Tag Archives: ecommerce

Unlocking the Untapped Potential in Asia’s Digital Economy

Rama-Sridhar (hires)
Rama Sridhar, Executive Vice President, Digital and Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows, Asia Pacific, Mastercard

Digitalization of Asia’s commerce brings choice to consumers and opportunity to businesses. It also provides the region’s societies with a path to greater economic growth and prosperity. Better government and business support of the digital economy is needed though, to fully reap these benefits. Greater public and private sector collaborations are also key to unlocking digitalization’s full potential.

While it can appear that the surge of digitalization in Asia – driven by better digital infrastructure, deepening internet and mobile penetration, and rapidly increasing discretionary incomes –  is already successfully driving market growth and development, there is tremendous untapped potential ahead. According to Bain & Company, the digital economy contributes just 7 per cent of GDP in ASEAN and 16 per cent in China (as compared to 35 per cent in the US) and stronger digital foundations could contribute an additional $1 trillion to the GDP of ASEAN alone.

To open new markets, the millions who are still excluded from digital marketplaces – particularly the elderly and the poor – must be addressed. Factors such as lack of access to the internet and training and education have left millions unable to participate in this digital market revolution.

Further, according to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit report commissioned by Mastercard, the digital age divide and the digital income divide have meant that the societal gains from today’s digitalization have already been unequal. In each of the region’s economies, a greater share of those under the age of 35 has used the internet to make an online purchase or bill payment than those over 55. There’s a similarly wide gulf between the rich and poor.

Differences in regulations and the level of digital infrastructure across the region compound the issue and hinder Asia’s ability to fully reap the benefits of the digital economy.

Digital Inclusion

To successfully include all of Asia’s populations in the digital marketplace, it is imperative that people have the ability to acquire the necessary technological and financial skills, and governments ramp up investment and infrastructure.

However, this can’t be left to the region’s governments alone. For one, many governments don’t have the financial resources to allocate adequately to digitalization. Two, several simply don’t have the bandwidth to look beyond other more basic problems.  

This provides an opportunity for the private sector to step up and fill the void. Whether through partnering with regulators and policymakers to shape the regulatory agenda around what is still a relatively nascent industry, investing in people and businesses so they can leverage digitalisation, or helping bring digital infrastructure and services to those left behind, the private sector must play a more active role.

At Mastercard, we are partnering with fintechs as they take digitalization to the remotest parts of Asia’s economy, resulting in both digital and financial inclusion. Through our global accelerator programme Start Path Global, we support start-ups by providing mentoring, giving them access to our global ecosystem and helping them break into new markets with the help of our relationships and customer base.

We’ve also recognized the need for greater public-private collaboration. For example, in September last year, Mastercard’s Track, a global trade platform, was integrated with Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform in an initiative led by Singapore Customs and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore. This digital trade platform facilitates secure and efficient electronic transactions and payment reconciliation between buyers and suppliers, greatly streamlining and simplifying B2B transactions to facilitate more inter-regional trade.

While there is no one template for these partnerships, a number of similar ways can be found for companies to work closely with policymakers in offering digital solutions and enhancing digital skills. Governments, for their part, can also further support Asia’s digitalization by harmonizing regional regulations with the aim of supporting the creation of seamless, interoperable platforms with uniform governance across countries.

Ultimately, only a rising tide of collective regional effort that includes a combination of greater cross-border collaboration and increased financial and digital inclusion will unlock the full potential of Asia’s digitalization. It will also help create a digital economy that benefits all.  

Lazada Launches New Online Retail Solutions in SEA

by Damian Duffy

Lazada is stepping up efforts to strengthen its position as the leading online shopping destination in Southeast Asia.

In conjunction with its 7th birthday celebrations the company announced a series of products and services aimed at helping brands and sellers, both small and large, to win market share in the region by transforming them into ‘Super eBusinesses’.

The offerings are aimed at resolving three pain points that brands and sellers face – branding, marketing and sales.

“No seller is too small to aspire, and no brand is too big to be a ‘Super eBusiness’. That is why we are thrilled to roll out super-solutions to help our brands and sellers become more nimble in digitising their businesses, and better reach customers,” said Pierre Poignant, Lazada Group Chief Executive Officer at the inaugural LazMall Brands Future Forum (BFF).

