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Riding the e-commerce tiger in a post-Covid age

Saurabh Madan
Saurabh Madan • 5 min read
Riding the e-commerce tiger in a post-Covid age
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that flawless customer experiences must always prevail.
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In 2021, 70 million new Southeast Asian shoppers flexed their credit cards online as the pandemic’s e-commerce frenzy entered its second year. But if they were expecting on-demand, next-day delivery service, many were left disappointed. Thanks to supply chain and staffing disruptions, the instant gratification gained through online shopping remains a distant memory.

Yet while some may consider that an excuse for poorer customer experiences, the opposite is true. Brands cannot control Covid-19 outbreaks or the so-called ‘great resignation’, but they can still offer a digital shopping experience that’s nothing short of stellar. Here’s why.

In this Year of the Tiger, competition for consumer attention and dollars has never been more fierce. With 80% of Southeast Asia’s internet users now shopping online, more and more brands are investing heavily in their e-commerce offerings.

While pan-Asian platforms such as Shopee and Lazada dominate the region, local players such as PGMall (Malaysia), Central Online (Thailand), and Tiki (Vietnam) have all cemented their places in their own markets. Throw branded mobile applications and social media platforms into the mix and you have a highly competitive ecosystem.

This is evidenced by our recent research with InMobi, which found that almost two-thirds of shoppers in the region are largely motivated by a deal up for grabs. As such, they are willing to use alternative platforms and brands in order to obtain maximum bang for buck. That is why experience, rather than brand loyalty, will be pivotal in securing customer success this year.

Mobile-first means mobile everywhere

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Despite the challenges, Southeast Asia-based brands and business owners are well-positioned for this success as long as they have the right mindset. Brands stand to gain from better communication channels and cross-border logistics chains, as well as larger consumer shopping budgets.

According to our research, half of Singaporeans, for example, were willing to spend more than S$1000 during last year’s December holiday period. At the same time, half of the Indonesians surveyed indicated a significant increase in their festive period budgets.

Perhaps the most important finding in the research was the notable shift to shopping via smartphone. Indeed, 71% of Southeast Asian shoppers planned to use smartphones to explore and buy products during the 2021 holiday season.

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Smartphone marketing is nothing new, but it requires more consideration than simply engaging customers through apps. Instead, marketers first need to look at how customers are behaving on a variety of apps and platforms.

The second step is to harness that data to target the right audience with the right content in a seamless, but unobtrusive manner. This can be achieved by establishing different customer cohorts based on the actions they have taken inside a mobile app, such as browsing a product from a specific category. Sending messages based on the actions taken by these cohorts can enable enhanced personalisation for consumers and an immediate boost in performance.

Finally, marketers can create segments of customers based on areas such as geolocation, language preference, or affinity. Doing so can enable businesses to curate dynamic offers and micro-moments that are personalised for each customer.

All these will provide the user with a much more fluid and therefore improved shopping experience. For the brand, the benefits are reaped from higher customer Lifetime Value (LTV) and better return-on-investment.

‘AI’ of the tiger

To reach and engage mobile-first consumers effectively, brands need to understand consumers and their preferences. It is also important to build real customer connections and memorable experiences, to drive high engagement, retention and conversion.

Insights-led engagement is the key to this. It is the modern marketer’s way of delivering better customer engagement by evolving from a campaign-centric approach to a customer-centric one with the help of real-time data and insights.

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Most brands already have a wealth of data and insights to leverage, but doing so on a mass scale for millions of customers across multiple countries is where the real challenge lies. And this is where an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered insights-led approach comes in, with three major actions that contribute to its momentum.

The first is to analyse customer behaviour and identify the right audiences brands seek to engage, the type of campaigns to run, and product improvements that can be made to improve customer experiences in the long run.

Then, these insights coupled with the power of AI can feed into the second action of creating personalised customer experiences at scale and orchestrating customer journeys across the various digital touchpoints.

AI plays a crucial role in steering customers to the right products judging from their user history, their searches and online trends. The technology allows marketers to create personalised experiences and orchestrate customer journeys across the various digital touchpoints.

It can also serve customers with the right recommendations and reviews, giving them the right tools to make a purchase. The more personal the experience, the more a customer is left feeling understood by the brand, creating that level of affinity and loyalty.

Finally, AI can extend beyond the shopping experience itself. Marketers can leverage machine learning to tailor their communications down to the right timing and correct messaging.

Based on the data gathered, ML can identify behaviour and therefore how to engage them and what campaigns to run. All this helps in building that stellar experience that will make customers more likely to return regularly.

Change will be the only constant this year. Willingness to change and evolve will divide Southeast Asian brands into tigers – those with high engagement, retention and conversion – and the house cats – those who risk total obsoletion.

Saurabh Madan is the general manager for Southeast Asia and Australia & New Zealand at MoEngage

Photo: Unsplash

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