One hundred two billion dollars. That’s how much the value of ecommerce in Southeast Asia is estimated to exceed by 2025.

The latest e-Conomy of Southeast Asia report by Google and Singapore-based Temasek confirmed the growing confidence among investors in the region. Startups raised $9.1 billion in the first half of last year, almost as much as throughout the whole of 2017.

2018 was dubbed as the year of ecommerce for the region, so what can we expect in 2019? We speak to industry leaders to discover the anticipated trends for online retailers and brands in Southeast Asia.

1. Brands Shift Their Focus from Data Gathering to Data Utilization

The biggest differentiator between online and offline retail is the ability to track, collect, monitor, and manage information, all in real time.

Through online channels, brands are able to access customer data through chats, social media, and their own websites. This information can be used to devise online strategies. Globally, 73% of brands plan to allocate their ecommerce budget on data & analytics services in 2019.

However, despite the general agreement of its importance, many brands still have no concept of how to utilize data to their advantage.

“Even today, not all retailers have embraced data fully to the point where they think of themselves as data companies, and this might be why many companies are suffering.” Harvard Business School Professor Srikant M. Datar.

Data collection is easy but having and optimizing the analytics capability to use it is a completely different ball game.

A survey by ecommerceIQ identified data analysis as one of the most difficult skills to find among the digital talents in Southeast Asia. Brands are constantly searching for data aggregators to consolidate information into one place for convenient retrieval and use to target, retarget, and personalize products and services.

Reagan Chai, Head of Regional Business Intelligence and Business Development at Shopee told ecommerceIQ that data acquisition enables the company to map out and optimize buyer and seller user experience while pre-empting customer demand and anticipating future potential. The company has seen an increase in website traffic in the past year that even surpasses the other regional players.

In China, Alibaba and JD.com have taken this a step further by utilizes the data gathered online to improve inventories and experiences at their physical stores. Alibaba Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Tung said the company wants to help brands find the right consumers by tracking them throughout Alibaba’s system.

“We’re finding all data that has to do with people, their behavior, what they like, what they buy and binding this online data to real people,” concluded Chris.

Seeing the need, regional brand ecommerce enabler aCommerce launched a data analytics platform BrandIQ last year to enhance their capabilities as a data partner to help brands centralize their customer data and offer customized products or services to each target group.

The capabilities of BrandIQ that aim to enhance brands’ performance on online marketplace; BrandIQ

This leaves brands with two options: find an economical way to utilize the data or continue looking for a needle in a haystack.

2. Social Commerce Channels are Brands’ New Sales Outlets

Social commerce in this region boomed before the rise of ecommerce as we know now.

Facebook groups have long established as an online space where people connect to buy and sell goods, even before the launched of Marketplace feature. The social media’s rapid growth in Southeast Asia is propelled by mobile adoption and smartphone, where 90% of the online population access the internet via smartphones. For some, Facebook even defines the internet itself.

With multitudes of potential customers gathered in social media platforms, brands naturally espied alternative sales channels. Following Facebook’s footsteps, social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have also developed their own shoppable features.

“Brands will miss out if they don’t have a social media presence. The best way to get feedback from consumers is by having a direct conversation,” Deb Liu, Vice President, Facebook Marketplace told Forbes.

LINE recently acquired a social commerce management startup Sellsuki in Thailand, where it has the second biggest user base, to build a strong foundation for its ecommerce business. The company has also formed a joint venture with three local banks to offer personalized loans to SMEs.

A few big brands like L’Oreal have already equipped their social media page with ‘Shop’ feature that allows consumers to purchase the order directly on the page and it’s only a matter of time before more brands activate the platforms as one their sales channels and remove another layer between them and the consumers.

Consumers can purchase L’Oreal products on their Facebook page assisted through the Messenger app until the checking out process; L’Oreal Thailand.

3. E-Marketplaces Launch New Services to Differentiate

Looking at the successful existing ecommerce players in more developed markets, one key success factor they share is the various services rolled out on their fully-controlled supply chain.

JD.com’s investment to the development of their own supply chain allows them to scale their technology and offer Retail-as-a-Service proposition to help other retailers or brands sell online. Alibaba is unrivaled on its extensive ecosystem beyond commerce, including a logistics network Cainiao, a payment firm Ant Financial, not to mention its recent foray into the entertainment industry.

