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It’s difficult to deny that digital behavior among Thais has changed drastically over the past few years. Research from various institutions agree that Thai people have become increasingly addicted to their screens, often seen with heads bent over smartphones on the public train or during meal times. The surge of mobile phone addiction means that we’re no longer glued to the television for news because a simple scroll through social media can provide us with instantaneous updates in real-time.

The population’s behavioral shift has given rise to a trend in the marketing and commerce sphere; the much talked about social commerce, a new way to shop through social media platforms. Online shopping is no longer restricted to websites – Thais are turning to Facebook, Instagram and LINE to buy clothing, cosmetics, mangos and much more.

Social media platforms are in turn being used by small businesses to boost sales, provide customer support and increase brand awareness. How are a few individuals able to handle it all?

There are no vast differences between marketing for social commerce channels to marketing for websites as both requires similar ‘brand health checks’ to ensure growth and a viable business. This means that the skills needed for website marketing is transferable to social commerce.

eIQ catches up with Vanitcha Wankawisant, Head of Social Media at aCommerce to learn more about the Online Marketing Funnel framework used to acquire new leads, maintain relationships with clients and how social channels now fit into the big picture.

Source: Social Commerce Workshop – aCommerce Academy

The Online Marketing Funnel can segregate a client’s decision process into 5 key funnels:

  1. Awareness
  2. Acquisition
  3. Activation
  4. Retention
  5. Referral

Each funnel requires their own strategy.

 Case Study: Online Marketing Funnel for a Thai cosmetics mobile marketplace

Stage 1: Awareness

The cosmetics marketplace, called Brand A due to confidentiality, created a “free sampling” campaign targeted to social media savvy women in their mid twenties to late thirties through Facebook. The goal was to sell more products and increase their customer base. They also implemented a hashtag (#) and encouraged users to comment and share their posts to boost engagement.

Stage 2: Acquisition

Aside from ongoing activity on the brand’s social media channels, Wankawisant also recommended Brand A to sign up for a LINE@ account for users to signup and receive notifications regarding exclusive giveaways and announcements.

Working with aCommerce, she revealed the cosmetics marketplace increased their followers by 100% within 1 month.

LINE@ is LINE’s newest platform for businesses that want a direct relationship with customers and more personalized channel to reach them. The business account onLINE@ can be customized for retail brands to bloggers from various sectors.

Through the platform, brands can push out a promotion through a mass group message or customers can contact an admin member directly to chat. LINE@ allows up to 100 admin members to ensure that customers will be given the attentive customer service that is needed.

Brand A decided to move onto the LINE@ platform because they found that other social media platforms had a low level of organic reach whereas LINE@ was able to capture a great portion of the already active 33 million LINE users in Thailand.

Brands can directly “activate” followers through rewards cards, coupon/voucher activation that users can click on to store in their coupon book function in the LINE app.

How coupons can be used in LINE@

Stage 3: Activation

During the time period between the social media campaign to the free sampling announcement day, the brand used the “Broadcast Message” feature on LINE@ to send regular updates and promotions to followers, including discounts for first time buys.

Brand A improved its blended conversion rate by 20%.

Stage 4: Retention

Aside from promotions through “Broadcast” in LINE@, the brand also introduced fun activities to followers such as games relating to the products online. The quickest respondents received free products.

These efforts allowed the brand to maintain their number of active and organic followers and a low block rate of 10%. The games also boosted sales during the campaign period by 15%, and retargeted customers through the Rich Message  feature in LINE@. This feature attracts followers through big banners and includes outbound links to the brand site. It’s also a good way for business owners to obtain organic consumer data.

LINE@ for fast fashion brand, Pomelo

Stage 5: Referral

For every referral that was made between an existing user and a friend, the brand would give discounts to both parties – win-win. The brand gains another potential customer to activate through other methods aside from Facebook or LINE@ such as through email direct marketing (EDM).

Although social commerce is still a new sector of its own, it is becoming a viable business model that is one to watch in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia where social media usage is one of the highest globally.