The new solutions include:

  • A series of ‘Super’ campaigns in which LazMall brands and sellers can choose to take part to boost their brand image and better engage with customers
  • A new and improved Marketing Solutions Package and Business Advisor Dashboard that can deliver more traffic to their storefronts, and arm brands and sellers with near real-time information to help them make faster and better decisions to sell more effectively and efficiently
  • New tech tools like Store Builder for brands and sellers to customise their storefronts to differentiate themselves on Lazada, while in-app live streaming, news feed and in-app consumer games can help win the hearts of consumers with higher consumer engagement

At the same time, Lazada has also formalised online retail partnerships with 12 leading global lifestyle, technology and fashion companies, including electronics leaders Huawei, Realme and Coocaa. These collaborations will enable brands to tap on Lazada’s industry-leading tech and logistics infrastructure, innovation and eCommerce expertise. Other brands that are set to join will include several of the world’s biggest FMCG companies.

Backed by Alibaba’s technology and logistics infrastructure, Lazada has been able to launch over the past year a series of industry-leading tech innovations like search-image function, consumer engagement games and in-app live streaming to become the region’s only ‘shoppertainment’ platform on which people can watch, shop and play.

Accelerating the growth of Lazada brands and sellers

The new solutions will also make it easier for brands and sellers to open up stores on LazMall. Qualified merchants can now take advantage of the new self-sign up feature, a simplified sign-up process that can now be completed in mere minutes. This is in line with the Lazada’s goal of enabling SMEs to become globally competitive.

“Since the launch of LazMall in 2018, we have seen tremendous growth among our key pioneer brand partners. We want to extend the benefits of LazMall to even more brands and sellers to elevate their eCommerce operations,” said Lazada Group President Jing Yin. “We want to incubate them so they can grow alongside us and become sustainable and successful eBusinesses.”

Across the region, 60 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are keen to invest in technologies to achieve sustainable growth in today’s digital economy. Business-oriented tools including online commerce solutions, customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence, have been identified by Lazada as the top investment priorities.

Driving ‘Shoppertainment’ in Southeast Asia

Pushing boundaries in eCommerce in Southeast Asia, Lazada is driving ‘shoppertainment’ to provide shoppers with a fun, interactive and entertaining experience. As part of its 7th birthday celebrations, Lazada is hosting a first-of-its-kind concert, Super Party, in Jakarta on March 26.

The concert, which features a star-studded lineup including British pop star Dua Lipa, culminates with Lazada’s birthday shopping event on March 27. The one-day sale promises a new online shopping experience that includes a new selection of exciting games for redeeming vouchers and attractive deals for consumers in the region.

Data-driven Singapore Fintech Startup Delivers AI Credit Scoring

Rely, a Singapore fintech company that provides shoppers with an interest-free ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ service for online retail, recently announced a seven-figure Pre-Series A funding round led by Goldbell Financial Services. Additional funding comes from Octava, a family office based in Singapore and strategic investors from the financial and technology sector.

Rely will use the fresh funding for regional expansion, to scale up their team, as well as support more partnerships across the region with leading retailers.

According to a study conducted by Google and Temasek, the Southeast Asian e-commerce industry is expected to exceed US$100 billion over the next couple of years. Singapore, one of the fastest growing players in the e-commerce industry, is predicted to grow to US$5 billion by 2025.

Tapping on this immense growth in the e-commerce industry, Rely offers retailers and shoppers a way to manage their spending and access credit, without using traditional credit cards.

Rely uses its proprietary decision engine, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help determine shoppers’ repayment capabilities for each transaction. With the use of this technology, spending limits are determined for each consumer. Safeguards are also put in place to ensure that shoppers repay on time, and further purchases cannot be made if payments are not made on time.

With Rely, shoppers can use the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ service upon checkout and enjoy their products without having to pay the full sum upfront. By linking a debit card to their Rely account, shoppers can split their purchases into three equal, interest-free monthly payments. The initial payment is collected at checkout, and the remaining sum is collected over the next two months.

Based on initial data, this service appeals especially to Millennials, who have distinctive spending habits from past generations. They know what they want, and they seek instant gratification when it comes to their purchases. At the same time, they are cautious when it comes to their spending, and are wary of falling into credit card debt. Rely caters to this audience and the relationship between what they want and what they think they ought to do, allowing them to stay in control of the way they chose to handle their finances.