The same practice has infiltrated down to Southeast Asia. Lazada has strengthened its logistics arm FBL (Fulfilled by Lazada) post the acquisition, and although no concrete plans have been disclosed, Shopee has expressed the intention to build its own logistics network.

Singapore’s Qoo10 is set to launch its blockchain-based ecommerce site QuuBee this year, leveraging the blockchain technology to eliminate the transaction and listing fee which in turn increase the retailers’ profit margin and make a more sustainable commerce approach.

In Indonesia, Tokopedia is set to offer “Infrastructure-As-a-Service” with the fresh $1.1 billion funding. They also plan to use AI for customer care services and to run credit checks on merchants seeking loans to expand their businesses.

The practice is not exclusively done by the general e-marketplaces. Fashion e-marketplace Zilingo scored $226 million in funding due to their new focus to build a network of fashion supply chain that anyone, small merchants or big retailers, can tap into.

“It’s imperative for us to build products that introduce machine learning and data science effectively to SMEs while also being easy to use, get adopted and scale quickly. We’re re-wiring the entire supply chain with that lens so that we can add the most value,” revealed Zilingo CTO Dhruv Kapoor to TechCrunch.

Facebook is also showing more intention to jump into the bandwagon that is the region’s ecommerce. The social network has launched Marketplace feature in Thailand and Singapore without much fanfare, but the recent partnership with Kasikorn Bank in Thailand to allow in-app payment feature might be the start of the company’s effort to bulk up its commerce capabilities and cater to those that utilized the platform for their business.

Facebook partners with Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank to enable transfers and card payments on chats from Facebook Messenger; Facebook

 

In a bid to recruit more brands to sell on their platforms, we anticipate that e-marketplaces will continue to go head-to-head with each other through new services, acquisitions, and partnerships. Ready to burn more cash to win in this battle, e-marketplaces?

4. Brands to Reinforce Reviews and Fund User-Generated Content to Win Ecommerce Consumers

E-marketplaces in Southeast Asia has been upscaling and building add-ons which provide consumers with the utmost convenience. The search for better technology and assistance for the consumers is constant and never-ending.

Lazada introduces AI-powered image search feature onto its platform which allows shoppers to take a picture of an item and the platform will suggest similar items available; LiveatPC

Online consumers begin their online purchasing journeys by searching for product information or reading reviews, usually on the e-marketplace platforms, before making their purchase decision. They are looking for real opinions and user-generated reviews to validate the products.

The habit of leaving product reviews on ecommerce platform is not as common in Southeast Asia as it is in the US — Amazon even have dedicated page for top reviewers — and when they do, the reviews usually left little information about the product and more about the other aspect of the purchase (i.e. delivery time, packaging, etc).

Platforms like ReviewIQ are used by brands to increase their ratings and reviews engagement on their e-marketplace listings to help boost consumers make their decision. While the use of chatbots is an increasingly popular solution to help smooth the online customer experience, it’s more suitable for generic questions such as “where is my order?” or “is this product available?” instead of personalised questions such as “will this lipstick look good on a yellow-undertone skin?”.

Community-crowd model like one that’s popular with travel platforms such as Airbnb might also be suitable for ecommerce in the region to help consumers get passed their apprehension with online shopping — something that Edouard Steinert, aCommerce Thailand’s Director of Channel Management, is investigating to help the company’s clients as this model has shown to save time, increase results, and keep costs low.

“Consumers today want to hear genuine feedback and reviews about a product and become more averse to hard-sell methods. [User-generated] Reviews, especially from people who share the same passion with them, proved to drive better conversion for the brand,” added Edouard Steinert.

5. Brands Employ Direct-to-Consumer strategies to Acquire Direct Consumer Data

89% of companies are now competing mostly on a customer experience playing field and the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) approach is becoming more important for brands as it allows them to gain insights into their end users and anticipate their needs.

One trend observed among brands to promote DTC is ecommerce subscription. From a consumer perspective, subscription offers a convenient, personalized, and often cheaper way to buy what they need. For brands, it’s a subtle method to create customer loyalty in the digital landscape.

One brand adopting subscription ecommerce in the region is Nescafe Dolce Gusto, offering free coffee machines in exchange for a minimum 12-month subscription. Besides witnessing sales growth, Nescafe Dolce Gusto also noticed that consumers continued to purchase goods from its brand despite dropping out of the subscription plan.

