Covid-19 might have accelerated online shopping, but ecommerce’s success story is no longer just a pandemic-driven blip. According to data from Edge by Ascential Retail Insight, the region’s online retail penetration grew to 31% in 2021. By 2022, we expect ecommerce sales in the region will grow 20% to almost US$50 billion (US$49.6 billion), up from US $40.1 billion in 2021, and for ecommerce in Southeast Asia to reach US$76.1 billion by 2026.
Considering this growth, it’s no surprise that businesses of all sizes want a piece of the ecommerce pie – everyone from legacy ecommerce players to store-based retailers and even nimble upstarts are making dramatic investments in their ecommerce offerings and capabilities. However, the most profound growth is forecast for pureplay ecommerce marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee.
But as more people in the region go online to meet their daily needs, including groceries and household essentials, their expectations of the shopping experience have risen. Equally, with more brands jostling for consumer attention online, selling through marketplaces increasingly requires its own specific approach in order to stand out.
Using data to tell stories that resonate
According to WARC's Brand and content: How Unilever keeps its focus on the consumer, the focus is often on performance marketing in ecommerce – which is great for customer acquisition – but investing in brand-building efforts, including authentic content, is crucial to standing out and creating future demand. Additionally, as marketplaces evolve to meet the changing needs and requirements of shoppers, brands must develop an approach to meet the high content needs of this channel.
To do this well, we urge brands to start with really getting to know their customers: who are they, what are they searching for, where are they seeking information and what information are they seeking. A good understanding of shoppers and the role each channel plays in the customer journey is crucial for making decisions about channel choice and investment.
Capturing this opportunity, however, requires brands to use data wisely and correctly so that they can help customers:
- Easily find the brands, products and content they’re searching for
- Learn about their brand and products by having best-in-class, A+ content
- Buy via a seamless fuss-free purchase and delivery process
- Share and be rewarded so that they will come back for more
Image by Olly Singapore
An example of a brand that does this well is Unilever’s melatonin gummies brand OLLY Sleep, which uses technology, including social listening, to understand customer sentiment and what shoppers are thinking about. When the brand first launched in Singapore in early 2020, it gleaned insights and learnt that beyond wanting good, restful sleep, people were also interested in learning more about the topic. This prompted the team to create content in the form of bite-sized sleep tips and publish them on the OLLY website. Beyond this, the team at OLLY Sleep found other ways to authentically leverage its brand purpose to create value for customers during its pandemic launch, via livestream events focused on self-care and home workouts led by content creators on Instagram Live.
Because creating content that resonates with shoppers isn’t just a one-off process, brands must operate with a test-and-learn mindset to constantly keep up with what’s happening, and then optimise their channel and investment choices accordingly. This could include A/B testing various media and creative assets, testing variations of a promotional activity, and monitoring performance of content across channels to understand the returns on advertising spend.
How the platforms stack up
While shoppers in Southeast Asia greatly enjoy value, brands are increasingly discovering that entertainment, community and recommendations are crucial to wooing them. For brands, this means constantly thinking of new ways to delight and engage customers, including via interactive livestreams on e-commerce and social platforms, and with KOLs who resonate with your target audience.
Image from Vulcan Post
Recently, Lazada invested heavily in shoppertainment activities, and is rolling out diverse content via LazCook, LazMusic, and LazGetfit among others. During mega-sale days, Lazada Vietnam created more than 400 livestream episodes per day, attracting a 5-6X jump in viewership – and its total orders during Singles’ Day nearly doubled. On 12.12, sales from LazLive increased 7X, and its SuperShow touched 26 million views, contributing to a 20X increase in sales.
On the brand side, consumer electronics company Philips Domestic Appliances has also been investing in gaining a deeper understanding of its customers, including how they consume media and which social media platforms they use each day to shed light on their preferences.
Access our webinar with Philips Domestic Appliances on the Future of Digital Shelf here.
According to Nicholas Lee, the company’s Vice President and Market Leader for Asia Pacific, who spoke during our recent webinar themed Future of Digital Shelf, “Information is organised differently digitally, especially in mobile shopping platforms. Consumers are not going to scroll up and down forever. Ideally, they want to see information quickly on one screen.”
Image from Search Engine Journal
As for platforms, TikTok is doing a great job of this by compressing the consumer decision journey into one moment – and its increasingly this approach others, including Meta, are now striving for, according to WARC's What we know about marketing on TikTok. For its part, TikTok is now developing a suite of tools, called TikTok Shopping, to enable brands to shorten the purchase funnel and potentially drive users from discovery to purchase with a single piece of content.
A 2020 study from TikTok found that 88% of its users discover new content while on the app, and one in two discover new products and brands in the process. As many as 91% of users take some sort of action after seeing content, 25% have researched or purchased the product they saw advertised, and, importantly, 73% gave product recommendations to family and friends – this is what the platform calls ‘community commerce’. And although creators remain at the core of the platform, their activity is being used in new ways – promoting brand discovery and purchase, and further developing the idea of ‘community commerce’.
TikTok best practices for brands
Here are some tips for brands looking to tap on the platform, according to WARC's What we know about marketing on TikTok:
- Leverage the app’s newly released features that link its content platform to commercial returns for advertisers. From collection ads to dynamic product ads and even augmented reality features, there is something for everyone.
- Brands can also use a self-serve platform, which allows marketers to find creators that best align with their interests. Brands can post campaign briefs to creators using Open Application Campaigns and enable third-party businesses to manage the end-to-end process with its Creator Marketplace API.
- When it comes to using the popular paid-for ‘hashtag challenge’ format, we recommend keeping dance routines simple. Users are likely to struggle with challenging and complex routines, which could impact your campaign’s outcomes.
- When launching a campaign on TikTok – and particularly a hashtag challenge – brands are advised to follow the ‘WTF’ (Wish-Try-Fun) method:
- Wish: Social causes invite engagement. Gen Z consumers, for instance, are 10.4% more likely to care about social issues than their older counterparts.
- Try: Every experience should be new. Users on TikTok are more likely to embrace change, with an increase of 8.2% over non-users according to TikTok’s research. Users also want to try something new, 4.5% more so than non-users.
- Fun: A non-negotiable ingredient. The research found that TikTok users are more likely to be of an optimistic disposition, and 5.6% more likely to spend money on having fun than non-users.
Content, like ecommerce, is an evolving ecosystem. But by keeping these tips in mind, brands will be in a better position to create resonant content that appeals to today’s shoppers. Here are some business questions our team can potentially help you answer:
- How do I optimise my content to improve my organic search performance?
- How to best engage my key customers?
- Where should I place my products to reach my target consumers most effectively in each country?
- What are the internal and external capabilities required to win digital commerce in the next 3 to 5 years?
To learn about how Ascential Digital Commerce can help structure your ecommerce business, please contact our consultant team at