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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.

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.

The ecommerce world today is all about data. It’s not a nice-to-have but rather a must-have. Why? Because the richer the data, the better the decision brands make.

Collecting data is easy when brands have their own ecommerce website or what we call 1st party data. Some channel partners do share their data to a certain extent, that’s called 2nd party data. The 3rd party data, which is a set of data collected from sources by a company that isn’t directly involved in the transaction, will help brands drive successful action and increase their ecommerce sales.

Types of data in today’s ecommerce world; BrandIQ

Brands in Southeast Asia are accustomed to ‘surveyed data’, but have a limited amount of data from online marketplaces, so much so that it is insufficient for them to craft a successful online marketplace strategy.

BrandIQ is envisioned to provide brands in Southeast Asia with measurable data and actionable insights for their online commerce strategy. Using sophisticated ecommerce data collection and proprietary machine learning technologies, BrandIQ will empower brands to monitor online merchandise, analyze competitors, offer better promotions, understand consumer sentiments, and improve the overall ecommerce experience.

When 4Ps is not enough. BrandIQ Analytics will be able to provide brands the data and insights across 9Ps; BrandIQ

At Okura Prestige Bangkok, three brands – Beiersdorf, Kimberly Clark, and L’Oreal, were brought together by BrandIQ to discuss and share their experience about the growing influence of data usage and user-generated reviews.

From left: aCommerce’s Group Director of Product, Poonpat Wattanavinit as the moderator, and panelists: Praponsak Kumpolpun, Senior Ecommerce Manager, L’Oreal CPD Thailand, Aviroot Prasitnarit, Sales Director – Kimberly Clark Thailand, and Phunnapa, Limtansakul, Senior Ecommerce Manager SEA – Beiersdorf Thailand

This is what was discussed:

Keep your Friends Close, Your Enemy Closer

By having an understanding of your competitor’s movement, brands can gain a significant advantage to help guide its own pricing and marketing strategy.

Tracking your competitor can be easily done offline, especially the price. Brands can simply send an intern to take note of the price. In the country’s FMCG industry, prices change every two weeks. Online channels? Every minute.

“Unlike offline, monitoring our competitors’ online movement is extremely challenging. Promotions are constantly changing and without a proper tool, it is impossible for a human to keep up,” says Aviroot Prasitnarit, Sales, Kimberly Clark. “My team once woke up to a surprise that our competitor could perform really well overnight because of its flash sales at 10 PM. None of my team members was standing by to track that.”

Being in the competitive FMCG industry, Kimberly Clark aims for a double-digit growth. Therefore, taking up more market share from its competitor is very important to Aviroot. So when it comes to price, Aviroot suggests keeping friends close, enemies closer.

In addition to direct competitors, brands should also be aware that grey sellers on the online marketplace can be a threat. According to BrandIQ, 35% of e-marketplace sales happen through grey sellers. This should raise a concern among brands because not only can grey sellers take away your share on an online marketplace, brands will not be able to create a unified brand experience.

Because at the end of the day, consumers will not differentiate if the sellers are grey, authorized or official. They will perceive it as one brand.

The New Rising Star: Nano Influencer

Besides price, reviews and ratings are also important for L’Oreal Thailand where the cosmetic industry is a “Red Hot Ocean”, according to Praponsak Kumpolpun, Senior eCommerce Manager, L’Oreal CPD Thailand.

“Thailand has many strong local beauty brands that are 40-50% cheaper than L’Oreal with roughly the same quality. So monitoring 4Ps (Price, Product, People, Place) is not enough.”

BrandIQ also found that the FMCG category has almost 70,000 reviews with most comments regarding the quality and speed of delivery. This is because FMCG has a “need it now” characteristic, making consumers very sensitive to delivery lead-time.

The number of reviews versus % of reviews that are about delivery across the categories on Thailand’s leading online marketplace; BrandIQ

Aviroot also added that a survey conducted by his team revealed that commercials on televisions are not convincing for consumers today. 80% of respondents also say they’d rather listen to recommendations of their friends and family. This is where the concept of nano influencers comes in.