“They may have dropped out of the subscription but not the brand. They still buy capsules from different channels; ecommerce website, online marketplaces, and supermarkets. A subscription strategy is not just a long-term consumption enabler but also a consumer acquisition channel for the whole brand,” Bhuree Ackarapolpanich, Brand Director & Digital Expert at Nescafé Dolce Gusto.

aCommerce’s Regional Director of Project Management, Mandy Arbilo said that e-sampling is a popular strategy employed by brands to evaluate the demand, especially ecommerce.

While normal sampling techniques used by offline retailers are expensive, e-sampling saves brands up to 40% as well as providing essentials customer data.

Mars Petcare is one of the e-sampling pioneers for aCommerce. The campaign prompted up to 25% of pet owners to try Pedigree as the main meal; aCommerce

As DTC becomes widely adopted, consumers will see brands coming up with attractive gimmicks using digital tools to gain insights and entice consumers to spend more on their brands.

6. 2019 Will Finally see Regulation of Ecommerce across the Region

Ecommerce practice in the region has remained largely unregulated as a nascent occurrence. As the industry grows, it is only a matter of time until governments step in to tax this fast-growing segment and level the playing field for foreign companies to offer digital services and goods locally.

News of the implementation of ecommerce tax regulations in Southeast Asian countries has been floating around since the beginning of last year but nothing concrete has as yet materialized.

A couple of months ago, Economic Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed an agreement to facilitate cross-border ecommerce transactions within the region.

However, while nothing has written in stone, predictions abound concerning the impacts of ecommerce tax on imported goods into the region. In Indonesia and Thailand, ecommerce tax is predicted to bolster the growth of social commerce because, unlike marketplaces, they are uncontrolled.

“If tax regulations restrict ecommerce platforms, making selling in Bukalapak complicated, there will be an exodus of people who prefer selling on Instagram and Facebook. These platforms are uncontrolled and not chased for tax because they sell through the back door,” Bukalapak co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid.

Singapore might also see a decrease in cross-border shopping as prices increase with the introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST) on ecommerce goods and services from overseas. Currently, 89% of all cross-border transactions in the Asia Pacific region are conducted by Singaporeans.

A snapshot of the state of ecommerce tax regulations across six major Southeast Asian markets; ecommerceIQ

Looking at another high-potential ecommerce market, India introduces the new e-marketplace laws that indicate the prohibition of marketplace “owners” to sell products on their own marketplace through vendor entities in which they have an equity interest. It also prevents marketplaces to make deals with sellers that grants the marketplace exclusivity rights on the product. Could we see such laws be applied in Southeast Asia?

Regardless, brands will have very little influence on how the new tax policies take root but they will be behooved to anticipate the ruling and adjust online strategy accordingly to mitigate the impact of a shift in customer behavior. This ASEAN agreement will encourage more local entrepreneurs to create new products and venture online to access a larger and more diverse market. Brands will now need to be nimble and innovative to adapt to local nuances and preferences.

7. Grab and Go-Jek Challenge Logistics Providers to Capture Ecommerce and Online Food Delivery

Since Uber’s exit last March, Grab monopoly in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia has led to complaints about services and prices increased which resulted in protests from consumers and fines from governments which hit the headlines of the Filipino newspapers and Singaporean watchdogs.

But with the recent regional expansion from Indonesia’s Go-Jek, the competition between the two will only get fiercer. Go-Jek has successfully carved its existence in Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand last year alone. In addition, Grab’s competitor in Malaysia, Dacsee, has also expressed the plan of expanding to Thailand.

Both companies are not racing to be the best ride-hailing providers, they’re aiming for something much bigger; super apps. Go-Jek has secured $1 billion funds from Google, Tencent, and JD.com in part of their plan to raise $2 billion for this venture. Meanwhile, Grab recently nabbed $200 million investment from Thailand’s Central Group, boosting their valuation to 11 billion to date.

2019 will see these two competitors steer toward the same goal of food and ecommerce delivery. Google and Temasek reported that the online food delivery business grew 73% CAGR in 2019. By 2025, they predict online food delivery growth at 36% CAGR with online transport only 23%.

Market size of the ride-hailing industry in Southeast Asia; e-Conomy SEA 2018 Report by Google and Temasek

“We will be expanding our GrabFood and delivery business and deepening our relationships with restaurant merchants and key partners in some markets,” said Grab’s head of regional operations Russell Cohen.

