad Men, what would you do?
JK: Without a doubt in the sleek tech driven word. I think the task is much more interesting and challenging on many levels. We are being challenged every day, by new technologies, by changes to legislations, new platforms, hardware software, we have to be engaged and interested or we will fall behind very quickly. 15 years ago it was easy to be an expert in a particular field. It took ages before anything changed so you could gain deep experience. We now need to be experts in a new area every day, that’s not easy and it takes a lot of intellectual openness and fresh thinking. Having said that, the creativity and courage of Mad Men mixed with the curiosity and connection of digital would be perfect.
DIA: Thank you for a hugely interesting discussion. Looking forward to chatting again soon.
Digital in Asia is excited to announce an ongoing partnership with eTail Asia, the leading platform in Asia to help online retailers discover, develop and implement strategies to build a successful eCommerce business.
The rise of eCommerce in Asia is a hot topic, as we have covered in previous articles, with online sales expected to reach $388bn across the region by the end of 2013, and forecasts from Forrester Research estimating a 30% uplift year on year for 2014. Parallel to this, advertising and technology spend from retailers is rapidly increasing in this space as they try to keep up with the online savvy Asian consumer audience. Continue reading Perfecting The Fundamentals of eCommerce with eTail Asia→