Instagram celebrated the first anniversary of IG Stories earlier this month. In one year, the platform has become one of the most important online channels for brands to reach customers as more than 70% of IG users follow a brand page and 22% of shoppers have regularly used Instagram to browse products.

With 250 million daily active users, Instagram Stories has become a new favourite tool for marketers as half of the businesses on the social channel have produced a story in the last month alone.

Its appeal comes from the contrast of Instagram’s two functions; the polished image shots and the “raw” side of the capture process.

“Within the same platform now we’ve got this lovely juxtaposition that allows you to tell a richer story, but maybe [providing] a more authentic, or more earthy experience alongside the more polished core visuals,” said Hugh Pile, CMO L’Oreal Western Europe.

Instagram Stories Brands

L’Oreal’s post on Instagram Stories

However, with so many advertising channels now available to brands, it is important to know what is the right content to produce on Instagram Stories for success.

The path to conversions

There are five main categories of activity that brands can encourage users to do with the feature in the ads for Instagram Stories, but shopping is the most popular objective for brands as 59% of the ads Stories produced since its launch in March linked to a page where the products featured in the ads were available online.
Instagram Stories Brands

 

“Instagram has integrated ecommerce handoff technology into Stories, namely swipe-up links leading to brand sites, linked influencer tags, and checkout buttons that support brand efforts to move beyond engagement metrics and render their live video content shoppable.” – L2

Brands also use Stories as a gateway or teaser to drive traffic to more elaborate content on platforms like Youtube or Facebook where shareability and engagement are more likely with the user.

Product promotion is still the most popular type of content in Stories, which accounted for 36% of content produced by brands, followed by ‘behind-the-scene’ pieces, and influencer endorsement.

Instagram Stories Brands

Video has also increasingly become a more effective media format that drives online shopping – 34% of Indonesian youth were influenced by video ads to shop online.

With more tools available for brands to engage consumers, especially in a market like Southeast Asia where online marketing channels are dominantly Google and Facebook, it’s time for brands to get more creative.

THE BACKGROUND

Unicharm has been manufacturing feminine and baby care products in Japan since 1974. The company’s origin can be traced back to Taisei Kako Co., Ltd where it found its niche by selling feminine napkins in 1963. By the late 1990s, Unicharm had successfully expanded its business overseas.

Spurred by rising income levels and populations in Asia, Unicharm has become the leading company for the feminine, baby, and healthcare categories in Asia and No. 3 in the global market thanks to portfolio brands like MamyPoko, Charm, Sofy, and Wave.

Unicharm Southeast Asia

In 2011, the company bought a majority stake of 51% in US-based pet product and supply maker Hartz from Sumitomo Group to branch out its reach in household categories.

The company’s success caused it to become too comfortable and made it vulnerable to competition. What was Unicharm’s response?

THE CHALLENGES

“Signs of a market change started emerging around 2013,” recallsUnicharm President and CEO Takahisa Takahara. “We should have responded a little sooner.”

Decades of lounging in its throne as Asia’s market leader for inexpensive products lulled Unicharm into a false state of security that eventually caused it to slip behind competitors like Kao and Daio Paper for disposable diapers in key markets like Indonesia and China.

The company’s early entrance to Indonesia when the country’s GDP was still low allowed it to gain market share and its cheap range of products was introduced to first-time consumers in the small remote islands.

As the country’s living standards improve, the citizens can afford to become more selective and choose higher-end diapers. The company’s market share has reportedly dropped to below 60% from the previous 70%.

Unicharm Southeast Asia

Unicharm’s operating profit decreased overtime in Asia. Source: Nikkei

Meanwhile in China, the company has watched its market share fall to 8%, half of what it was three years ago.

“With the growing preference there [China] for high-end products and the rapid spread of ecommerce, high-quality Japanese diapers have become more popular, said Masashi Mori, an analyst at Credit Suisse Securities (Japan).

What’s Unicharm doing about all of this and can it make a comeback?

THE INNOVATION

Last year, Unicharm began to introduce premium line called ‘Natural Moony’, Japan’s first disposable diaper with a surface sheet containing organic cotton, to reserve a seat in the higher-end product category.

In addition to an official launch event in Tokyo, the company also held a Super Brand Day event on one of China’s biggest marketplaces, Tmall.