Same-day delivery providers are going to feel more competition next year. The impact of Grab and Go-Jek on market vibes will definitely raise the bar for the logistics and delivery sector.

8. Brands and Retailers will Double Down on Omnichannel is Southeast Asia’s Preference over Pure-Play Ecommerce

The omnichannel shopping experience is not a new concept, but companies do have diverse interpretations of the concept. Headlines revealed that online retail behemoths, such as Amazon and Alibaba, are moving into physical retail.

The main reason why Alibaba ventured out of online space reflects its determination to solve core problems of the shopping experience, such as scattered operations and lack of payment transparency.

JD.com pipped Alibaba for once by opening the first unmanned convenience store in the region in Jakarta to leverage the enormous database by offering beneficial insights to brands such as the best products to stock and advertise. Through their JV with Central Group in Thailand, JD Central also planning a similar launch in the country by 2020.

Inside JD.ID X Mart in Indonesia. It is JD.com’s first unmanned store outside of China and it is a demonstration of JD.com’s mission to implement RaaS; Food Navigator Asia

Pure-play ecommerce retailers and brands recognized drawbacks in online marketing channels with fragmented infrastructure and a limited pool of shoppers. They promoted offline as an attractive option to push sales growth.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, companies are slowly but surely adopting this strategy across all categories. Ecommerce fashion players like Thailand’s Pomelo and Singapore’s Love, Bonito have opened physical stores in their respective countries.

In 2018, Pomelo opened 5 new outlets, embarking away from Bangkok’s prime shopping areas to central business districts (CBDs) like Asoke and residential areas of Bangna. Meanwhile, Love, Bonito has 17 retail outlets spread across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

Rachel Lim, Co-Founder of Love, Bonito told Peak Magazine, “Data can tell you what’s selling but being on the ground tells you why something is not selling and what the customer is looking for.”

Visiting shopping malls is a popular social activity in Southeast Asia and this trend is not set to disappear anytime soon. Brands should take advantage of dual physical and online presence.

Updated (28 Feb 2019): Shopee Thailand does not have a solid plan to build its own logistics network yet. The comment was mentioned briefly in the interview with Bangkok Post which was made a focal point by the media.

What does the FMCG giant Unilever have in common with grocery retailer The Kroger and a luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet?

The answer is Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS).

Unilever worked with JD.com to distribute goods to both online and physical stores in China, while Audemars Piguet launched its pop-up store on WeChat. In the US, food store The Kroger partnered with Microsoft to increase the level of personalization and productivity in their stores.

The term ‘RaaS’ has clamoring over the headlines over the years, but what exactly is Retail-as-a-Service?

What Is Retail-as-a-Service and Why Is It Becoming a Trend?

An analyst from Kantar Retail, Stephen Mader, defines the Retail-as-a-Service model as when “retailers build open platforms and toolkits that enable brands and third-party sellers to connect with shoppers directly through a physical store”.

Having an abundance of data in hands, these retailers bundle up services, customer data, technology, and its expertise to offer brands a service.

The emergence of ecommerce has reduced the in-store retail visits by billions in the US and part of the reason is because the experience offered by a traditional physical store is no longer enough for the savvy consumers. Besides shopping for products, consumers are slowly and surely seeking an experience when they’re out visiting the store.

“Nearly 3,800 stores are expected to close their doors by year’s end, and the brands that do survive will have done so by creating engrossing experiences.”

In order for the brands to maximize the potential of offline stores effectively, they need to provide engaging experiences to keep the consumers hooked. For example, Sephora combined activities that are completely unrelated to making a purchase into its app, while Samsung’s pop-up store was set up to allows consumers test its technology and experience rather than to focus on sale.

The trend also drives the growth of RaaS platform startups that provide an easy, cost-effective solution to brands wanting to launch physical stores.

In the US, a “Retail as-a-Service” startup b8ta has helped retailers such as Macy’s, Lowe’s, and 15 other consumer brands to set up pop-up stores and physical shops, incorporating technologies and cutting-edge gimmicks to traditional physical retailers.

Chicago-based Leap recently secured $3 million in funding to offer an end-to-end service — that ranges from staffing, experiential design, tech integration, and day-to-day operations — to help digital brands to launch a brick-and-mortar store.