Business owners in the ecommerce industry and offline stores are already capitalizing. What are you waiting for?

 

Here are the headlines you should know for today.

1. Digital currencies are here to stay

Financial institutions in Indonesia should brace themselves as cryptocurrency is gaining popularity in the largest economy in Southeast Asia with no intention of slowing down.

Bitcoin Indonesia currently has 250,000 members, up from 80,000 at the end of 2015, with a daily transaction value of Rp 20 billion ($1.48 million).

The presence of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin or EDinar Coin, could help support the Indonesian government’s plan to create a cashless society.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Recommended Reading: What every entrepreneur should know about doing business in Bangkok

This is a fairly universal concept, but takes on new meaning in the developing world and Thailand in particular. “Right now there are more investors than there are builders in Southeast Asia, that’s crazy!” Says Paul Srivorakul, founder and CEO at aCommerce.

‘You need to build local and defensible.’

Read the rest of his interview here

 

3. Social media boosts success of e-tailer Asos

Asos is continually future-proofing the business, ensuring it can cope with increased demand as it expands globally. The strong growth in international sales, particularly in the US as a result of the weak pound, means Asos will have to keep up with order fulfillment as the retailer expands.

Part of the reason behind the consistent Asos success is the way it successfully targets customers with creative email and social media marketing on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. The retailer also offers attractive delivery options such as Asos Premier.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

Since its launch in December last year, Facebook Live has presented everyone an opportunity to share a live moment in real time, and this feature has become an important addition to the world’s largest social network. As with other products, Facebook has been pushing people to use Facebook Live, either by inspiring to launch an out-of-home awareness campaign or more directly adding a live button on the app’s homepage. The social network also ranks live videos higher than other types of posts to encourage users to interact and ‘be in the moment’.

Facebook Live – Be in the moment

Despite all the effort, brands and publishers in Southeast Asia seem to take a wait-and-see approach as for now they don’t produce many live videos as can be seen on the Live video map. Lack of ideas and expertise in creating this new type of content which differs from traditional promotional videos are the main factors that have hampered adoption of Facebook Live in the region.

On the other hand, Southeast Asia’s Facebook merchants who use the social network to showcase and advertise their products are in the forefront. They’re taking advantage of live videos to engage with customers and sell products in new ways.

How to capture the shifting consumer attention?

As 50% of consumers feel increasingly overwhelmed by brand marketing messages on social media, consumer attention and engagement is scarce. According to Facebook, people spend three times more time watching a video when it is live compared to when it is not broadcasted in real time.

With this change in mind, brands should capitalize on campaigns in the format of a high quality live video. Here are three ways Facebook merchants in Thailand are capitalizing on Facebook Live:

1. Host an auction in real time

One prevalent example how the live video feature is being used is to host in real time an auction of new or second hand fashion products such as bags, dresses, or even items like electronics.

The way it works is similar to a typical auction, just when the auction is hosted on Facebook Live, the bids are submitted as comments. When the broadcast ends, the merchant and the winner arrange the details of the payment and delivery.

2.  Showcase products and answer questions in real time

A number of merchants also use Facebook Live to demonstrate their products. Customers in the comments section can ask questions about the price or details of the product for the seller to answer.

Similar to hosting a live auction, broadcast viewers who want to purchase products can send a Facebook message directly to the merchant to arrange payment and delivery.

3. Attract viewers with games, prizes, Q&A sessions

Hosting interactive games or quizzes and giving away prizes for sharing a Facebook Live video with friends is also a tactic used in Thailand to attract more viewers and followers.

The owner of cosmetics brand B’Secret Chonnipa Wisedsuranun is a live broadcaster who has successfully leveraged this strategy. One of her Facebook Live videos generated over a million views and almost as many comments.

She uses live video to engage with her customers and build a fanbase by asking viewers to share her live video during which her cosmetic brand is mentioned throughout. To incentivize customers to share the video she gives away prizes like iPhones, cash, gold, and more. This technique allows her to garner a huge amount of viewers and fans in a short period of time.

