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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.