Meanwhile, Fourpost is focusing on providing a ready-to-use retail space for digital native brands looking to open a physical store in the US, lowering the barrier of entry in terms of both capital and time. Each of these companies is tackling the problems that usually came with setting up an offline store and elevate the consumer experience.

“If you shop in one of our stores, you will feel different because we have gone to such a great length to remove the idea of your visit being about buying a product.” – Vibhu Norby, the co-founder and CEO of b8ta.

With over 70 locations, B8ta’s store allows brands to place their merchants and train shop assistants while gaining revenue from space rental and subscription fees from brands; Retail Dive

JD.com spurns the growth of RaaS in Asia

Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com is a big advocate of the strategy.

One of JD.com’s latest initiative to establish RaaS is the partnership with Chinese retailer Better Life. JD.com was also one of the first retailers to develop a mini ecommerce program on WeChat. To date, JD.com has developed and bundled up its marketing, logistics, financial services, and big data as a service and leverage these capabilities to help over 2,000 brands and its merchants.

JD.com also partnered with Google to develop next-generation retail infrastructure solutions by combining JD.com’s supply chain and logistics expertise and Google’s technology strengths.

All of these were the result of JD.com’s mission to go forward by scaling its technology in order to outsource its developments to third-party retailers around the world. Chen Zhang, Chief Technology Officer at JD.com says that making money is not their priority at this stage as he believes that:

“With Scalability, comes profit”

Taking the burgeoning amount of investment coming from China to the region into consideration, it’s only a matter of time for RaaS to kick off in Southeast Asia.

In Indonesia, JD.com has already started the concept on its unmanned store JD.ID X Mart. The store collected data that can be used to understand shopping behavior and optimize inventory, product displays, and other aspects of store management and marketing.

With JD.com’s joint-venture in Thailand, it’s fair to assume that the market will be the next destination for the innovation. And although Alibaba’s Lazada has been quiet on the front, looking at the fierce competition between the companies in the mainland, it seems like a matter of time until Alibaba does so.

Inside JD.ID X Mart in Indonesia. It is JD.com’s first unmanned store outside of China and it is a demonstration of JD.com’s mission to implement RaaS; Pandaily

With the ‘offline is the new online’ trend carried over to 2019, we can expect to see more traditional retailers offering their service and retail space to help online brands expanding their reach and getting more foot traffic in return.

A win-win strategy for the ever-changing landscape of retail.

The overall pet industry in Thailand is worth $2.8 billion and it is expected to continuously grow at a 10-15% rate per year. Pet food is the largest segment in the overall pet industry in Thailand and makes up 45% of the industry’s value.

Asian Trends in Pet Food and Health; Euromonitor  2017

Out of the 1,015 survey respondents ecommerceIQ has commissioned in August, we have found that 65% of them keep more than one pet.

Let’s dive into what we found out about Thai’s pet food buying behavior.

Kind-Hearts Get Thais More Pets

With the increasing number of singles, married couples without children, and an overall aging society, the pool of pets owners in Thailand is growing faster than ever.

40% of 65 million people in Thailand are working-class singles. An average Thai family now bears only 1.6 child per family even though the government recommends 2.1 children per family to prevent the country from becoming an aged society. Inability to provide the best for their children, whether it is education, safety, or financial stability, is among the most popular reasons why Thais are refusing to give birth to a child. This is why many rather choose to keep pets instead. More often than not, Thais refer to their pets as ‘Luk’ which means baby or child. This shows that they regard their pets as their children that they do not have.

Among the 65% of the respondents who keep more than one pet cited that they want pets to keep each other company. Being a Buddhist society, more than 35% of the respondents keep more than one pet because they do not have the heart to see them being astray.

The reasons why Thai respondents keep more than one pet; ecommerceIQ Pet Food Survey Thailand 2018

Thais are Pet Pleasers When It Comes to Food

Dry food has become the most popular pet food type among Thai pet owners as 40% of them said that they feed their pets with dry food. This does not come as a surprise since dry pet food has many advantages. It doesn’t need to be stored in a refrigerator and it lasts all day, which is important to pet owners who are not always at home. They can simply leave dry pet food for their pets for whenever they feel hungry.

There are also health advantages to dry food. According to Pedigree, dry pet food has distinct benefits for your pet’s oral health. Chewing kibble helps to keep their teeth healthy by reducing plaque and tartar buildup, also resulting in better breath.

