Gone were the days when millennials are the center of attention.

Projected to make up 40% of the global consumer base by 2020, Gen Z, those who were born between 1995 and 2010, is the new focus for brands around the world to market to. In Southeast Asia, this generation accounts for 277 million of the region’s 660 million population, with over 50% spending more than $30 a month on online shopping.

In his book, ‘The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility’, Gregg L. Witt’s highlights the needs for brands to look beyond the confines of traditional segmentation and focus on cultivating relationships when targeting the consumers from this cohort as they are driven by sincerity and authenticity from brands and its marketing tactics.

What makes them tick?

Growing up with ready access to the Internet doesn’t make Gen Z be more inclined to do online shopping as the connectivity of it all also make them more impatient. They want what they want when they want it.

However, access to smartphones and the Internet do keep them well informed and they care more about the end-to-end brand experience, especially one that have close ties with their social values.

Being digital-natives, this generation is more attuned to technological development and constantly craving new experiences the technology can provide for their shopping journeys such as voice and visual search. The latter part is especially popular when paired with social media, another influential aspect in the life of Gen-Z. 33% of them said they’ve made a purchase after seeing the production social media.

Snap’s Eagle feature that sends users to Amazon’s app or site to buy the product they scan; TechCrunch

“Because they came of age with online shopping and branded social media campaigns, they have even higher expectations for digital shopping experiences,” – Forbes

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are already capitalizing on their users. Facebook Marketplace already has 800 million users on its platform, making it one of the biggest competitors to existing marketplaces and increasingly important for brands to turn their social media fan page into a sales channel.

It’s about the experience

In Southeast Asia, it’s increasingly common to see ecommerce players and brands employ more creative tactics in the hope to engage their youngest audience.

Taking a page out of Alibaba’s book, Lazada went all out for their 7th birthday celebration, dubbed as the Lazada Super Party, with the performance from 2019 Grammy winner Dua Lipa and several local celebrities to create a “shoppertainment” experience for their shoppers across the six markets via live-streaming.

Gamification is also a popular strategy used by companies to engage consumers from this generation. From ecommerce players like Lazada, Shopee, and Qoo10, as well as ride-hailing app Go-Jek, they’re all employed in-app games to provide a more interactive way for their consumers to earn rebates and points to shop on the platforms.

The entertainment features e-marketplaces across the region introduced to enhance the in-app experience

Meanwhile, cosmetics brand L’Oreal partners with Watsons to introduce an in-app virtual make-up testing service on Watsons’ mobile application across Asia. The feature lets consumers create their own looks, capture it in photos and videos, then ordered the products they use to create the looks.

These experiences are only some of the examples of a unique selling proposition that can attract this generation and it’s important for brands to be more flexible in trying something new in order to appeal to the consumers. Every generation presents a different challenge for brands to stay relevant and with the authenticity the Gen-Z expects from brands, this generation may take you on the experience of a lifetime.

If you ask someone from Generation Y — more known as millennials — what they’re aspired to be growing up, you are more likely to hear answers involving occupations like doctors, engineers, or lawyers. However, ask people from Generation Z, and you will be surprised by how many of them mention social media influencer.

Why are more people pursuing this career path? Simple. They get paid to do something that they already love to do on a daily basis: posting on social media.

An influencer, someone with a substantial number of followers on social media, can generate a paycheck in the range of from US$124 to US$1,405 for one sponsored post, depending on the follower count.

How come a social media post worth that much? Moreover, why are so many brands willing to invest time and money in influencer marketing? 

The Influence of Social Media

One reason why influencer marketing becomes a powerful marketing tool is that influencers understand what today’s consumers want. Many of these influencers are regular people that gained their followers by curating contents that resonate with many people — earning them the power to influence their audience’s opinion and are more likely to be trusted by consumers.

Tofugear found that 55% of Gen Z consumers bought products due to the content shared by influencers. TBWA\Hakuhodo’s chief creative officer and executive creative director, Kazoo Sato, explained the phenomenon.

Influencers brings an entirely different perspective from ad agency creators. He understands what creates buzz for the smart-phone obsessed generation, and we intend to leverage this sensibility and perspective to involve brands in culture.

As a result, they’re able to devise contents that appeal to the brand’s target customers.

It’s also worth noting that influencers usually have their own niche and have followers that are interested in the same group, allowing brands to target the right audience effectively. Markerly found that those with fewer followers have higher engagement rates, most likely because the audience is interested in the product or the topic the influencer is advocating rather than just being fans of the influencer.