Unicharm Southeast Asia

Unicharm Chief Executive Officer Takahisa Tahara on Moony launch in Tmall

“We propose new standards for the way you select diapers by putting Natural Moony on the market under the slogan of ‘selecting diapers is selecting materials’,” explained Yoko Kawakami, Assistant Brand Manager at Unicharm’s Global Marketing department.

Unwilling to repeat the same mistake in China by catching onto ecommerce too late, the company has an official presence on e-marketplaces such as Lazada and 11street in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian markets.

Unicharm Southeast Asia

Unicharm’s official store in Lazada Indonesia

The brand was also one of the first available on Amazon Prime after its long-awaited launch in Singapore last month.

Unicharm has taken to publicity stunts to reach the eyes of its consumers by celebrating its iconic mascot’s birthday in Singapore by gifting new mothers with a care-package for newborns at the Thomson Medical Center.

On its 15th anniversary in Thailand, the company’s Mamypoko brand launched Poko Chan Point, the diaper market’s first rewards program that allows consumers to redeem free gifts from collecting points from a code attached to purchased products.

Unicharm Southeast Asia

MamyPoko’s Thailand Facebook post

“We believe that the key success mix includes the right product that best addresses customers’ needs and the right marketing programmes. Based on this belief, we will continue to bring to our customers the right programmes that will enhance their experience with our brand,” said Unicharm Thailand Managing Director Tadashi Nakai.

THE STRATEGY

When the brand first entered India in 2009, it was the first to offer underwear-shaped diapers ahead of giants like Kimberly Clark and P&G. The reward was an 85% jump in sales and 42% in modern trademarket share.

“When there’s a low penetration or usage in certain categories, most companies do the obvious — try to develop the market with existing and affordable products,” said Devendra Chawla, Food and FMCG President at Future Group.

“Unicharm tried a different route by launching innovative products, which not just helped expand the market, but also in the process, diverted the entire segment towards their portfolio style, taking leadership while doing market development simultaneously.”

Unicharm believes in employing the same proven technique for the other emerging markets such as the Middle East, and Africa.

“The setting-up and acquiring of business operations in potential countries in the region is part of the key strategy set to grow our diaper and sanitary napkin business in Asia, particularly in emerging markets,” said Takumi Terakawa, Managing Director of Unicharm Thailand.

The company has also looked beyond Southeast Asia’s most popular markets. In 2013, Unicharm acquired Burmese diaper company MyCare that holds over 50% market share in the country.

In a company statement regarding the decision, “our management decision to acquire Mycare has been on the grounds that new markets are being created and overwhelming share is further secured by accelerating the speed of brand penetration through the expansion of product availability.”

THE FUTURE

Unicharm is targeting a consolidated plan of $7.2 billion in 2020 with sales growth at 7% CAGR and plans to tackle Asia first before pushing a global agenda.

Unicharm Southeast Asia

“Our goal is to build a dominant market presence in Asia, the world’s largest market for nonwoven fabric and absorbent material products,” said CEO Unicharm Takahisa Takahara.

“This will be a key step toward achieving our vision of becoming a leading company in the global market.”

The name Dara Khosrowshahi has been everywhere in the news lately. Why? The Expedia CEO of 12 years has officially confirmed reports that he will be joining Uber as its new CEO.

The ride-hailing platform has had its fair share and sometimes self-inflicted misfortunes. In Southeast Asia alone, it is under high scrutiny from the Thai transport authorities calling for a crackdown, it recently paid $9.6 million in fines after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in the Philippines banned it, and is going up against Grab, the region’s unicorn soon to close an investment round of $2.5 billion backed by Toyota, Softbank, and Didi Chuxing.

Who is Mr. Khosrowshahi and what does he bring to one of the world’s most valuable and troubled startups?

A great answer was shared by angel investor Terrence Yang, excerpt below:

In a perfect world, Uber would just hire Sheryl Sandberg. But in the real world, there’s no way Sheryl would ever join Uber. If you were Sheryl, would you? Becoming Uber CEO poses massive downside risk and and only moderate upside for Sheryl.

Among other things, former CEO Travis Kalanick keeps meddling/trying to come back, Uber has massive problems with recruitment and retention, Uber is highly unprofitable and probably needs (not wants) driverless cars to happen sooner than later to make the economics work (but Alphabet’s Waymo is suing Uber for, shall we say, inappropriately appropriating and basically colluding with Lewandowski to steal Waymo’s self-driving tech).