While 31% give pets a mix of pet food because they believe that each type of pet food provides different nutrients and has different benefits.

The types of pet food Thai pet owners use; ecommerceIQ Pet Food Survey Thailand 2018

Regarding pets as their children, Thais are willing to choose the best food for their pets. This explains why 22% of respondents say that product quality is the most important factor when buying pet food.

While the second factor depends on pet’s preference, meaning that food types and brands are selected based on the liking of their pets, this factor will continue to be the reason why Thai pet owners change pet food sometimes. It is reflected that 32% of the respondents change pet food when their pets refuse to eat or grow bored with the current food.

The factors that Thai respondents consider when choosing pet food; ecommerceIQ Pet Food Survey Thailand

The Pet Food Industry in Thailand isn’t Betting on Ecommerce Yet

For a country with high Internet penetration and familiarity with ecommerce like Thailand, it is surprising to learn that only 14% of the respondents are currently buying pet food from online channels, with 74% of those buying from online marketplaces, such as Lazada and Shopee.

One would think that pet food, given its bulkiness, purchasing frequency, and lower risk, is a perfect category to triumph in the online space. However, Thai respondents are too comfortable with buying pet food at the pet food shop or supermarket that they did not see why they should switch to buy it online.

Since cheaper product price is the factor that Thai online shoppers value the most, according to the ecommerceIQ E-Marketplace Survey Thailand 2018, discounts and promotions offered through marketplaces are a good incentivized motivation for them to start buying pet food online.

Brands can also implement an e-sampling strategy which will allow consumers to get a free sampling product and learn whether their pets will like the food or not. This is also beneficial to the brand because consumers will be willing to provide the brand with their personal data, in return for the sample-sized pet food. Brands may also use this information to customize and target the communications strategy towards their potential online shoppers in the future.

Through the e-sampling service of aCommerce, Mars Petcare in the Philippines successfully rolled out an e-sampling campaign that was able to gain awareness on social media organically; aCommerce.

How else can pet food brands increase their online capability? Sign up to receive ecommerceIQ’s report on the pet food industry in Thailand here.

As the ecommerce trend continues in Southeast Asia, a wave of the new generation of moms is joining the party. These moms are relying more and more on online to help them embrace their role as a parent.

Millennial moms expressed their dependency on online for their shopping journey, especially for the Mom & Baby category, during an ecommerceIQ panel session in Jakarta earlier this month.

ecommerceIQ surveyed 1,144 Indonesian moms with results showing that 66% have attempted to purchase Mom & Baby products online. Shopee was voted as the most popular e-marketplace for this category, followed by Lazada and Tokopedia.

Mom & Baby Indonesia Online Shoppers

aCommerce Group CMO Sheji Ho on stage presenting the findings from ecommerceIQ’s report: Digital Profile Mom & Baby Shoppers in Indonesia.

Indonesian actress and Miss Universe 2007 finalist Agni Pratishta was one of the panelists at the event. She agreed with the findings and also mentioned that most women visit numerous websites to find the best deals.

“I have a group chat with other moms where we exchange information regarding which e-marketplace is having a sale right now,” admitted Agni.

Agni was joined in the panel session with the Head of Marketing Baby Care from Softex Indonesia, Wenny Damayanti, and aCommerce Group CMO Sheji Ho to shed light on the current landscape comprising Mom & Baby online shoppers in Indonesia.

What else did we discover from the event?

Panel session during ecommerceIQ event in Jakarta with Agni Pratistha (middle) and Wenny Damayanti (right).

Indonesian moms shop cautiously online

When Indonesian moms were asked about their favorite online shopping platforms, brand websites did not feature much in their answers, with only Mothercare Indonesia appearing on the radar at a score of 4%.

Digging deeper, the result is most likely related to the type of products they are more likely to buy online in this category. Following general ecommerce trends in the country, Baby Clothing (49%) ranked as the most popular product purchased online in this category, followed by Baby Gear (23%) and Toys (18%).

Mom & Baby Indonesia Online Shoppers

Top products purchased online in Mom & Baby category in Indonesia; ecommerceIQ Mom & Baby Customer Survey in Indonesia (2018)

Meanwhile, perishable goods like Baby Personal Care and Baby Food are less popular and the cause of it is rooted in the main reasons why Indonesian moms don’t shop for this category online.