Figure 1: Instagram accounts with fewer followers have higher engagement rates; Markerly

In a region where social media is highly popular like Southeast Asia, where 55% of the population (around 360 million people) are avid social media users, it’s become more critical for brands to gain relevancy among their consumers in this platform.

Figure 2: Social media users in Southeast Asia account for only 55% of the entire region’s population; Hootsuite, We Are Social

Thanks to social media exposure, younger consumers also have an easier time connecting with the other consumers online and trust their opinion more than the ‘official’ brand channels or traditional media, because these people have experienced using it or are experts in the specific field.

The rise of social media usage has also raised the popularity of social commerce in this region. According to PayPal, 80% of Asian merchants use social media to sell online. The number is even higher for the three largest Southeast Asian countries. Thailand recorded the highest percentage of merchants using social commerce at 95%, followed by 87% of Philippines merchants, and 80% of Indonesian merchants.

Figure 3: Social commerce is popular among Asian merchants; PayPal

Case Study: Building a $1 Billion Business through Instagram

One of the most successful examples of influencer marketing is Daniel Wellington (DW), a Swedish watch company established in 2011. During its initial conception, DW is famous for leveraging several smaller influencers on Instagram to promote their product instead of choosing a celebrity to gain the same ‘viral’ effect with lower cost. 

By contacting many of these smaller influencers to post images of them wearing the DW watch in exchange for a free watch, the brand manages to invoke public curiosity and place their products in the eyes of potential customers and have the images speak for itself.

Figure 4: A Daniel Wellington Instagram post by Thai influence bikwansr; Bikwans’ Instagram

The result? Almost 4,700% revenue growth in the three years leading to 2015.

An effect to this extent won’t be as easy to achieve now as it did before as more brands are utilizing Instagram as their marketing channel and the platform has since set up posting guidelines to make it more transparent for users to see whether or not an advertiser sponsors a post. Still, it’s evident how powerful influencer marketing is when done right.

The Key to Influencing

There isn’t one right answer on how to choose the right influencer(s) for brands. However, there are some key rules brands should keep in mind when doing influencer marketing.

1. Alignment with Brand’s Audience

Know your audience. Enlist the influencer that has the same audience as your brand or product is targeting to, to ensure your message falls into the right ears and maximize the promotional effectiveness. One of the brands that did a good job with this was Lenovo.

Brief: To promote its new product line of YOGA 3 Pro and YOGA Tablet 2 Pro computers, Lenovo hired influencers, bloggers, and YouTubers to advertise their product on their platform using images, videos, and blogs that detailed their day using the product and promoted a giveaway. One of the influencers that were chosen was Kileen, a Dallas software developer and fashion blogger that works full time and has two kids.

The rationale behind this influencer: As a mom and fashion and beauty blogger, Kileen’s audiences are active, fashion-conscious women who are interested in fashion or lifestyle products. This match with Lenovo’s target, which wanted to position their YOGA 3 Pro and YOGA Tablet 2 Pro computers as a product that can be used daily for all kind of consumers, including active women.

Result: Although the blog post was only able to attract 62 comments, with other posts from other influencers, the campaign was able to garner 51 million social impressions and rank number eight as trending national topic in the US on Twitter. The giveaway also attracted over 61,000 entries.

Figure 5: A blog post by fashion and beauty blogger Kileen regarding Lenovo YOGA Pro 3; Kileen’s blog

2. The Influencer’s Engagement Rate

Brands should also take into account an influencer’s capability on engaging the audience and whether or not they’re someone your target audience can relate to and trust on, just like what Clinique did.

Brief: To promote better skin care routine among Men audience in general and introduce their new product line for men, Clinique for Men, the cosmetics and skincare brand partnered with 37 influencers from numerous fields, including stylists, filmmakers, lifestyle bloggers, and outdoorsmen. One of the influencers it worked with was Mikey de Temple, a surfer, photographer, and filmmaker from New York.  

The rationale behind this influencer: By partnering with someone unrelated to the fashion industry and more known for his professional works, Clinique was able to display how its new product line is used by regular people as a part of their daily activities.

Result: Despite his post only acquiring 748 likes (around 2.68% engagement rate), the campaign from the 37 influencers was able to garner an engagement rate of 3%, or 3.8 times higher than the post from Clinique’s official Instagram account. The campaign was also able to achieve 2.4 million impressions and over 67,000 interactions.