Here’s what’s great about Dara:

  • Dara is a grown-up Travis. Like Travis, Dara was and remains ruthless, smart, tough. But unlike Travis, Dara developed empathy and soft skills that Travis failed to do for years. Dara is also much more humble and learns fast, including learning soft skills.
  • Travis was the right person to lead Uber when he did. Uber was the fastest growing big startup company in the world by some measures. It’s a truly impressive accomplishment. Travis will go down in history for that. But Travis also went down – because Travis never evolved. Dara did. That’s why Dara is the best realistic choice for Uber.
  • Jeff Immelt and Meg Whitman just don’t know much about the travel industry. I don’t see how leading GE, eBay or HP is very relevant to leading Uber. Dara’s experience is much more relevant (and, no, you are not going to be able to hire the CEO of Lyft right now).
  • Dara bought HomeAway, which competes with Airbnb. Expedia also tried to compete with Airbnb directly. Airbnb is a good model of how to technically violate laws (e.g. turning homes into hotels) without pissing off so many people. Unlike Uber. And Dara is even an investor in freight startup Convoy. Uber is trying to make UberFreight a success.
  • Dara started as an investor in Expedia and CFO of that investor. Benchmark is suing Travis in part over Uber’s lack of CFO.
  • Dara learned to be a great CEO of Expedia. He’s been ranked in the top 100 CEOs in 2015 and 2016. Expedia stock and revenues are doing great.

Southeast Asian startups need…adults?

The lack of experienced digital professionals, coined the talent challenge, has always been a looming backdrop to the bustling nature of startups, especially in emerging markets like Southeast Asia. As long as someone was able to get the job done, they were hired. Age was just a number.

But given the growth of these companies from a team of 10 to 300 in the span of a few short months, businesses need leadership and maturity, two things that usually stem from experience. This is not to say that older means better but that a great leader is able to recognize what a company needs at Stage 1 is completely different than what it needs at Stage 3 and willing to implement the necessary changes.

Dara Khosrowshahi Humility

Source: Medium, Al Doan

Given the 48-year old’s track record leading Expedia to become “one of the largest online travel companies in the world” and positive reviews by Expedia senior execs, it isn’t surprising that 93% of employees told company review site Glassdoor that they currently approved of his leadership.

How many startups in the region can confidently say their leaders are this well-received?

Probably one of the biggest indicators of his maturity and most importantly, humility, is witnessed from the memo he wrote to Expedia staff regarding his departure obtained by Recode.

“This has been one of the toughest decisions of my life. I’ve had the privilege to run Expedia for 12+ years now, and most of you who have been on this journey with me know it has not been easy going.”

“I have to tell you I am scared. I’ve been here at Expedia for so long that I’ve forgotten what life is like outside this place,” he added.

Best of luck Dara.

Marilyn Monroe once sang, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” and it seems to be ringing true as Indonesia’s fine jewelry sales grew 13% from 2015 to 2016 reaching $1.57 million, according to Euromonitor.

The country’s upper-middle class households are expected to more than double by 2030 and the current existing 1.5 million are creating demand for gold, silver and metal combinations growing annually 7.8% until 2021 making Indonesia the fastest-growing in the world for jewelry sales.

Indonesia Jewelry Market

Model showcasing products at Orori event in Indonesia.

“Jewelry is part of the culture during wedding and childbirth [celebrations] for people in eastern Indonesia,” said president director Sandra Sunarto in Bandung, West Java. “They are more interested in buying heavier [jewelry] made of higher carats.”

It’s not difficult then to understand why George Budi Sumantri, CEO and founder of Indonesian online jeweler Orori, shut down his family’s offline business to focus on ecommerce in 2012 after taking over in 2003.

ecommerceIQ conducted an email interview with the founder to discover why and how he decided to sell a high AOV product in a country that is still skeptical about shopping online.

Pioneering jewelry trading online

At the time Sumantri decided to close down his offline operations, 80% of the company’s revenue came from its stores spread across Jakarta’s shopping centers.

While an extremely risky move, he believed that moving operations online would save the company money previously spent on sitting inventory and rental costs.

Within a year, the company racked up $1.3 million in revenue and as of 2017, Orori claims to have 2 million consumers and processing thousand of transactions per month.