Mom & Baby Indonesia Online Shoppers

Top reasons for consumers to not shop for Mom & Baby products online; ecommerceIQ Mom & Baby Customer Survey in Indonesia (2018)

More conviction is necessary for consumers to purchase perishable goods online; moms require full assurance of product quality, and one way to avoid buying counterfeit products in the e-marketplace is to purchase only from brands’ official online flagship stores.

The top three consumer-favorite platforms all benefit from their official brand-dedicated portal inside their platform.

Mom & Baby Indonesia Online Shoppers

Tokopedia’s dedicated page for brands’ official store; Tokopedia

The importance of word-of-mouth in the digital world

Brands should always take cues from its consumers to adjust and hone their retail strategy. These include instilling customer confidence to overcome the reservations mentioned above. Wenny revealed that internet habits of millennial mothers provided the driving force for Sweety’s shift to digital.

“These moms are constantly searching for information online. TV commercials alone are no longer sufficient. Modern day moms use the internet to talk to their friends, surf for product information and read customer reviews before deciding which products to buy. Sweety took these cues onboard and redefined its online strategy,” explained Wenny.

Sweety’s official flagship store is offering online exclusive offer on ShopeeMall Indonesia.

Product reviews are a key aspect for Indonesian moms to overcome the wariness of doing their shopping online, as seconded by Agni

“Reviews are the make or break point for me when I shop online. When I see a product in e-marketplace with no review, even if the price is right, I wouldn’t risk buying it most of the time.”

Unfortunately, leaving a product review is not a habit mastered by Southeast Asian consumers yet, especially compared to consumers in developed ecommerce market like the US. And most of the time, Southeast Asians are prone to leave only bad reviews as a way to express their dissatisfaction and to caution other consumers.

Brands must concentrate on encouraging satisfied consumers to be more proactive and do the same. Some brands have utilized user-generated content platforms like ReviewIQ to help with the problem. Nivea, for example, achieved an increase in the number of positive reviews with the help of ReviewIQ from real consumers for its flagship store on Lazada Thailand.

“At this stage, brands still need to incentivize satisfied consumers to help generate good, organic reviews,” says Sheji.

How should Mom & Baby brands go about online?

Sheji stresses the importance of brands understanding the nature of their products and their primary objective to determine the optimal online strategy.

“If your products fall into the luxury category, you might as well sell it on your brand website to retain the full control of your channel. However, this strategy requires you to invest extensively in bringing in traffic,” advised Sheji.

But having a website also means owning a proprietary media channel that can be used for marketing and educational purposes. Brands like Sweety and Frisian Flag, for example, use their sites to connect offline promotion with the online audience as well as equip consumers with detailed product information.

For most brands, however, if the objective is to diversify sales channels, then opening an official flagship store on an e-marketplace like Shopee or Lazada is sufficient and also easier to maintain, while providing access to a broader online consumer base.

Drawing on her extensive experience in promoting Sweety to e-marketplaces, Wenny opined that prioritizing e-marketplace sales avenues is paramount for success. Especially in Indonesia where consumers are presented with many options, and competition between e-marketplaces is high, brands often feel the needs to have ubiquitous footprints.

Wenny summed up, “Choosing the right e-marketplace is an important step in the online expansion. Selection must consider the available audience, while also ensuring that the e-marketplace’s infrastructure is compatible with the business.”

Get the full report of Digital Mom & Baby Shoppers Profile here.

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.

Appearance matters — which is why there are more people purchasing beauty items each year in Thailand. The country’s Cosmetics and Personal Care market is expected to grow 7.7% annually, and with the changing lifestyle that the country’s increasing internet penetration brings, more Thai consumers are turning to online to purchase beauty products.

Why do Thai consumers buy beauty products from online stores

Data from ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018 shows price is an important factor as 25% of the total 1,874 respondents answered discounts as the top reason to shop beauty products online. Free delivery (24%) followed closely as the second reason.

Figure 1: Reasons why Thai consumers prefer buying beauty products online; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

As the rule of thumb in developing markets like Southeast Asia, including Thailand, consumers tend to be price sensitive.

The Bank of Thailand (BOT) reports that the average salary in the country is approximately 13,789 baht, in line with our report where 35% of our respondents’ monthly income is less than THB 18,000. As such, it’s no surprise why most Thais prefer things that are either free or low-priced, especially for items that aren’t daily necessities.