Figure 6: An Instagram post by surfer, filmmaker, and photographer Mikey de Temple to promote Clinique for Men; mikeydetemple’s Instagram

3. Do Homework on the Influencers

When choosing the influencers, it’s also important to see the history of their professional works to be able to judge their integrity and make sure all parties involved can able to meet all contractual obligations to prevent any future problems. Sadly, many brands failed to do this when they hired Instagram influencer and local photographer Daryl Aiden Yow.

Brief: Numerous big brands like Reebok, Dyson, Uniqlo, and Sony had hired Singaporean photographer and Instagram influencer Daryl Aiden Yow to promote their products on his Instagram platform. However, Mothership.SG exposed how he had been using stock photos from websites like Shutterstock and Pinterest and photoshopping himself in the images to promote their brands. Critically, Mustsharenews claimed that Yow had done this with the brands’ full awareness and approval.

The rationale behind this influencer: With Daryl Aiden Yow’s reputation as a photographer and his production of high-quality images, having him promote products on social media would show how picturesque and good the products are to his 115,000 Instagram followers.

Result: Post the expose, many individuals like APD’s Tim Sharp and Singaporean influencer Wendy Cheng and brands like Scoot and F&N Seasons have slammed both Yow and the brands. This not only damaged his reputation as an influencer but also brought down numerous brands’ name, resulting in contract termination from brands such as Sony and Issey Miyake.  

Figure 7: The number of Instagram posts on Yow’s channel drastically decreased from 1165 posts to 42 posts; darylaiden’s Instagram

Influencer marketing is an effective way to directly reach and attract your target audience without needing to spend millions of dollars on advertisements. However, like any other best marketing practices, personalization is needed when choosing these influencers to make sure you reach the highest level of engagement and in turn, your conversion rate.

Earlier this year, Amazon partnered with the Vietnam Ecommerce Association (VECOM) to provide ecommerce services for local online businesses under VECOM. They also held numerous workshops for sellers, the latest one being in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, called Selling Globally on Amazon.

Similarly, Alibaba-backed AliExpress has been looking to sign up more Vietnamese sellers on its platform since July as it teams up with OSB Investment and Technology JSC to support international exports by Vietnamese small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Why Vietnam?

Vietnam is one of the biggest exporters in the world, ranked at number 28 out of 225 countries at $214 billion of export value in 2017. Based on 2016’s exports data, Vietnam’s main exports are machinery products, textile goods, and footwear and headwear products.

Figure 1: Vietnam’s amount of exports and its categories in 2016; OEC

Vietnam has become a manufacturing hub with one of the lowest minimum wages in the ASEAN region at $147 to $167 per month (Figure 2). Expanding infrastructure for new projects and a rapidly increasing working age group have promoted low-cost mass-production with many global companies establishing manufacturing bases in the country.

Global companies are benefitting from low production costs but local businesses also have access to ready-to-sell goods at competitive prices. In Vietnam, some 600,000 SMEs are searching for appropriate channels to expand their market share. Ecommerce offers this opportunity from the comfort of their homes.

Figure 2: Minimum wage in ASEAN for 2017; World Economic Forum, Philippines’ National Wage and Productivity Commission, The ASEAN Post

As in all other developing countries, ecommerce in Vietnam is mushrooming. Statista forecast annual growth at 16.8%, higher than Thailand (12.8%) and Indonesia (13%). However, the Vietnamese market is small and still in its infancy. Therefore, the international market offers economic opportunities for local retailers.

Vietnamese merchants are attracted to global e-marketplaces which access customers searching for a broader variety of products and enable international sales at low cost. Online merchandising boosts sales while mitigating the risks of the local economic downturn.

AliExpress executive Yang Ninh commented, “Vietnam, as one of the most diverse manufacturers in the world, is an important destination for Alibaba.”

Comparing between Amazon and AliExpress

To know which platform suits Vietnamese sellers, we compared the specifications of the two platforms in the table below.

Amazon

AliExpress

  • 2.435 billion monthly visits at an average of 6 minutes per visit
  • Most Amazon customers have a high annual income (above $30,000)
  • Visitors are mainly from the Americas, Australia, Western Europe, and South and East Asia (Figure 3)
  • Available in different languages with localized websites in the US, UK, and Japan
  • Monthly subscription fee of $39.99 for those selling over 40 items per month – professional plan or per-item fee of $0.99 for each item sold – individual plan
  • Referral fee of 3-45% of total sales price or a $1 applicable minimum referral fee, whichever is greater, depending on the product category
  • Shipments completed either by sellers using courier services from providers like UPS, DHL and local post or fulfillment by Amazon
  • 549 million monthly visits at an average of 8 minutes per visit
  • Most AliExpress customers have lower annual income (below $30,000)
  • Visitors are mainly from the Americas, Australia, Europe, Asia, and a few African countries (Figure 3)
  • Available in different languages such as French, Spanish, and Korean serving over 200 countries
  • Annual service fee of at least $1,436 (RMB 10,000) and 5-8% seller commission; amount depends on the product category
  • Annual service fees are eligible for 50% and 100% discount if sales reach a certain amount depending on the product category
  • Shipments completed either by sellers, AliExpress or other delivery companies