By doing so, she also creates awareness of her products without paying a dime to Facebook for advertising.

Chonnipa also often uses Q&A games where viewers who answer correctly in the comments section to a question she asks win a cash prize.

Facebook Live provides brands and retailers an alternative way to grow their followers, engage with a wider target audience, and drive sales without directly paying money to Facebook for ads. Businesses that still rely primarily on Facebook ads will eventually experience growing advertising costs due to the nature of auction-based advertising that makes bidding more expensive when there are more advertisers.

In contrary, businesses that can effectively leverage this interactive video format are likely to capture the  attention of consumers at a lower cost.

BY KORAVUT PAVITPOK, ACOMMERCE INTERNET MARKETING MANAGER

 

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It is hardly a secret anymore – ecommerce in Southeast Asia is an enormous $238 billion opportunity that has been under the global radar in the recent years. It’s no longer about whether businesses should have an online presence, but instead how they can stay relevant to their audience in a quickly crowding space.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

ECOMScape: Indonesia details the growing ecommerce ecosystem as of 2016. Source: eIQ

One market that has time and time again stood out is Indonesia thanks to more accessibility to mobile devices, affordable data plans and a youthful demographic propelling social channels and social commerce to the leading activity on the internet. It is a clear goldmine for brands, retailers and investors alike to unlock over 250 million unrealized online shoppers.

So how are they going to do this? Well, Indonesia is a mobile-first country and its citizens update their social networking apps twice more frequently than games and fives times more than music/video apps according to a study by Baidu.

In the next three years, Indonesia is expected to have over 92 million smartphone users, up 67% from 2015. This will push many startups to skip desktop entirely and focus on smartphone friendly ecommerce products. New apps have been the popular way to reach customers, but large spending for development, maintenance, and marketing have restricted companies from finding long-term success. And what happens when app downloads start to slow down as currently happening in the US?

wearesocial-indonesia-eiq

The rising global resistance to new apps

Almost 50% of smartphone users in the US did not install a new app last month while less than 25% of the ones who did returned to it after the first use. What’s even more shocking is a full 94% of revenue in the App Store comes from only 1% of all publishers, think Google and Facebook.  

Mobile isn’t dead but the opportunity is shrinking. So what does this mean for businesses scrambling to capture the attention of the world’s fourth largest population who prefers to use on average only 6.7 apps?

You don’t chase customers, you find them where they already are.

For the first time, messaging apps have surpassed social networks and that’s where chat commerce comes into the story.

Chatbot, chat commerce

Chat commerce isn’t the future, it is the present.

Chat commerce or conversational commerce is the intersection of messaging apps and shopping and is already a very familiar concept in the West. Businesses understand the importance of being readily available to their customers, especially as a poor customer service experience will drive 89% of them to a competitor.

According to Facebook, more than 50 million companies operate on its platform and send more than 1 billion business messages every month.

But having properly trained customer service reps to support hundreds to millions of personal conversations in parallel is difficult to scale for any business. Solution? Chatbot.

A chatbot is an AI (artificial intelligence) feature of a chat or messaging platform that simulates a human conversation with the user in order to provide them with the information or service they’re looking for.

Brands overseas like Taco Bell have partnered with Slack to allow customers to order and pay through the team communications platform.

Think about Siri who has been helping Apple users carry out tasks since 2011 or Amazon Echo, an at-home device by Amazon, which encompasses a chatbot named Alexa to read aloud weather reports, set alarms and more importantly, help customers order new products from Amazon.

chat-bot-amazon

Screenshot from Amazon Echo commercial.

These are only a few of many examples. Facebook Messenger also opened its platform earlier this year for businesses to build chatbots through its Messenger Send/Receive API.

The API will support sending and receiving text and also images and interactive rich bubbles containing multiple calls-to-action.

chat-bot-benefits, southeast asia chatbot

A chatbot can clearly offer a business great benefits to get closer to customers in a medium they are already familiar with, so why has there been little activity in Southeast Asia?