Figure 2: Average wage categorized by occupation (in baht) in Q2 2018; Bank of Thailand

In addition to price and free delivery, having a wider product selection (19%) is another reason for consumers to purchase beauty products online, most likely due to the lack of offline footprint outside the Metro area. And unlike brick-and-mortar stores, consumers can view and compare a wide array of brands offering similar products in one sitting, allowing them to purchase the cheapest item available in the market in no time.

What beauty items are purchased online?

In general, Thais mostly shop online for skin care products (31%) and color cosmetics (31%), possibly due to high product availability and exclusivity online. Understandably, color cosmetics are mostly purchased by female, while males and third-gender individuals mainly purchase men’s grooming products online.

Figure 3: The category of beauty products purchased by Thai online consumer, depending on gender; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

There are a couple of reasons why color cosmetics are popular among Thai online shoppers. First, there’s sufficient product information for color cosmetics available on the internet, whether it’s from beauty bloggers and vloggers, or product reviews from the consumers.

Figure 4: Search results for make-up tutorial videos on YouTube; YouTube

36% of our respondents say the lack of touch and trial is their main reason why they don’t buy beauty products online. Therefore, the availability of comprehensive product information online might help them overcome the need for having to try it out beforehand.

Figure 5: Top 5 reasons why Thai consumers don’t buy beauty products online; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

Another reason is because color cosmetics are usually priced on a much lower range than other beauty product categories. For price-sensitive societies like Thais, they’re more likely to only shop on affordable products like color cosmetics. This is also supported by our survey findings where over 50% of Thais only spend less than 1,500 baht for beauty products.

Figure 6: The average order value Thais are willing to spend on beauty products in both online and offline channels; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

Where do most Thai shoppers buy their beauty products?

For online purchases, most Thais choose to shop on Lazada (30%) and Shopee (27%), the two biggest ecommerce platforms in Southeast Asia. In line with the top reasons to shop this category online, the two websites are chosen for the many discounts they offer (34%) and because consumers find it convenient to shop on these platforms (35%) as they’re already familiar with the sites.


Figure 7: The online channels Thai online consumers usually buy beauty products from; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

Figure 8: A price promotion banner on the homepage of Lazada Thailand

What does this mean for beauty brands in Thailand?

Generally, Thai consumers aren’t loyal towards a specific brand and are willing to try out other brands. Over 57% of consumers cited looking for variations as the main reason they are open to trying other brands — giving brands the opportunity to always grab more market share.

Figure 9: Factors that drive Thai consumers to change personal care brands; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

And with most Thais using online platforms such as social media and brands’ websites as the place to learn about new beauty trends and products, leveraging online channels have become more important than ever for brands to attract more consumers.

Figure 10: An example of a Thai beauty influencer on social media; Wonderpeach’s Instagram

Figure 11: Social media is the number one destination for Thai consumers to learn about the newest beauty trends; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

However, having a presence online will do brands no good without knowing what consumers actually want. Our survey results indicated that the first thing Thai consumers consider when choosing beauty products is the function (25%), followed by price (22%) and product reviews (17%).

In this context, function means the type of product, for example anti-aging, whitening, or acne-treatment. In Thailand, for example, beauty products with whitening agent is the most popular because of the local beauty perception.

Figure 12: Snail White Body Wash in various ingredients and functions; Snail White Official Facebook

Figure 13: The key features Thais look for when buying beauty products; ecommerceIQ Beauty Survey Thailand 2018

At the end of the day, what matters the most for consumers are good products that bring good results, and product reviews have become an increasingly important part of their decision-making process as it comes from real consumers.

Brands can take advantage of platforms like ReviewIQ to help them connect with real reviewers to leave product reviews after purchase on their official store on e-marketplaces like Lazada.

Figure 14: Using ReviewIQ, Nivea has successfully increased the number of reviews from their consumers for their shop-in-shop on Lazada Thailand.

Over 30% of our Thai respondents are loyal to one brand when choosing products from the beauty category. This shows that as long your brand is offering the right products at the right price and quality, consumers will be less willing to use products from other brands.

The full report for Online Beauty Consumers in Thailand will be out in November 2018. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and be the first to know.

Are you a beauty brand looking to expand online in Southeast Asia? Contact us at hello@ecommerceiq.asia for expert ecommerce advice on growing your brand.