Influencer marketing is not new in Southeast Asia. Around 40% of companies’ social media advertising spending has been allocated to influencer marketing in Thailand, up from 15% three years ago. Thailand, being the home to 57 million active Internet users, consumers are fairly familiar with social media. Seeing the success of established influencers and bloggers in the industry, many could not help but aspire to be one, in hope to enjoy the perks brands offer; overseas trips, free products, and a large amount of side income.

The trend to become influencers made the social web of today home to a millennial digital entrepreneurial society. Brands make a good use of it by handpicking matured ambassadors, ready to promote their values, from the army of new social influencers.

“Whether they are macro, micro, nano, influencers play a big part in convincing the digital consumers. Knowing that Nano influencer is new to the market, I think it is a big opportunity that brands should start considering.” – Phunnapa, Limtansakul, Senior Ecommerce Manager SEA – Beiersdorf Thailand.

What Can Brands Take Away from This?

Time and again, brands are constantly curious about two things: what is my competitor doing? How do my consumers feel? As ecommerce and social media become a bigger part of consumers’ daily lives, brands are looking for ways to gather data and gain insights from platforms such as Lazada and Shopee as a rich and dynamic data set.

The metrics that BrandIQ will be able to offer to brands.

And the metrics that brands should start paying more attention to, tools like BrandIQ will be able to track and analyze consumer behavior and sentiment on marketplaces, in addition to tracking their own performance as well as benchmarking against competitors selling similar products.

Interested in monitoring your competitor? Get BrandIQ’s free trial here.

In this day and age, a mobile phone can do more than making a phone call; it records the time, takes pictures, orders meals and even measures your heart rate. Who needs a watch these days?

You may be surprised to learn that even though 81.4% of Thais own a mobile phone, many still wear wrist watches.

Mobile phone user penetration in Thailand; eMarketer.com

What do Thais Look for when Buying a Wrist Watch?

Out of the 877 Thai respondents, 94.9% wore a watch and more than half (56.0%) owned three watches or more. Data from the ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018 indicated that watches remain a necessary accessory among Thai consumers with demand still high despite a large number of smartphone users. Statista reported a total of 25.75 million smartphone users in Thailand but the days of the wristwatch are not yet over.

Apart from the obvious reasons to tell the time (62.5%), 13.5% also wore a wristwatch as an accessory. Male respondents especially mentioned that wearing watches was the easiest and classiest way to look good. Around 8.6% cited that wearing a watch reflected their status and style and helped to boost their confidence.

For this reason, design was naturally the most important factor that Thais considered when buying a wristwatch, followed by price and brand name. Brand name also reflected status and personal style. For example, Rolex is still highly regarded as a prestigious timepiece brand in Thailand. Wearing a Rolex advertises high income and social status.

Price, naturally, is another high-ranking factor. Watches are deemed as expensive accessories and not something to be bought on an impulse. Thais only buy new watches every few years (58.7%). Most respondents indicated that they were comfortable to spend around 1,000-30,000 baht on a wristwatch.

Factors that Thai respondents look for when buying a watch; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018

The top three watch brands preferred by Thai respondents were Seiko (25.6%), Casio (21.6%), and Omega and Rolex (10.9%).  What do we learn from this ranking?

  • Seiko is a Japanese company that revolutionized the industry and is known for its long history of watchmaking. Prices range from 5,000 to 30,000 baht and the brand is popular among 20K-50K baht income earners.
  • Casio offers a diverse product assortment and brands including G-SHOCK and Baby G. Casio are known for their affordable but attractive designs.
  • Rolex and Omega are popular among consumers aged 40 and above. These two brands are preferred by the older generation, while youngsters opt for IWC or Tag Heuer as luxury timepieces.
  • Daniel Wellington, is a hipster brand that rose to popularity fast and won the hearts of the younger generation. Up to 75% of respondents aged 18-25 wore this brand. Tag Heuer is also popular amongst the 31-40 age group.

When asked about the media channels they used for news and information about timepieces, 48% of the respondents stated that they received news from social media with 33.7% using brand websites.