Call all chatbots

Southeast Asia has largely mirrored the West and particularly China in development of its ecommerce maturity. Yet, current chatbot growth has been stuck at the ‘idea phase’ – a lot of chatter and buzz about its revolutionary importance but no product.

“The reason why companies in Southeast Asia haven’t created chatbots isn’t because they don’t think the opportunity is there, but they lack the resources and most fundamentally – AI talent to build it,” comments Lingga Madu, Sale Stock co-founder.

No company has released a true commercial-scale, transaction-enabled MVP, that is, until now.

Sale Stock case study: Facebook Messenger’s first chatbot in Southeast Asia

One lesser talked about company has already begun testing its chatbot with Facebook, Indonesia’s most popular social channel. Sale Stock, the mobile first shopping platform widely popular among Indonesia’s young females, has become SEA’s first company to launch a chatbot that can handle end-to-end transaction on Facebook’s Messenger Platform.

Meet Soraya AI, a relatable, cheery chatbot who handles 100% of queries coming to Sale Stock’s Facebook Page and the brainchild of Facebook, Google, Palantir, and NASA engineers recruited by Sale Stock around the world.
sale-stock-chat-2, southeast asia chatbot

Soraya uses machine learning to shuffle through queries and decide whether to answer it autonomously or give recommendations to an agent instead.

Frequently asked questions such as “do you offer cash on delivery?” or “do you sell high heels?” are replied to almost instantly. In development since 2015, she can already handle 22% of all queries autonomously.

The beauty of machine learning is that the more information she receives, the smarter she becomes and the more accurate her answers will be.

Soraya has already improved response time by 20 – 40 times and currently replies within 60 s. That has granted Sale Stock a response time badge on their official Facebook page.

sale-stock-fb, southeast asia chatbot

Soraya has also been fed large amounts of past Sale Stock customer queries to enhance her intelligence. This combined with recent purchasing behavior and browsing history allow her to recommend consumers personalized products.

Buying the product is even more simple. Soraya asks for confirmation of the item, correct size and color, all within Messenger, and requests address and payment method. If it is a returning shopper, all previous payment information is saved so purchase is simply a click of yes.

sale-stock-chatbot, southeast asia chatbot

“Soraya was created to meet the needs of our customers, many of whom are living outside major cities on limited social media data plans where chat is free but browsing is not. Some have never even been exposed to digital shopping carts but chatting is second nature,” – Jeffrey Yuwono, Sale Stock President.

Trust is also a major concern that holds many Indonesians back from trying ecommerce. By creating a personable chatbot on a familiar channel, brands hope customers will feel comfortable sharing their personal details.

sale-stock-chat, southeast asia chatbot

Chatting with Soraya on Facebook Messenger

Sale Stock chat bot, Indonesia

What’s next for Sale Stock?

The company is already working to create viable chatbots for WhatsApp, LINE, BBM and SMS as they are the most popular messaging platforms their shoppers use. Sale Stock strongly believes in the Lean Startup methodology, “getting it out there as soon as possible to collect real, user feedback”.

“We’re still in the very early stage of our product and ironing out the bugs and adding features iteratively,” comments Madu.

All inquiries going to Sale Stock are monitored, independent of the channel source, on one platform created in house to control flow and fix any arising bugs.

The team hopes to fine-tune its technology to quite possibly launch SaaS in the future.

“The success of chat commerce depends on how well the machine can distinguish the details: context, intention, the slang, mix of dialects, and even the use of emojis so the customer never feels like they are chatting with a bot. The platform has to be robust enough to handle these typos and fringe use cases,” says Madu.

The future of chatbots

There has always been a fear of AI replacing tasks typically performed by humans, but customer support is a tricky area since personalization is at the core.