Exciting times for the fintech and e-commerce sector in Singapore.

E-commerce in SEA: Holiday Sales Online Consumer Trends

The friendly folks at Meltwater have just released a new report titled ‘E-commerce in SEA: Supercharging Holiday Sales Through Social Media’ analysing consumer sentiment across South East Asia during the year-end shopping period last year to help e-commerce companies better reach their audiences.

The report found that Christmas shopping pulled in 56% of chatter, while Black Friday represented 22% of buzz. Fast-growing Singles’ Day – a shopping holiday started by internet company Alibaba in 2009 – is credited with kicking off the nearly two-month shopping period, and accounted for 20% of social media conversations.

Within the region, Indonesia drove the highest volume of conversations (57%), which isn’t surprising considering the country’s increased internet penetration and smartphone usage in recent years. Philippines and Malaysia represented 30% and 12% respectively, while Singapore brought in 1% of the buzz.

While the top brands varied from country to country, it’s clear that the marketplace model emerged the real winner. In Singapore, Amazon dominated social media with 51% of online conversations; Shopee led the buzz in Indonesia; Qoo10 was the most talked about in the Philippines; and Lazada emerged triumphant in Malaysia.

There’s more at the full report below.

E-commerce in SEA: Supercharging Holiday Sales Through Social Media [PDF]

Sales increase for 51% of online retailers in SEA and Taiwan over past year

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.

Full report available for download here.

Mobile App Predictions for 2018

[Photo] Jaede Tan, Regional Director, App Annie
Jaede Tan, Regional Director of App Annie
2018 marks the 10 year anniversary for both the Apple App Store and Android market. In the short time since the first wave of apps were published in 2008, they have impacted the lives of people all over the world on an unprecedented level. There are now apps for almost anything and everything – hugely successful apps that incorporate AR and VR, apps dedicated to events, and even an app just for popping bubble wrap.
Who could ever have imagined that apps would evolve from the simple Snake game on the Nokia phone (yes that was an app), to driving a $6.3 trillion industry in 2021?
Looking back over 2017, the app economy has hit some significant milestones:
  • By the end of October 2017, the iOS App Store and Google Play had more than 2 million and more than 3.5 million apps available, respectively.
  • New apps continue to be introduced at a strong pace. During the month ending October 31, 2017, roughly 50,000 new apps launched on the iOS App Store and over 150,000 were added to Google Play.
  • Across mature markets, users have up to 90 or 100 apps installed on their devices, 30 of which they use on a monthly basis. On average, people are spending two hours per day — which equates to one month out of every year — in apps.
  • More than 40 countries will generate over $100 million in consumer spend in 2017 for iOS App Store and Google Play combined.
  • Apps play a key role in almost every industry today, including retail, banking, travel, QSR, CPG and media & entertainment .

It is apparent that the evolution of mobile apps have transformed the everyday lives of people, and users continuously expect their favourite apps to be improved. There are several aspects of an app which users expect to be improved, but convenience is a core theme that underlies many of our predictions as we look to 2018.

1. Worldwide Gross Consumer App Store Spend Blows Past the $100 Billion Mark

The continued evolution of markets across the globe has led app monetization to continuously grow at an outstanding rate. Apart from games, which traditionally account for the majority of overall spend, we foresee spending in e-commerce apps such as Alibaba and Amazon to drive worldwide consumer spend – which is expected to grow about 30% year on year to exceed $110 billion in 2018. In APAC, consumer spend on apps hit $17.1 billion in H1 2017 alone.

2. App Store Curation Drives Higher Overall IAP Revenue and Expands Opportunity for Independent Publishers

In June 2017, both Apple and Google announced updates to the iOS App Store and Google Play aimed to alleviate this issue through app curation and editorial content. We predict that these updates will have a significant impact on apps in 2018, in particular apps that help people occupy their leisure time. These types of apps, which tend to be entertainment-centric, are most likely to connect with consumers when they are casually browsing through the app stores. Conversely, “needs-based” apps such as UberEats or DBS PayLah! are far more likely to be downloaded based on word of mouth recommendations or focused searches when a user encounters a particular need.