Global sales of personal accessories are growing at 2%, internet retailing is experiencing double-digit growth. – Euromonitor 2016

“Yes, there are still people who like to shop in a physical store, but when you look closely at the urban population; young couples who plan to get married and the young people who are looking for Mother’s Day gifts, [they] love the practicality and ease of access that ecommerce offers,” said Sumantri.

As newly middle class female Indonesian consumers become savvier about her shopping prowess, she cares about choice—not just price and promotions.

Leaving no space for distrust

A common question asked by many skeptics remains, how do you sell a product with a high average order volume to a market that only began going online?

A quick browse through the site shows that wedding rings can start at roughly $220 and reach $6,000 depending on the carat and diamond cut.

Orori made sure consumers had no reason to doubt its reliability by arming the platform with certain features to ease the minds of shoppers.

For example, all of Orori’s more than 35,000 diamonds are certified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and each have a complete description along with product specifications.

The best way to merchandise premium categories to the discriminating Indonesian shopper is to visibly show price tags to aid comparison spending – Nielsen

For first time buyers, they can read the company’s blog OROREADS, to access online guides for buying jewelry, including how to select the right finger size, caring for fine jewelry and choosing a diamond size.

Still not convinced? The company offers a 100% money back guarantee and various payment options such as bank instalments, cashback, and a ‘buy now pay later’ programme that allows consumers to pay 30 days after they made the order.

For any stragglers with doubts, they can chat with an Orori agent, a feature that can increase conversions up to 6.3 times.

Indonesia Jewelry Market

Orori live chat offered on the website to answer questions regarding its high AOV products.

By providing all of these services, the company is hoping to encourage people to buy jewelry online as per the company’s tagline ‘Jewelry for Everyone’.

On its way to make the region sparkle 

Originally set to sell its own line of jewelry, Orori has since changed its business model to a marketplace to offer a variety of brands on its platform. Right now, the company has seven jewelers on its platform.

Sumantri targets Orori to reach $25 million of GMV in 2019 with annual transactions of 80,000.

The company also plans to move beyond the B2C sector and launch C2C and C2B (consumer-to-business) features by the end of the year. In addition to these aggressive targets, Orori has regional expansion plans starting with Singapore.

“The marketplace [model] will not only change consumer behavior about buying jewelry online, but will also help reputable brands in the industry extend their business beyond just brick-and-mortar,” said Sumantri.

Indonesia Jewelry Market

Orori CEO and founder George Budi Sumantri

Featured image credit: Leeviahan

Voice has always been a compelling way to activate certain human behaviors. It can stir women to distrust men based on voice pitch, it can soothe a crying baby, and now it’s being utilized to making shopping easier.

Well, that’s the hope.

Voice commerce is the new trend in online shopping that is piquing the interest of major players such as Google and Walmart. The two giants recently announced a one-month partnership to take on Amazon’s current dominance in the voice-shopping market.

Consumers in the US will be able to purchase any Walmart product through Google’s voice-activated assistant platform.

“For example, if you order Tide Pods or Gatorade, your Google Assistant will let you know which size and type you previously ordered from Walmart, making it easy for you to buy the right product again,” says Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice-president of ads & commerce at Google.

Walmart’s Head of Ecommerce Marc Lore shared that the retailer plans to expand the use of voice-activated shopping across its 4,700 stores to “create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else”.

To understand what currently exists and whether investing in voice-commerce makes sense, one must look to ecommerce giant Amazon and its strategy surrounding AI assistant Alexa.

Leading voice commerce, Amazon, of course

This year’s Prime Day, Amazon’s largest shopping event for its Prime members, happened on July 10 and theEcho Dotwas the best-selling product across any category globally, with customers purchasing seven times more of these devices this year than in 2016.

What are owners using Alexa to do?