Figure 3: Where visitors of Amazon (top) and AliExpress (bottom) are located and their average income; Alexa

Whether Vietnamese sellers choose Amazon or AliExpress depends on the target market

Those selling high-end, expensive products may prefer to sell on Amazon because site visitors have higher purchasing power and the majority hail from developed countries. Those wishing to target consumers in the Americas may also prefer Amazon which has a stronger top-of-mind awareness in the region.

Conversely, AliExpress offers Vietnamese sellers a wider global customer base. AliExpress has a more extensive global presence (Figure 3), with site visitors to the platform spending on average 2 minutes longer than at Amazon.

However, the annual service fee at AliExpress is higher than Amazon. Sellers with limited funds or those just starting out might be better to opt for Amazon which also offers different pricing plans for individuals and professionals. Meanwhile, AliExpress discounts annual service fees for retailers if they manage to attain the required annual sales specified for particular categories. This offers value for those selling hundreds or thousands of items.

Vietnam has many local ecommerce players, providing sellers with alternative options for domestically growth. However, reliance on these e-marketplaces alone is not sufficient for Vietnamese sellers to tap international customers.  Listing on either or both of the AliExpress or Amazon platforms offers the most realistic opportunity to maximize sales.

Earlier this month, Shopee launched Shopee for Men in the Philippines, an in-app store offering male-oriented products in various categories, ranging from Electronics and Sports to Fashion and Personal Care.

Figure 1: Landing page for Shopee for Men in the Philippines; Shopee Philippines

Similar to the strategy adopted for the main platform, Shopee for Men offers big discounts to attract the male audience. By leveraging its partnership with brands for ShopeeMall, the platform curates the selected products of numerous leading brands favored by the male population such as Asus, Xiaomi, Bosch, and Spalding. The platform also offered limited sales of the newly released iPhone XS during its promotional period.  

Why did Shopee launch its Men platform in the Philippines?

The Philippines is the third market where Shopee launched its dedicated platform for Men, after the previous launch in Indonesia and Thailand, and it’s not without reason.

The country has a slightly higher male population (53.8 million) than female (52.8 million), and the Filipino male population is forecast to rise over the years steadily. Moreover, most of the Philippines’ population belong the younger generations of millennials and gen-Z. These generations are more likely to be digital-savvy, have higher purchasing power, and more willingness to spend money. In short, the driver of ecommerce growth in the Philippines.

Figure 2: There are more male than female in the Philippines; PopulationPyramid.net

A report from Paypal and Ipsos already forecasts the country’s online spending to increase by 32% in 2018 to $2.2 billion (PHP 121. 9 billion) from $1.7 billion (PHP 92.5 billion) in 2017.

However, online shoppers in the Philippines are still predominantly female, presenting a mostly untapped male audience with stronger purchase power, as found in our latest e-marketplace survey.

Figure 3: Male online shoppers in the Philippines are more likely to spend more per online purchase; ecommerceIQ E-Marketplace Survey Philippines 2018

What do Filipino male consumers usually buy online?

OLX Data Hub found that Filipino male consumers like to shop online for items in categories like furniture, sports, health items, and surprisingly baby-related goods. Millennial men primarily are the driver of this growth.

Figure 4: The top three categories with the highest growth in 2016; OLX Data Hub

Shopee’s Head of Commercial Business Macy Castillo confirms this finding as they discovered men aged 25-30 years old mainly buy wellness, hobbies, and sporting goods. However, they also found that the top purchases among age groups differ.

The 20-24-year-olds group tends to buy more fashion items. This group also shops online more often than other age groups, despite their lower purchasing power since they’re either university students or first-time job seekers.

Meanwhile, skincare and baby & children products are more popular among the 31-35-year-olds group, of whom are more likely to have a family and already in the working force, giving them a higher purchasing ability to buy items that are more costly like wellness and children goods.

Figure 5: Most Filipino men marry at ages 25-29; Philippine Statistics Authority

What’s the most popular online platform for Filipino men?