3. Broader Adoption of AR Apps

Pokémon GO and Snapchat sparked huge interest in augmented reality (AR) among the masses, and we foresee that AR will take another significant step forward towards realizing its massive potential in 2018.

Facebook, Google and Apple have taken the lead at their developer conferences in 2017, and together with the Chinese powerhouses Alibaba , Baidu and Tencent , have set the foundation for AR-related initiatives. These initiatives will accelerate the space by making it easier and faster for publishers to develop AR apps, while also stoking consumer interest. For example, in Japan, starting in May 2017, there has been a significant increase in iPhone app downloads for the top ranking apps by “Augmented Reality” app store search in Japan, and other APAC countries.

apps ar japan

4. Fragmentation of the Video Streaming Space Accelerates

It is now not an uncommon sight to see people catching up on their favourite Netflix series or Hollywood movies while on the move. 2017 has been another extraordinary year for video streaming services and total time spent in Video and Entertainment apps tripled to almost 40 billion hours in APAC alone.

video streaming apps

Between H1 2015 and H1 2017, time spent in the Video Players and Entertainment categories on Android phones in APAC has tripled to reach close to 40 billion hours – almost half of the worldwide total.

Year to date through October 31, 2017, these apps have driven significant growth of worldwide consumer spend for the Entertainment category on both iOS and Google Play. However, as some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry and app economy — including Netflix , Apple , Google , Facebook , Snap and Disney — have announced huge plans to expand their footprints in variety of ways, we expect that 2018 to mark the beginning of an inflection point for this space, in terms of fragmentation. In fact, our research shows that Android users in South Korea who use video streaming apps are significantly more likely than average to be accessing other video and related entertainment services.

Overall, this space will continue to see steady growth in terms of revenue and engagement, but in the years that follow, consumers may start to rationalize how they spend their time and money among a dizzying array of choices, resulting in some players succumbing to profit pressures as they get crowded out of this competitive space.

5. Mobile Pushes Towards the Center of the Retail Customer Journey

Analysts and experts have pronounced the retail apocalypse in recent times, and we see apps as a way to reinvigorate consumers’ retail experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers have already embraced apps and shoppers are now very engaged; results are telling from the Great Singapore Sale 2017 , which saw an increase in sales thanks to the GoSpree app. In Indonesia, which has a population of 261 million and a burgeoning middle class, users spend an average of just over 90 minutes per month in Shopping apps, placing it at #2 after South Korea. On 11 November 2017, dubbed Single’s Day, Alibaba generated a record breaking $25.3 billion in sales, with mobile users accounting for 90% of sales. These numbers are only the beginning of what is a rapidly evolving retail experience for consumers.

Come 2018, apps will continue to cause consumers to change their shopping habits which will in turn redefine the relationship between and even the very nature of existing retail channels (e.g., mobile app, web, brick-and-mortar). China, for instance, is one huge influencer in this area. We are seeing people in western markets increasingly use physical stores as a place to pick up items purchased on mobile. In addition, cash registers’ longstanding role in the checkout and payment process will become reduced, or in some cases replaced, by mobile. For many consumers, mobile will be a core part of the shopping experience regardless of channel.

6. Restaurant Aggregators Drive Mobile Conversion as Delivery-as-a-Service Further Penetrates Premium Markets

As we predicted last year, there was some consolidation in the food delivery space. Looking ahead to next year, we expect that aggregators such as Korea’s Yogiyo will continue to expand the addressable market for this space by opening up under penetrated markets as well as converting users who do not currently use mobile apps from intermediaries to order meals. Meanwhile, delivery as a service (DaaS) providers (e.g., UberEATS , Deliveroo) will gain market share in premium markets where customers are more likely to pay more for higher-end restaurants that don’t have their own delivery fleets. Furthermore, we expect more quick-service restaurants (QSR) to respond to the increased competition from food delivery by partnering with DaaS apps, similar to McDonald’s growing partnership with UberEATS . As with video streaming, this space will face consolidation in later years as it needs to rationalize the fragmentation felt by customers and the profit pressures felt by service providers competing in a crowded space.

