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All aspects of ecommerce can be controlled by a brand, except for one area that is completely in the hands of the user – product reviews and ratings.

As competition grows on marketplace, where most online customers start their purchasing journey, this aspect has become a reliable filter to help other users decide, “to buy or not to buy.”

On most ecommerce sites, customers can sort products from highest to lowest average ratings, which means a high score gives brands more visibility and a competitive advantage over competitors. Better product rating, better purchase rate, makes sense right?

But five stars alone isn’t enough to convince customers to add to cart, it’s what the reviews are saying that drive checkouts, especially in Asia where an average of 22% customers — the highest globally — count online reviews as a decision making factor due to the strong effect of community.

By aggregating the major consensus of what customers are saying in their reviews, brands can leverage reviews to improve their performance online. How can this be done?

customers review Unilever

Data-analytics platform BrandIQ has collected reviews for four of Unilever’s brands – Dove, Rexona, Simple, Toni and Guy – on Lazada Philippines to showcase what companies can learn from this set of data and separating out the generic complaints (i.e. slow delivery, average product).

The average rating of each brand online gives a high level glance at which brand needs more monitoring and brand building. For example, Toni and Guy scores an average 3.81/5, which isn’t necessarily bad, but can be improved to rank higher in search.

42% of total reviews scrubbed were about the touch and feel of the products, but approximately 58% actually shed light on aspects other than product quality.

What were they saying?

To sort the data, reviews are split into five main categories: Product, General, Delivery, Packaging, and Customer Service.

customers review Unilever

From the data above, the keyword “delivery” is the second most quoted in reviews, but it doesn’t reveal whether sentiment is good or bad.

By splitting customer reviews into two sentiments: positive and negative, we identify the strengths and weaknesses of these categories. This allows companies to understand which area should be prioritised for improvement.

For Unilever brands on Lazada Philippines, despite the small numbers of reviews that talk about Package, the category racked up a strong positive sentiment compared to the other four categories (Service contributes only a small percentage of the total reviews). Extrapolation of this data can signal that the products ordered by customers is well taken care of during the last mile with the packaging the company used.

customers review Unilever

customers review Unilever

Review left by a Dove customer on Lazada PH that was found helpful by at least six other customers.

Customer reviews are a unique and vital aspect to ecommerce that offline retail rarely had to face before. Brands looking to crack the code on e-marketplaces will need to build an understanding for this new metric, and use it as a tool to their advantage.


HOW IS YOUR BRAND PERFORMING ON SOUTHEAST ASIA’S TOP MARKETPLACES?

FMCG businesses are taking note of the correlation between mobile data consumption slipping sales growth as some of India’s largest consumer companies have slipped to a two-year low. Indians can buy mini-data plans at the same mom and pop stores where they buy their snacks and a new wave of affordable smartphones has brought hundreds of millions of Indians online for the first time, reports the Wall Street Journal.

We are competing for the consumer’s wallet not just with beverages and other impulse categories, but also with data services on phones. – Venkatesh Kini, President of Coca-Cola India.

With low disposable income, the majority of Indians face difficulties affording monthly data plans and only get online when they have spare change. For a quick glance  on Google, Vodafone Group PLC offers data plans for as little as  15 cents at a time, around the same price as a bag of crisps.

Anup Kapoor, who runs a mom and pop store says that data and voice plans make up for 70% of his daily sales.

The battle for limited space in India’s tiny storefronts is competitive. Cellular companies sponsor sings to make sure customers know that their local mom and pop shops offer more than candy. Kapoor’s shop has a big sign of Vodafone, while posters of Frito-Lay chips and Coca-Cola are smaller.

I can do without conditioner. But I can’t do anything without my phone, I can’t hear songs, surf the net or chat with friends,” says Lakshmi Kumari, domestic worker. 

A version of this appeared in Wall Street Journal on August 15. Read the full version here.

Cosmetics and healthcare manufacturer from China, Longrich Bioscience, is eyeing the ecommerce market in Indonesia as reported by Bisnis.com. The company feels optimistic about its venture in the country as it sets a monthly target of $300,000 sales per month by 2017 and $1 million of sales per month in the next five years.

Longrich International President, Charlie Chin said that the company is confident with its target as the economy in Indonesia is getting stronger and people’s purchasing power in the country will continue to increase.

The company is not alone in their opinion, back in June, Chinese investors have also expressed their confidence in Indonesia’s future business outlook.

Longrich eyes markets beyond Java

Longrich has been operating in Indonesia since 2013 and has seen a positive growth in the last 1.5 years. General Manager of Longrich Indonesia, Thamrin Slamet claimed that the sales growth has reached 120%.

In addition to producing its own line of products, the manufacturer also serves other brands such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) who owns the toothpaste brand Sensodyne.

Indonesian big cities like Jakarta and Surabaya are the main markets for Longrich’s variety of products but the company will not only focus on Java, Indonesia’s most populous island. It has a business center in Medan, North Sumatera. It also serves the people in Palembang and big cities in eastern Indonesia.

Globally, Longrich is present in 15 countries and recorded $167 million in revenue globally in 2015.

A version of this appeared in Bisnis.com on August 14. Read the full article in Bahasa here.

Philippines Startup Launches Wifi Bundling Service, Wins Microsoft Grant

Now you can get free wifi when you buy your chocolate bars, thanks to Wifi Interactive Network

Microsoft is trying to get people in developing countries online. As a part of this initiative, the tech giant has launched ‘Affordable Access Initiative’, reports Tech in Asia.

Microsoft is partnering with local entrepreneurs and giving grants across the globe to startups that are working to provide affordable access in their  local markets. A Philippines based startup, Wifi Interactive Network (WIN) has won this grant through setting up a ‘wifi bundling’ startup. WIN gets brands to give wifi to the consumers by giving a wifi code that allows the consumer to connect to the local hotspot upon purchase.

WIN gets local brands in Philippines to carry the cost of installing and maintaining wifi hotspots at stores. This extends to small neighborhood convenience stores to bars. On the consumer’s side, it is also very straightforward, they simply need to register for access via smartphone and have the store approve the request, then they will receive a passcode for wifi access.

 Wifi Interactive Network (WIN) has won this grant with its ‘wifi bundling’ startup, which packages free wifi hotspots with typically bought consumer goods. 

WIN allows consumers to buy internet access in sachets. Sachets are a common way to buy consumer products, such as shampoo or milk in emerging markets, as they are cheaper than bottles. If a consumer buys a sachet of a sponsoring brand’s milk, they will get wifi access for usually 30 minutes.

This is a sustainable business model because the brands generate immediate revenue and acquire data analytics of purchase behavior at the store level. Philip Zulueta, WIN Founder

It monetizes by charging brands a monthly subscription fee per location, and now has 41 wifi hotspots. 34 in the capital with the rest in provinces in Luzon island.

The startup is planning to use the $150,000 funding from Microsoft to install base stations that will broadcast wifi signal to areas without any internet coverage.

By penetrating the low income markets, startups such as WIN are helping to boost the tech infrastructure of Philippines, as more people want access to data. Everyone has the potential to become a consumer, Philippines’ sachet market operates on smaller bite sizes with high purchase frequency, which is consistent with our sponsors’ target audience.

As WIN tackles the problem of consumers who can’t afford data plans that matches their income, its business model could go onto provide access to a whole new market segment.

A version of this appeared in Tech in Asia on July 4. Read the full article here.