Alexa Amazon Commerce

Alexa is typically being used to play music and set alarms/timers. Source: LivePerson

Amazon used Prime Day as a vehicle to increase its foothold in voice and offered premiums to influence a wave of shoppers to purchase these cylinder-shaped units. They included:

  • Voice shoppers had early access to select Prime Day deals a full two hours before the general public beginning
  • More than 100 Alexa exclusive deals were already available
  • First-time voice-shopping customers who purchased with Alexa before Prime Day received a $10 promo code
  • Amazon device owners could sign up for Prime via voice command. New members who signed up for Prime by voice got their first year of membership for $79, a $20 saving

LivePerson, a cloud-based software platform, surveyed over 500 Alexa owners in the US and discovered the following:

  • A significant majority (70.6%) of respondents have made a purchase on Amazon through an Alexa voice command at least once
Alexa Amazon Commerce

Electronics are the most popular category purchased through Alexa. Source: LivePerson

  • 45.8% of Alexa owners are repeat shoppers (meaning that, of consumers who give Alexa shopping a try once, almost two thirds turn into repeat users)
  • 70.6% of Alexa owners have an Amazon Prime account

By 2020, it’s projected that Amazon will sell 41.3 million of Echo units (each one retails for about $44.99). Having a physical presence in the household of many Americans gives Amazon a new channel of power.

Professor Scott Galloway of L2 placed an order for batteries on Alexa and discovered that the assistant would only recommend Amazon label products. Without the visual cue of product discovery, Alexa can strongly influence consumer buying decisions.

The voice trend has become so irresistible that even General Electric plans to soon sell a LED lamp with Alexa built in so consumers without an Echo can ask questions for information. Some food for thought.

One of the biggest pain points that most brand managers in traditional companies experience is internal push back when trying to drive their ecommerce initiatives forward.

Why is this?

Headlines like this:

Online sales eating into offline retailers profits
Ecommerce is killing traditional retail
Five signs that stores (not ecommerce) are the future of retail
The advantages of ecommerce over traditional retail

And this,

Ecommerce Case

A fashion item sold in store or online is still a sale made for the company. Source: ONESTOP

Creating an online retail channel requires resources and that could cause other departments to feel threatened but headlines like these create a ‘this or that’ type of mentality even within companies.

No matter which channel the sale is made, it’s all money going into the company’s pocket.

Given that online retail is usually pitted against traditional retail as “the enemy”, ecommerce managers have the uphill challenge of proving that this isn’t the case and actually, sometimes the complete opposite.

Re-thinking a traditional mindset

Fighting for more resources to be allocated to ecommerce becomes a struggle given the unpredictable nature of success online.

Open an offline store in a popular shopping center and it’s almost guaranteed to generate sales. Open an online store and fear that it will be lost in a sea of better keywords, better product images and even hungrier digital agencies.

But ecommerce is not new competition, it is simply another shop down the street that showcases what your brand is about. It can also be used to drive more foot traffic to your shop if conducted correctly.

Once the mindset, “you against me” is reversed, can ecommerce channels thrive on behalf of the brand.

The company will slowly learn a new business model described as “unified commerce” – where retail and the internet are not siloed but managed to complement one another.

Being able to utilize the internet to resurrect a brick-and-mortar brand will be vital to many brands currently stuck in an in-between situation.

Payless Shoesource in the United States is planning to close up to 500 of its stores for bankruptcy reorganization but will continue its operations in the Philippines – a market that they advocated for ecommerce almost since its inception in the country.

“It will be business as usual for Payless’ international operations, including the Philippines, as these business segments have been doing well and are profitable,” SSI Group Inc. said, Payless Philippines official distributor.

Making the ecommerce business case

Payless Philippines Ecommerce Project Manager, Thea Lizardo, spoke to a select audience at the ecommerceIQ x Google Ecommerce Masterclass in Manila earlier this year to share a few tips for managers advocating ecommerce internally.

Have a champion

This can be any individual in the company, preferably someone in the C-level ranks, who supports your mission to build a digital channel. When requesting for a larger budget or during monthly reporting, this ‘champion’ should be able to ensure enough resources are available to reach your growth targets.

ecommerceIQFrom experience, Thea knows that reporting may look deceiving to outlookers but that ecommerce managers should be able to understand and explain the numbers.

Brand milestones – highs – are usually followed by dips as the company reassess and allocates more spending to build the ‘front-end’ business (demand generation) by focusing on optimizing marketing, mobile, and product assortment, etc.

Employee advocacy

Often overlooked, a company’s employees can be the number one source for low-hanging free advertising fruit. As shared by Thea, 1,000 employees can be responsible for reaching one million customers, or creating 5,000 unique pieces of content all about your brand.

Their involvement in the company’s success online and knowledge of the ecommerce department’s progress will also build a sense of community and ownership.

ecommerceIQ Payless

Payless Philippines Ecommerce Project Manager, Thea Lizardo speaking at ecommerceIQ x Google PH Masterclass 2017