In Thailand, 74% of the population are active social media users, as reported by ETDA 2017. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that social media was the main channel respondents used for news concerning watches. Brand websites offer more genuine and trustworthy news about the brand itself.

Media channels that Thais use for news about wrist watches; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018

Where do Thais Buy Wrist Watches?

Despite the heavy usage of the Internet to consume news, 76.7% of Thais still buy wrist watches from offline stores. The most popular offline channel used by 55.5% of the Thai respondents was Central Department Store because of the store’s credibility.

Like most department stores in Thailand, Central Department has a dedicated section for wristwatch sales. Apart from their reliable reputation, buying a wrist watch from Central Department Store is very easy and convenient. Up to 19% of the respondents looked for convenience and a holistic service, especially regarding after-sales service when buying a watch. Every Central Department Store has a ‘Watch & Clock Clinic’ that offers after-sales service for watches bought from the store.

Watch & Clock Clinic at Central Department Store, Pinklao Branch

Only 23.3% of the respondents bought wrist watches online. Lazada received the highest scores in terms of an online sales channel where Thais buy watches. The second preferred option would be the brand website, due to its credibility.

The online channels Thai respondents choose to buy watches from; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018.

 

Similar to other product categories, the top reason cited for opting for online channels was because of convenience; ecommerce saves time and is hassle-free. On the other hand, some Thai respondents refrained from buying wrist watches online due to a perceived lack of credibility in the sellers and/or marketplaces. Offering a warranty and after-sales service are also factors that some online sellers fail to provide.

Reasons why Thai respondents bought wrist watches from online channels; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018

It is also interesting to note how wrist watches are listed by Lazada and Shopee websites as each has a slight difference. From our observations, watches are only found in the ‘watch and glasses’ category on Shopee, while Lazada lists watches under: Electronic accessories, women’s fashion, and men’s fashion. This provides users with more exposure to the products and hence higher conversion to sales.

On the Lazada website, users are able to see watches listed on the e-marketplace more frequently and in more sections than at Shopee. Lazada, watches can be found under Electronics as wearables and accessories, which is also categorized into male, female and child timepieces.

Shopee, on the other hand, only offers watches under the watches and glasses category, and does not categorize watches for different demographics like Lazada.

How Can Watch Brands Take Advantage?

Watches are deemed as a luxury item by Thais. More often than not they are bought as an investment. Thais look for credibility and confidence from the seller, as well as a warranty proving that the timepiece bought is authentic.

It is not enough to list your products on a marketplace and engage in advertising campaigns. Rather, brands should focus on establishing confidence among consumers. One way to ensure this is to be listed as an official seller on LazMall or Shopee Mall, as well as including a clear statement about warranty and after-sales service conditions.

For luxury timepiece manufacturers, an e-marketplace may not be the ideal strategy as it may conflict with the brand’s positioning. Luxury brands should focus on providing beyond-expectation services and ascertaining that information is clearly visible on their websites.

As watches are still mainly sold offline, now is the right time for brands to give omnichannel a try. Take Burberry for example. They created the Burberry Retail Theatre that streams live runway shows into a number of their stores worldwide and through their other online channels. In the Retail Theatres, customers can browse live streaming collections on iPads and purchase items online immediately.

Burberry’s Runway to Reality campaign allowing consumers to order items from the runway in real-time

However, high-end or mid-range Thai timepiece brands should not ignore the power of social media. Daniel Wellington sets a great example through owning its own social media game. The company reduced spending on traditional advertising and turned instead to social media to reach potential consumers through use of the hashtag #DanielWellington. This also leverages user-generated content (UGC) to engage its customers and drive brand loyalty.

An Instagram post was created with #DanielWellington as #DWPickoftheDay and #DWPickoftheMonth

By taking your brand digital, you are embracing an endless supply of consumer data. As Shadi Halliwell, the creative and marketing director of Harvey Nichols stated,

“Data is a conversation; the more data you have on someone, the more conversation you can have.”  

Customer service goes beyond a smiley face and a friendly personality. In the world of ecommerce, where there is a lack of human touchpoints, customer service plays a vital role. When done well, it can help you increase your Average Order Value (AOV), boost your conversion rate, and create brand loyalty.