“As brand loyalty and exceptional customer service become the main priority for brands, companies simply cannot afford for bots to completely handle customer service and risk creating a negative experience. With that said, the live customer service representative will always have a place with the overall customer experience,” says Mayur Anadkat, Vice President of Product Marketing at call center software provider Five9.

The moment has not yet been reached when machine learning enables 100% accurate and instant replies to customers no matter the language, mix of dialect, slang or emojis – but it is in the foreseeable future. AI is here to enhance, not replace.

Not only will the rise of chatbots improve the reputations of brands but it will be expected of businesses by the next generation of shoppers. As Uber product manager Chris Messina put it, bots present a new, unpolluted opportunity to build lasting relationships with people.

Ultimately, the lack of friction is what makes the shopping experience a pleasant one and what will drive the A players to the head of the game.

By: Cynthia Luo

Thailand has become the first country to get Facebook Shop, reports The Nation. The page ecommerce section officially launched yesterday as a tool to increase online sales for small and medium sized enterprises.

The latest Page feature is available for all Facebook users across Thailand after the soft-launch in Q2. Following its release in the Kingdom, Facebook Shop will be available throughout the rest of Southeast Asia and then emerging markets around the world.

74% of Thais now use instant messaging daily, an increase from 34% in 2014.

This is why we launched Facebook Shop in Thailand first, says Rathiya Issarachaikul, Head of SME Thailand for Facebook.

What is Facebook Shop?

Facebook Shop turns Page into an ecommerce site and allows customers to communicate easily with retailers via Facebook Messenger with a ready-to-use message format as well as a saved reply that allows businesses to auto-reply with pre-set messages.

Facebook Shop will be a way for merchants to showcase their products, leveraging from the increasing number of users who shop through social networking sites.

Facebook Shop is actually a separate page within Facebook Page and its key features include merchandising, purchasing, subscription and advertising.

Facebook said the Call to Action feature allowed Page users to choose different buttons – Call Now, Shop Now, Message Now, and Learn More.

In Thailand, NIX Studio and JQ Seafood Delivery have incorporated the Shop section on their pages and both have seen sales increase.

“In April, on the first day of Songkran, we saw total orders exceed Bt1 million in a single day after adding the Shop section,” says Sureerat Seepromkhom, Founder of JQ Seafood Delivery.

In Thailand, more than 40 million people use Facebook every month. More than 38 million people access Facebook monthly on a mobile device, and more than 74% of Thais on the site are connected to at least one local SME Page.

Facebook is making an aggressive push in the Southeast Asian region, focusing on Thailand in particular, with its recent push regarding social commerce payment in the country.

A version of this appeared in The Nation on July 29. Read the full version here.

In a record high, Facebook pulled in just over US$1 billion in revenue from the Asia-Pacific region, reports Tech In Asia.

The $1.03 billion figure for Q2 has more than doubled from the $431 million Facebook pulled in from the region exactly two years ago. Majority brought in by advertising and the impressive milestone was reached without any help from China’s vast population as Facebook is blocked there.

Facebook’s Data

  • Daily users in Asia reached 346 million
  • Monthly active users in Asia reached 592 million
  • Average revenue per user in Asia grew to $1.77
Source: Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook

Facebook and its brands’ global reach. Source: Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook

Facebook’s bottom line is benefiting from a lot of Chinese companies that are using its ad platform to reach customers around the world. 

Even Chinese state media is using Facebook as part of its soft power reach to the world.

The money Facebook makes from Europe has also doubled in the past two years, while in the US and Canada it has nearly tripled in the same period.

Facebook has made aggressive moves into Southeast Asia this year, choosing Thailand as the country to test its social commerce pilot project due to the popularity of C2C commerce in the country. The company has also announced the integration of ecommerce into Facebook Messenger in the form of Chat Bots; allowing users to communicate with brands and merchants on the chat platform, users can make payments and confirm delivery on the space as well.

2016 is shaping up to be a very good year indeed for Zuckerberg and co.

A version of this appeared in Tech In Asia on July 28.  Read the full version here.