Generally speaking, Lazada is the most popular B2C e-marketplace preferred by most Filipinos, followed by Shopee and Zalora in the second and third rank, respectively.

Figure 6: Number of visitors to Philippines’ B2C ecommerce platforms in October 2018; SimilarWeb, ecommerceIQ

Women make up for the majority of online shoppers in the Philippines, and it can be seen in these sites’ demographic as well. As such, there are more products available on the site for women than men online.

Figure 7: Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora’s visitors are mainly composed of Filipino women; Alexa

For example, a simple search of “men” in Lazada will give you around 4 million items whereas “women” will display almost triple the number (11.8 million) — showing the disparity in the number of goods available for different genders. A similar search on Shopee will also show the same result, depicting high opportunity for ecommerce companies to appeal to the Filipino male consumers.

Figure 8: Search results on Shopee for “Men” and “Women” on 15 October 2018; Shopee Philippines

According to the same Paypal report, the top two reasons to shop online for Filipino consumers are convenience (82%) and the availability of multiple platforms (52%). By presenting male consumers the same convenience to compare hundreds of similar items within minutes and providing more products for them, we can expect to see a rising influx of Filipino male consumers on these platforms in the coming years.

How can ecommerce websites attract more male shoppers?

Having a website or a dedicated landing page solely for male shoppers is a step in the right direction as it allows them to save time from having to comb through products mainly positioned for females and lets them start shopping immediately.

Although in general men and women shoppers value the same characteristics from online shopping platforms, our survey found the subtle differences that e-marketplaces can use to take advantage of in attracting the male segment.

One of the most important values for male shoppers is site reputation, as they’re less likely to browse through multiple sites everytime they’re doing their shopping. By offering an overall good shopping experience and providing additional values such as same-day delivery, a better mobile app, and easy return policy, e-marketplace have higher chance to convert them to be loyal shoppers.

Figure 9: Comparison of the importance of ecommerce characteristics between men and women; ecommerceIQ E-Marketplace Survey Philippines 2018

Compared to women, men tend to shop less frequently online. But many of them are more willing to shop in full price retailers and spend more money per purchase, illustrating how men might not be as price-sensitive as female consumers.

Online platforms like Shopee need to offer more than just low price to get more men to want to shop online.

Figure 10: Online shopping frequency comparison between men and women; ecommerceIQ E-Marketplace Survey Philippines 2018

It’s early days for the male online shoppers in the Philippines, and the verdict isn’t out yet, but if the data says anything, there’s no doubting the potential of this segment. And if Shopee’s attempt proves to gain enough traction, we can expect more male-oriented online platforms in Southeast Asia in the future.

The fourth quarter is always the busiest season for retailers and brands across the world, Southeast Asia is no exception. The wave of mega sales typically observed offline during Black Friday in December have moved online thanks to prolific marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba and Lazada. These campaigns now occur consecutively on 9.9, 11.11, and 12.12 (September 9th, November 11th, and December 12th) and cause headaches for brands new to ecommerce.

Businesses must plan ahead well in advance with multiple partners to hit their annual online revenue targets as up to 40% of GMV can be generated in the last three months of the year.

To help brands make the best of the shopping season, these are 10 strategies based on experience working with e-marketplaces, talking to ecommerce enablers, and data from some of the biggest brands across Southeast Asia.

While this guide is most applicable to enhancing performance during the upcoming “mega online sales campaigns” held by players like Lazada and Shopee in Southeast Asia, brands can increase chances to maximize sales and minimize costly mistakes with the findings.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Promotions & Merchandising

Getting this part right may sound trivial but it’s the main ingredient for a successful sales campaign. If the product offering clashes with offline deals and/or pricing is weak, no matter how much is spent on marketing, there will unlikely be high sales volumes

This is akin to achieving product-market fit prior to scaling your business.

So how should brands approach this? Well, what are brands trying to get out of these mega sales – revenues or general visibility/awareness?

In the case of the former, brands need to secure prime real estate on a marketplace such as the homepage or category page, which are typically allocated based on attractive discounts, online traffic and cash vouchers.

In order to drive revenue, exclusive “doorbuster” deals are especially important when top competitors – official and grey market sellers alike – selling similar or identical items are dropping prices.

Mass market brands are free to offer discounts, whereas premium market brands cannot use discounting as a viable strategy (channel conflict) and should look at adding value via bundling and exclusive GWP (Gift With Purchase). These tactics work well without having to tarnish the brand in the long-term.

In the case of visibility/awareness, more budget should be allocated to advertising and promotions to drive traffic to an upgraded shop-in-shop design to make a good first impression on new shoppers.