But gone are the days when customer service translated to 24-hour hotlines. In this day and age, customer service often comes in a form of live chat, recently popularized by all the hype around AI-driven chat bots.

In order to craft an effective customer care strategy, it is important to benchmark the level of customer service in the marketplace. To do that, ecommerceIQ conducted an experiment to test the responsiveness and effectiveness of brands offering live chat on Lazada Thailand.

Methodology

We randomly picked three brands from each category offered on LazMall, sampling a total of 27 brands across Lazada Thailand.

Each of the brands was asked the same single question – “How long does it take to deliver a product from your brand?” – during two time periods: during lunch time and after work. These are typically peaked online shopping hours, translating into peak load hours for live chat operations too.

Results: How Do Brands’ Customer Service Perform on LazMall?

From our observations, 25.9 percent of the brands offer a real-time response through Lazada live chat. 22.2 percent replied within 30 minutes, 22.2 percent replied within the first hour, 11.1 percent replied within 6 hours and 24 hours, and 7.4% of the brands did not reply at all.

It is also noted that the categories that are the most responsive are Electronics & Mobile and Home & Lifestyle.

Since our sample covers after work, off-hours too, this allows us to identify brands that have configured auto-replies for their live chat. Only 37 percent of the brands tested had auto-replies enabled. Setting up auto-replies is easy and a no-brainer in this day and age when everything is on-demand and 24/7.

ecommerceIQ’s observations about the responsiveness of live chat on Lazada Thailand

From our observations, 25.9 percent of the brands offer a real-time response through Lazada live chat. 22.2 percent replied within 30 minutes, 22.2 percent replied within the first hour, 11.1 percent replied within 6 hours and 24 hours, and 7.4% of the brands did not reply at all.

It is also noted that the categories that are the most responsive are Electronics & Mobile and Home & Lifestyle.

Since our sample covers after work, off-hours too, this allows us to identify brands that have configured auto-replies for their live chat. Only 37 percent of the brands tested had auto-replies enabled. Setting up auto-replies is easy and a no-brainer in this day and age when everything is on-demand and 24/7.

Xiaomi’s automatic reply which indicates the working hours and apologizes for the slow response in both Thai and English.

Most brands do add some human touch to their chats, such as using stickers and offering detailed information. But that is not enough to make an impression and the current live chat offering from brands are far from using live chat at its maximum ability.

How can Brands Improve their Live Chat on E-Marketplaces?

With these findings, brands should start paying more attention to their customer care strategies. We spoke with the Ms. Ratchaneewan Vichaisorn, Head of Customer Service at aCommerce, an end-to-end brand ecommerce enabler in Southeast Asia. Here are her suggestions:

1. Equip your Customer Service / Chat Agents with Product Knowledge

As the agents operating your live chat are an extension of your company’s brand, it is important that they receive adequate training for your products. This is especially the case for Mobile & Electronics and Beauty categories as product knowledge are often the deciding factor for shoppers in Thailand.

According to Ms. Ratchaneewan Vichaisorn, Head of Customer Service at aCommerce, during non-campaign periods, 35% of the inquiries through live chat are about products, while the number of inquiries about products surged to 45% during campaign periods like 9.9. (See how to prepare for the annual online mega sales here.)

2. Leverage the Opportunity to Up-Sell and Cross-Sell

Based on their product knowledge, your agents should be able to provide recommendations of similar products or complementary products that consumers may be interested in.

Brands can also take this opportunity to inform consumers of upcoming promotions to keep them coming back to buy the next time too.

3. Collect Data and Monitor For Customer Feedback

Talking directly to your customers is a great way for brands to collect data and feedback from end users. This information can then be used to improve a brand’s products and services. Because live chats are automatically logged, the chat histories can be mined for patterns and insights.

4. Promote Your Brand

Your customer service agent should be encouraged to offer more information about the brand to improve the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Towards the end of the chat, inform the customer about the channels that they can follow your brand for content, updates, and promotions.