7. Finance-Related Apps Poised for Most Significant Transformation in 2018

In 2017 in Asia-Pacific specifically, the growth of downloads in the Finance category outpaced all app categories (non-games) combined, with China leading the way. Person-to-person (P2P) payment apps, like WeChat, AliPay, GoPay, Grab Pay and PayTM have been some of the shining stars in the fintech app revolution. They have transformed how consumers, particularly millennials, exchange money, by displacing the use of cash and checks. In the next year, we expect these services to capitalize on their popularity and broaden their range of services in an effort to expand their revenue potential, fend off increased competition from traditional banks and deepen user engagement. With retailers adopting such apps as an option for customers, we expect P2P payment apps to see increased transaction volume. These initiatives have been well received by users, as they will provide even greater levels of convenience. In addition, this space will see increased activity from successful players in other categories, like messaging and social networking, who are constantly looking for additional ways to serve, monetize and engage their large user bases.

These are just a handful of areas where we expect the app economy to evolve over the near future. Despite how far this space has advanced over its first decade, it is just scratching the surface of its full potential. Users increasingly expect apps to completely transform the very nature of how they accomplish goals and tasks, as well as create brand new experiences not possible on other platforms. We are excited to see how app developers change the world by delivering on these needs over the app economy’s second decade.

New Tech Heats Up APAC Ecommerce Market

Criteo launched two new solutions in APAC this week – Criteo Audience Match and Criteo Kinetic Design with Video – to help retailers and brands deliver seamless and relevant shopping experiences across all devices and channels.

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.”

The launches were underpinned by a new study in collaboration with Forbes and titled highlighting the value of data collaboration to better meet customers’ needs, drive value and compete.

Story by Damian Duffy

Retail S-Commerce: Moving to Mobile and Beyond

Marketing Matters is a monthly column covering how marketers today can use Digital to drive innovation and results

Social commerce, or S-commerce, is one of the newer kids on the E-commerce block. Of course, it is also a very broad subject.  Some would also include Taobao and travel websites like Tripadvisor and Airbnb in the S-commerce sphere. For today’s discussion, we will only focus on S-commerce activities triggered by social media. Blending e-commerce tech with social media and other contributor-driven platforms, this part of the industry has been growing steadily and quickly, with the world’s top 500 retailers netting over three billion USD from S-commerce in 2014, up 26% from 2013.

With the continued global rise of social media, S-commerce – in terms of both direct sales and referrals to merchants’ and retailers’ websites – is here to stay. Take e-commerce social media referrals – these alone increased almost 200% between Q1 in 2014 and Q1 in 2015. This is generally great news for retailers, but the industry still has much growing and maturing to do, particularly when it comes to diversifying platforms and embracing mobile.

Right now, S-commerce has a lot of eggs in one basket: Facebook is by far the most dominant platform, with 50% of total referrals and over 60% of total revenue. Twitter and Instagram do not have anywhere near the clout of Facebook, though they are emerging as niche players – Twitter is proving popular with sports and event marketers, especially with location-based promotions; while Instagram is proving attractive to high-end companies seeking to strengthen their brand. Newer players like Snapchat are entering the S-commerce market, but their ability to sustain sales remains to be proven.

In view of this trend, many social media platforms are investing in enhancing their features to capture the attention of end consumers and create business opportunities for retailers.

In case you missed it, Google announced it will be adding a ‘buy’ button to product search results made on mobile devices. This button will let consumers make instant purchases from the brand, but on Google’s mobile search results pages. With these buttons coming soon to YouTube and Facebook, these instant purchases will ‘reduce friction’ by delivering a more seamless and faster experience, helping consumers overcome their mobile reluctance.

Pinterest, the social photo sharing service that has become a worldwide phenomenon, is now a major force in S-commerce despite its small user base. Currently responsible for 16% of global S-commerce revenue, the site is proactively innovating and driving the industry forward. Its new ‘buyable pins’ feature, which is still running its pilot test in the U.S., is allowing users to buy products pinned on e-commerce sites without leaving Pinterest. Now, any time a user pins products from a brand’s website, these products can be purchased by anyone else directly through Pinterest. This is of great benefit to all sides, as this ‘social proof’ style marketing involves very little advertising budget and fosters high consumer trust.

If we look at the market in Taiwan, we find that a lot of platforms doing retail business have acted fast to ‘dress themselves up’ like Pinterest. Sooner rather than later, they will also be following suit in adding features equivalent to ‘buyable pins’.