Brands can also utilize data tools to evaluate their positive in a competitive landscape (examples include BrandIQ) and benchmark competitor SKUs, promos and pricing ahead of the online sales festival.

ecommerce holiday strategies

BrandIQ Marketplace Analytics & Digital Shelf Monitoring

Planning and approval of the pricing strategy for end year – final list of SKUs, pricing, bundles and GWPs – will take the longest time. The brand then needs to share this plan ahead of a ‘freezing period’ to let marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee evaluate and approve the campaigns. And relative to the e-marketplaces other seller applications, it will allocate site visibility.

2. Inventory & Stock

Once SKUs and pricing is set, brands need to ensure there is enough physical stock to meet the forecasted demand.

This requires scrubbing historical data, if available, and use proxy data points like offline channel sales if not.

With a forecast in place, products are ordered and inbounding slots at partner or brand fulfillment centers are reserved and dedicated to online sales. This should all be completed at minimum two weeks in advance.

Lastly, brands should set up automatic ‘out of stock’ triggers to receive emails and SMS whenever a product sells out. This can also be applied strategically to competitor SKUs too through tools like BrandIQ – this allows ecommerce store managers to respond with targeted pricing promotions whenever a key competitor SKU runs out.

ecommerce holiday strategies

Price change triggers in BrandIQ

3. Traffic Acquisition

A common dilemma faced by brands during sales season is whether or not to double down on marketing spend.

CPCs (cost-per-clicks) are typically higher during a period when other brands are prioritizing and spending aggressively on marketing. The idea behind this is returns tend to be higher too because of higher conversion rates resulting from more competitive SKUs, pricing and bundles.

If a brand can afford it, it’s recommended to increase spending during the sales season. In addition, a “warm-up” or teaser campaign prior to the big launch is also recommended and actually required by marketplaces like Lazada.

Brands also perform better when leveraging an existing customer email database or mobile phone list or building them using formats like Facebook Lead Ads well before the shopping season, when CPCs are still relatively low.

ecommerce holiday strategies

Facebook Lead Ads to build up email database ahead of the sales season

With this targeted database, brands can drive traffic during the sales campaign by sending emails or SMS to the list with promo codes to be used online during targeted dates.

While barter deals are more effective for brands to gain better on-site visibility, it’s also recommended to allocate budget to marketplace paid ads such as Lazada Sponsored Products and Shopee My Ads. These ad formats are still affordable compared to Facebook and Google ads and help acquire users when they’re already in a shopping mindset. They also help brands stand out on category pages as well as competitor product detail pages.

ecommerce holiday strategies

Shopee My Ads

But when multiple brands are fighting for the same site banner placements, exclusivity and doorbuster deals are prioritized by marketplaces over sponsored ads.

Beyond the typical Facebook and Google paid ads to drive traffic, brands can also look into non-conventional channels such as Quora Ads and Shopback. CPCs and CPAs (cost-per-acquisition) are often lower due to less competition.

4. Traffic Activation & Conversion

Driving traffic is not enough; they need to convert into sales. To do this, brands have several levers to pull.

First, upgrade to an official shop-in-shop format if not yet done already. Commission fees will increase but this format goes beyond just a badge as it improves product search ranks and peace of mind for shoppers worried about authentic goods.

Maybelline Official LazMall Shop-in-Shop on Lazada Thailand

High-conversion shop-in-shop layouts. Source: aCommerce Shop-in-Shop Design Gallery.

The typical customer journey on marketplaces goes from the shop-in-shop homepage → category pages → product detail pages (PDPs).

The product detail pages is where customers need to be incentivized to “add to cart”. PDP optimization requires descriptive and rich product titles, images, body content, etc.

ecommerce holiday strategies

NIVEA product detail page optimization

One important element of PDPs are customer ratings and reviews. Unfortunately, most reviews on marketplaces in Southeast Asia tend to be few and often, not very helpful. To acquire more high quality reviews, either connect the brand.com product reviews/ratings to the Lazada product page or if no brand.com exists, leverage tools such as ReviewIQ to generate more reviews for certain SKUs on Lazada and Shopee.

ecommerce holiday strategies

NIVEA customer reviews generated via ReviewIQ

Another driver for conversions is live chat offered by both Lazada and Shopee. This is a great opportunity to increase conversions, especially for more expensive or complex products that require product detail exchange between the buyer and the merchant.