These are a few tips that your brand can adapt to improve your customer service. If you’re interested in a similar audit for your own brand or a consulting session to improve your live chat operations, please contact us via hello@ecommerceIQ.asia or fill out the form below:





 

 

*Thanks to a ecommerceIQ Community member for sharing the launch of LazMall with us:

In case you missed it, JD Central’s long awaited joint venture went live in Thailand a few days ago:

ecommerceIQ

And reviews have already come in,

ecommerceIQ

Though rough, the experience has been positive so far and as expected by JD, delivery reliable and quick. The partnership with Thailand’s largest retail conglomerate Central Group indicates JD.com is attempting to replicate its value proposition in China in Southeast Asia: a high quality ecommerce experience for authentic goods.

“If you promise people to deliver same day, people will more likely buy. Our people will literally cross rivers and climb mountains to get the package to the end customer.” – Louis Li, former Deputy GM of JD Worldwide

It seems Chinese players Alibaba and JD.com are looking to establish its number one and number two statuses in Southeast Asia ecommerce, respectively. Alibaba known for its hit-or-miss products at cheap prices and JD.com for the authentic goods and reliable customer experience.

And now that JD.com has planted its flag in Thailand, Alibaba/Lazada isn’t going to sit back casually – hence, (re)introducing LazMall.

ecommerceIQ

Consumer newsletter by Lazada Thailand

What is LazMall?

Very simply, it is a replica of the widely successful Tmall in China – a platform for official brands. In Lazada’s own words:

‘LazMall is an exclusive channel featuring items sold by leading international and local brands.’

“At LazMall, we aim to offer an online shopping experience of the highest-quality to garner the trust of our customers and provide the convenience they long for. LazMall will provide customers with the following promises: 100% authenticity and 15-day easy returns.”

There also appears to a number of benefits by becoming a LazMall seller:

• LazMall badge on all your products throughout the customer journey; see LazMall Indonesia
• Enjoy higher visibility on homepage and higher search ranking
• Exclusive access to dedicated LazMall campaigns
• Dedicated customer service team for LazMall customers

ecommerceIQ

Brand dashing to marketplace

Not quite.

Brands commonly will teeter with the idea of a brand.com and/or marketplace and the answer we always give is “a marketplace strategy is important in Southeast Asia as part of a bigger digital strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only online effort by a company.”

While LazMall aims to create a safe space for brands to promote themselves online by setting strict authenticity procedures and greater visibility over unofficial sellers, activity the US and China have taught us the brand relationship with a marketplace is a tricky one and from it emerges a power struggle.

A well-known American brand saw its Tmall sales plummet 10% to 20% for 2017.

“Based on our sales record, we should have been in a prominent position, but we were at the bottom of the page,” said the brand’s ecommerce director, who spoke anonymously to the Bangkok Post for fear of further retaliation. “That’s a clear manipulation of traffic. That’s a clear punishment.”

Executives soon learn that what Alibaba gives, it can also take away.

How did the marketplace gain so much power?

A few factors. First, all that money business tech sites complained about marketplaces burning was to grab market share and market share translates into influence. If you’re not present on marketplace or selling on your own website, you’re losing an important revenue channel.

As reported by the New York Times about Amazon, Lazada also has an advantage over traditional retailers and its own merchants that no one else has: knowledge and access to data from its platform. 70% of Amazon’s word searches are for generic terms such as “running shoes” or “games”, meaning Amazon can choose what to display in search results. Will it be Nike or Adidas shoes? Well, it probably depends on who is being a better merchant to the marketplace – driving traffic, exclusive promos, etc.

We can expect something similar to take place in Southeast Asia but this doesn’t necessarily mean brands are guaranteed to lose out.

KitchenAid recently launched with us and their revenue was two times than targets,’ – Lazada Singapore Category Manager

The rise of digital has forced brands used to having 100% control learn how to barter for maximum visibility. The birth of a brand to marketplace relationship is also why ecommerce enablers are popping up everywhere in Southeast Asia to mediate the wants and needs of both.

“[Enablers] allow me to focus on my core business capability and rest assured online segment is still moving along” – eIQ Community Member, Ecommerce Enabler survey

Your move brands.

Want to learn more about participating in LazMall? Contact us at hello@ecommerceIQ.asia 

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