All this is good news for businesses that are looking to expand their mobile wallet share. Google credits ‘shopping micro-moments’ – time spent searching for or reading about products on their mobiles – with driving almost one trillion USD in sales in the US in 2014, and this figure is set to explode globally.

In the future, S-commerce will play an ever-larger role in these moments. It’s already happening: ‘conversational searches’ are growing, whereby consumers talk to Google and ask for help with new products. Google literally answers them back with smart shopping ads that have product rankings and reviews included; deep links on retailers’ apps right in their shopping ads, driving traffic direct to retailers’ mobile apps instead of their websites; and private sales and ‘daily deal’ sites like Moda Operandi and Groupon allow customers to preorder directly from designers and create buzz around daily sales events.

At the end of the day, S-commerce is about people socialising and helping each other buy things in the most convenient way possible. It allows people to leverage the advantages of digital platforms and transform them into a personalised shopping experience. Retailers that keep these customer motivations in mind will be well-placed to link multiple channels and technologies together to create an omni-channel O2O experience that will satisfy and delight their customers.


Article by:

Daniel Wu, General Manager, Epicentro

PICO LogoEpicentro specialises in digital content development and is a member of the Pico Group

Awarded ‘Events Standard of Excellence’ and ‘Marketing Standard of Excellence’ in 2015 WebAward for Outstanding Achievement in Web Development by the Web Marketing Association

Daniel has been with Pico for over 15 years and is a seasoned event marketing industry professional. Foreseeing the ample opportunities presented by the world’s rapidly-changing technological landscape, Daniel began planning for a new business unit specialising in digital content solutions in 2010. Commencing full operations in 2014, Epicentro has spearheaded the development of unconventional technologies, helping our clients reach and stay on top of the market. Under Daniel’s leadership, Epicentro has established a strong client list spanning the commercial and government sectors: AIA, Airport Authority Hong Kong, Amway, Dragages, the government’s Environmental Protection Department and Home Affairs Department, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Jardine, Suntory and Watsons.

Asian Brands must be more Innovative than those in the West

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.

joanna kalenskaDIA: 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.

Half of APAC Smartphone Users Now Shopping on their Device

The latest MasterCard Mobile Shopping Survey covering Asia Pacific finds consumers embracing the convenience of mobile shopping. Almost half of consumers – around 45% in total – made a purchase using their smartphone in the three months preceding the survey.

Exactly 50% of respondents across Asia Pacific cited convenience as the most compelling reason for shopping on their smartphone. Other motivating factors include the ability to shop on the go and the growing availability of apps that make it easy to shop online.

Fig 1: % consumers who have made a purchase using a smartphone
2014 2013 2012
Asia Pacific 46% 39% 35%
Korea 54% 48% 40%
China 70% 59% 54%
Thailand 59% 51% 51%
Hong Kong 38% 40% 41%
Taiwan 62% 45% 28%
Singapore 37% 31% 40%
Vietnam 45% 35% 34%
Indonesia 55% 47% 55%
India 63% 47% 30%
Malaysia 46% 32% 25%
Philippines 34% 33% 21%
Japan 26% 23% 26%
New Zealand 21% 15% 18%
Australia 20% 25% 19%

In addition to using their mobile phones to make purchases, shoppers in the region are also using it to compare prices between physical and online stores. Close to half (45%) of respondents have conducted price comparisons, with a similar proportion (44%) also stating that they have conducted research online prior to making a purchase in-store.

Overall, consumers from China (70%), India (63%) and Taiwan (62%) are the most likely to shop using their smartphones with the most popular mobile shopping purchases amongst Asia Pacific shoppers include clothing and accessories (27%), followed by apps (21%) and daily deal coupons (19%).

Asia Pacific consumers are also adopting new mobile technologies, with 28% of respondents saying that they use mobile banking apps. Group buying apps (40%) and digital wallets (28%) are the most popular amongst Chinese consumers.

Increased smartphone ownership is clearly having a massive impact on the way people across Asia Pacific shop and spend. Brands and online shopping portals need to continue to develop easy and simple ways to browse and pay, as convenience remains paramount to consumers whether they are shopping on their phones or in-store.