With an estimated one-third of ecommerce transactions in Thailand happening through Instagram, Facebook and LINE, users have come to expect live chat in other B2C channels as well.

ecommerce holiday strategies

Lazada Thailand live chat

ecommerce holiday strategies

Shopee live chat

For brands selling directly to customers via their own brand.com sites, an abandoned cart email should be active to regain lost revenue as well as retargeting pixels to drop cookies for a retargeting campaign during and right after the mega sales period.

5. Customer Service

From a CS perspective, brands need to prepare their customer service team on best-selling product details, pricing and overall campaign. In addition, having a master FAQ document or wiki that’s circulated ahead of time will allow CS teams or a dedicated agent to operate more efficiently during the campaign period.

If allowed, brands may want to scale up CS staff with temporary labor accounting for the increase in demand during the sales period. This should be tied back to the demand forecast. Platforms like Helpster in Thailand and Indonesia offer brands an easy way to quickly ramp up temporary staff.

6. Monitoring

A large and often negative impact on a brand’s performance online is the abundance of grey market sellers that undercut product prices.

As marketplaces aren’t incentivized to remove grey sellers selling authentic products and will only delist pirated goods, brands can only focus on improving their own product selection, search rank and educating its consumers on its official online channels.

In addition to raising concerns to the marketplace on removing counterfeit goods, brands can use BrandIQ to track grey market SKUs or other brands that impact its promotions, e.g. Mimi Poko vs. Mamy Poko:

ecommerce holiday strategies

Mimi Poko on Lazada Thailand

7. Packaging

Packaging seems mundane in comparison to the other sales levers but it’s a customer touch point to increase repurchase rates. In addition to an eye-pleasing design and quality of the packaging itself, promotions via flyers or vouchers to drive follow-up actions such as cross-sell and up-sell.

ecommerce holiday strategies

Pedigree box design

8. Fulfillment & Delivery

Customers value packages to be delivered in a quick and efficient manner.

ecommerce holiday strategies

Lazada customer chat with merchant complaining about expected delivery times.

For brands to succeed here in the last mile, we recommend the following:

  • Organize the warehouse set up at least one week ahead of time – reserved inbound, outbound slots – to ensure delivery to customers within SLA
  • Give the warehouse the estimated order volume factoring in marketing, promotions, and competition well ahead of time
  • Prepare enough packaging material such as carton boxes, bubble wrap, packing foam, etc. to meet forecasted demand
  • Align with 3PLs to ensure its capabilities to pick up and deliver packages given the high volume
  • Prepare an on-demand delivery resource in case of over-capacity, e.g. LINEMAN, Grab Delivery

9. Business Operations

Ecommerce is a cross-functional, team-based effort, especially during the mega sales period where tight-knit coordination is the difference between hitting record highs or dropping the ball:

  • Set up war room dedicated to a cross-functional team that manages all operations during the campaign period. Prepare food because it’s going to be long stretches of day and night and weekends as 9.9 and 11.11 both happen on Sunday
  • The team needs to proactively monitor active campaigns during the day to ensure everything is synced properly, e.g. stock, price, etc. and may even needs to reply quickly to customer chats if CS is overwhelmed
  • Marketing and store managers to check all campaign landing pages after launch. Last thing needed is money spent on driving traffic to 404 pages
  • Debrief / post-mortem for the next big sale (right around the corner)

10. Website Stability

To avoid mishaps such as Amazon’s very own Prime Day meltdown, these tips apply only if a brand is running its own brand.com site, not marketplace shop-in-shop:

  • 2-3 weeks prior to peak period, perform a load test (also known as a stress test) to determine the traffic limits of your existing infrastructure setup. This will arm you with the knowledge of server limits and determine benchmark for an upgrade
  • Upgrade server processing power and network bandwidth 24-48 hours ahead of campaign day to be able to handle the spike in traffic
  • Test promotions, for sanity and determine if any loopholes
  • Enforce a code freeze period (no deployments) to reduce the risk of introducing bugs from new features during or prior to peak period
  • Prior to, communicate to web support teams to be readily available and on standby for peak trading. Hope for the best, prepare for the worse

But regardless of the above, performance will be determined by the right online channel for your brand or product category. Based on ecommerceIQ research, Shopee is a preferred platform by consumers for female-oriented categories like fashion and mom and baby items, whereas Lazada is preferred for categories such as electronics and home appliances.

