beautyIQ Series Part 1 looked at various practices global brands use in Southeast Asia to boost sales through intertwined transactional and discovery content. This article will focus on the importance of adjusting content to the cultural preferences of brand’s target customers in order to grab market share. Let’s begin!

Smartly crafted website content is essential to engage customers and nudge them towards making a purchase. Even more important to note is that

75% of shoppers are more likely to purchase products with information in their native language.

Southeast Asia constitutes diverse countries with varied consumer trends. To thrive here, global brands need to understand the demands of each market by localizing their content, offering promotions on local holidays or using faces familiar to the target audience in photo shoots. While it may not be budget friendly to create unique content for each country website, even small adjustments have the potential to increase a website’s conversion rate by as much as 25%.

Here are three ways brands can make their online content more relevant for customers in Southeast Asia:

1. Communicate like a local

To enter a new market, any brand should ‘speak’ the language of the country. That is especially the case in Southeast Asia where English language proficiency levels vary widely across countries. In Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, the levels are moderate, while Thailand and Cambodia rank 62 and 69 out of 70 countries, respectively. The only Southeast Asian countries with high proficiency of English are Singapore and Malaysia, who were a part of the British Empire in the last century.

The first step brands should take when launching an ecommerce website is providing a language selector for countries with low English proficiency in addition to a site in English.

French cosmetics store chain Sephora has web shops in local languages in Indonesia, Thailand and China, but its online stores in Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore are in English.

Sephora caters to local customers in countries with low level of English language proficiency by providing the content in customers’ native language. Source: Sephora Thailand website.

 

Yet, the difference between being good and being great is not simply translating website content, but also taking into account cultural differences and preferences.

The global brand that stands out with well crafted content is American premium cosmetics retailer Kiehl’s. Besides its brand.com website being available in Thai and Bahasa languages, Kiehl’s collaborates with local brands to leverage popular social media trends.

In Thailand, Kiehl’s collaborated with Jay The Rabbit, local loveable Facebook sensation, on ‘Kiehl’s heritage for Thai heritage’ campaign where it donated part of the earnings to an elephant foundation. This would definitely score brownie points in Thailand, once ranked the most generous country globally. 

Kiehl’s works with social media influencers to increase its brand awareness and engage new audience segments. Source: Kiehl’s Thailand website.

 

Kiehl’s also has dedicated Instagram accounts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, to share promotions relevant for locals, such as hijab and makeup demos in Indonesia. At the same time, all sites and social accounts are consistent in maintaining Kiehl’s global brand identity with look and feel.

Kiehl’s localizes promotional campaigns making them relevant to their target customers. Source: Kiehl’s Indonesia Instagram account.

 

Many global brands have strict guidelines that leave little room for maneuver – meaning promotional campaigns, visuals or tutorials targeted to Southeast Asia have to be the same across all countries from headquarters in North America. If brands don’t adapt to cultural preferences, however, they fail to engage customers and face getting overshadowed by competitors with more flexibility.

2. Leverage the power of peer and celebrity opinions

Asian shoppers’ purchase decisions are strongly influenced by peer feedback and celebrity association, according to a report by PwC.

47% of customers in Asia consider opinions of friends and family before making a purchase, while 90% are influenced by information found on social media.

In Thailand, one of the brands that leverages the potential of local celebrities, bloggers and other key online influencers for their promotional campaigns, is Maybelline. Its Youtube channel, which is featured on its local brand.com website, contains many videos with well-known Thai celebrities and beauty gurus – immediately putting their products in front of a new audience.

Maybelline features several videos with Thai model and actress “Lukkade” Metinee Kingpayom, Thailand’s Kate Moss. Source: Maybelline Thailand Youtube channel.

 

In Indonesia, Kiehl’s collaborated with well-known actor Nicholas Saputra and TV presenter Sarah Sechan for their ‘Kiehl’s Gives’ campaign to support Wehea Forest Preservation in East Kalimantan.

Indonesian celebrities became personality partners of Kiehl’s to support Wehea Forest Preservation in East Kalimantan. Source: Kiehl’s Indonesia Instagram account.

 

Global brands should also use Asian models to showcase products as it’s crucial for the customer to gauge how a blush or lipstick shade would look on their own skin tone. For example, Maybelline Thailand uses predominantly Thai models in their product videos hoping consumers can more easily identify with them.

Source: Maybelline Thailand Youtube channel

 

Skincare brand Nivea also uses local-looking models on their Indonesian, Filipino, Thai and Vietnam local websites (although it is not possible to buy their products online).

Source: Nivea Indonesia website

 

Brands such as Shu Uemura and Bobbi Brown also have a balanced mix of Asian models integrated in their visual web content.

Source: Shu Uemura Thailand website

 

Another issue brands may want to consider is the fact that around 40% of Southeast Asia’s population identify as Muslims. Luxury brands such as Dolce Gabbana, Oscar De La Renta and DKNY as well as fashion brands like Uniqlo and Mango hope to tap into this new customer segment by creating apparel collections specially targeted to Muslim women.

While no global beauty brand has created ads using Muslim models in hijab, Indonesian brand Wardah takes it one step further by offering halal beauty and skincare products and personalizing the marketing to Muslim women as seen below. 

Indonesian beauty brand Wardah creates products particularly for Muslim women. Source: Wardah Indonesia website.

 

3. Celebrate like a local

Due to its cultural and religious diversity, Asia has many major holiday and festival seasons. And as the region’s incomes rise, so too does its holiday spending, creating a wealth of opportunities for businesses. — Nikkei Asian Review 

While Christmas gift frenzy might be global, other celebrations vary from country to country. To achieve the best results, promotional campaigns should be adjusted to major holidays and cultural events of the particular country.  

Kiehl’s in Thailand is a good example how to leverage holiday season. The company centered their promotion around Songkran Festival, which marks the Thai New Year, to offer special discounts for its products and drive sales.

Localize promotional campaigns leveraging on public celebrations. Source: Kiehl’s Thailand Instagram account.

 

Popular public celebrations brands in Southeast Asia can benefit from are:

  • Western New Year
  • Chinese New Year celebration
  • in Thailand Songkran Festival and Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday (which is celebrated as Mother’s day)
  • in Indonesia the month of Ramadan has become known for driving online retail sales and Harbolnas

While it may be complex to calculate exact return on investment in localization of content, the benefits of it for global brands include first mover advantage and higher revenues from new markets.

Tailoring content to match local quirks and preferences, whether it’s using models that match the general consumers’ skin tone or leveraging the popularity of local celebrities, will help you monetize local behavioral traits such as the fact that 87% shoppers in Asia share their retail experiences on social media.

Stay tuned for the next article in our eIQ series the following Monday that will focus on tools needed to distribute products on various platforms in Southeast Asia.

BY ANUTRA CHATIKAVANIJ AND AIJA KRUTAINE

 

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