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Brands without inhouse ecommerce capabilities tend to work with ecommerce enablers to optimize their online performance. Contact us for a free consulting session: hello@ecommerceIQ.asia

Chinese ecommerce platform JD is lesser known amongst international audiences, but its mid-annual 618 shopping festival generated almost $25 billion in gross merchandise value this past June. The company has a 33% share of China’s B2C ecommerce market and generates more direct revenues than Alibaba. Google’s latest $550 million strategic investment in the company is the latest in a series of partnerships JD has orchestrated, as it seeks to challenge Alibaba and Amazon for ecommerce dominance in both China and the rest of the world.

JD’s Direct Retailing Model Gives it a Strong Competitive Advantage

JD’s business model is distinct from that of Alibaba’s in that it is a direct retailer – meaning that it purchases inventory wholesale and sells products directly to individual customers, rather than simply acting as an intermediary between buyers and sellers. Approximately 92% of its business comes from direct sales, whereas for Amazon this figure hovers around 50%.

JD stocks its own inventory in its vast proprietary network of nearly 500 warehouses across China, each of which is situated strategically close to consumers to ensure fast delivery. JD also employs an in-house delivery force of over 65,000 warehousing and delivery workers. During the 618 festival this year, JD was able to deliver 90% of its goods within two days.

This dedication to customer service requires a significant amount of capital to sustain, but JD has been able to stand out from its competitors.

JD claws its way up to a 33% market share in an industry where Alibaba was previously thought to be unbeatable.

Richard Liu, CEO of JD.com delivering goods during their ‘618’ Mid Year Sales Source: Internet

The Borderless Retail Alliance

To compete with Alibaba, JD has enlisted the help of numerous partners. In China, this includes internet giants Tencent and Baidu, in addition to its partnerships with the likes of vertical-focused ecommerce platforms Vipshop and Meili Inc. Tencent owns 18% of JD’s shares and partnered with JD to invest $864 million in China’s third largest ecommerce platform Vipshop this past December. JD made its claim to fame by selling electronics to a predominantly male user base, and such partnerships with Vipshop and Meili, both of which sell a combination of apparel and cosmetics, help the company appeal to a broader female base.

America’s largest retailer Wal-Mart owns 10% of JD’s shares and has been a strategic partner since 2016 when it first sold its ecommerce division Yihaodian to JD Google, despite having a limited presence in the China market, announced a $550 million investment in JD this past June. Both of these strategic partnerships will be key as JD prepares to expand its business overseas.

Google’s Data Will Help JD Catch Up Overseas

Ecommerce platforms such as JD spend an enormous amount of money on search ads every year, to ensure that their products show up in search results. As they grow bigger, however, internet users can go directly to ecommerce platforms to search for products, which presents a threat to Baidu’s and Google’s search ads business. Partnering with JD allows Google to hedge against this problem.

Google’s extensive ecommerce data can give JD better insights into the buying behavior of users, and JD will have a better idea of how to target users via Google’s broad ads network. This will be a significant asset as it attempts to catch up with local competitors in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US.

Wal-Mart and JD Make the Perfect Couple

US retail giant Wal-Mart has been partners with JD since 2016 when it sold its online business Yihaodian to JD in exchange for a 5% equity stake worth $1.5 billion. That stake has since grown to 10%. In China, Wal-Mart leverages JD’s marketplace and users to sell directly to Chinese consumers online, complementing its offline business in the country. For JD, Wal-Mart is a key supplier for the JD Daojia platform, which is an on-demand delivery service that delivers groceries to customers within a one-hour time frame.

JD also sells its goods offline in Wal-Mart stores and uses them as distribution centers from which last-mile delivery can be carried out. Since JD is an online retailer without many offline retail stores, the addition of Wal-Mart’s physical locations across China is a considerable asset as it looks to expand its user base via omnichannel marketing strategies. JD is planning to expand to the US market by the end of this year, and the potential expansion of this partnership model means that JD may have a chance to catch up with Amazon, especially since the two can leverage economies of scale and source goods in bulk.

JD Dao Jia partnered with Wal-Mart on sales promotion Source: Internet

JD Goes Global

With an impressive set of partnerships under its belt, JD has the capability to challenge Alibaba and, potentially Amazon, on the global stage. JD has already set up international ecommerce site Joybuy in Spain this year and is looking to expand to Germany. JD has also launched local websites in Thailand and Indonesia under the JD brand. JD has publicly announced its intention to enter the US market by the end of 2018, with a beachhead office located in Los Angeles. The company plans to undercut its competitors and also help Chinese brands like Xiaomi expand to the US.

While it is still early stages, what is certain is that JD’s global expansion will be very interesting to watch going forward.

Written by Don Zhao, Co-founder and Executive Director of Azoya