Analysis: Steep competition, but SEA not a lost cause for Snapchat

The social media landscape in Southeast Asia is just buzzing right now, and global companies are noticing it. Social media app Snapchat's parent company, Snap, said this week that it plans to open an office in Singapore this year, while growing its business in the Southeast Asia region. This marks a new competitor in the region, with the space currently being dominated by Instagram. Adding on to the competition, are also platforms such as TikTok which has also launched its "TikTok for Business" as an advertising solution for brands.

With the rise in competition from already-established social media platforms, some might think the climb for Snapchat to grow in the region might be a steep one. However, industry players Marketing spoke to say Snapchat still has a fair chance in the market. 

Lee Kai Xin, interactive director at Wild Advertising & Marketing, said that brands are always looking for new ways to connect and engage with their audience. Lee added that users are also "getting bored" with social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and they are seeking new channels to entertain and connect with others - as seen by the rapid rise in use of TikTok. “All it takes is a killer filter for people to revisit Snapchat again,” Lee said.

Agreeing with Lee, Sara Pereira, regional technology lead, APAC at WE Communications added on that in a young, social-first region such as Southeast Asia, there is "plenty of space for another social platform" to gain fans. 

Social media is not a winner-take-all game.

But before eyeing ad dollars, what Snapchat needs is to first gain the trust of users and brands by establishing itself as a reliable social media platform. “Snapchat might need to rethink about how its platform can add value to its users before focusing on the ads or advertisers,” Jeffrey Lim, founder and managing director of 8traordinary said. As such, the priority for the platform should now be in acquisition of users. An increase in users will lead to increase in content sharing, driving repeat usage with increased viewerships. "With more users, usages and viewerships, it will then be compelling for advertisers and marketers,” he added.

Similarly, Alvin Chan, media director, VaynerMedia APAC said as with any new-to-market platform, Snapchat needs to convince marketers that it can deliver business results more efficiently than its competitors. As such, Pereira added that Snapchat needs to provide predictability of its offering and prove measurable impact to gain the trust of brands and its marketing spend.

But with the current economy, Wild Advertising & Marketing's Lee was quick to note that brands may be tighter with their budget and ad spend, and investing in a new-to-market platform may not be in their plans instantly. Thus it is important for Snapchat to roll out advertising solutions that allows brands to experiment on the channel without having to invest too much.

Meanwhile, Snap has hired Anubhav Nayyar as director of Southeast Asia market development, where he will lead Snap's market development efforts across the Southeast Asia region. Being the first Singapore employee, Nayyar will be part of the international markets team, which is led by its managing director, Nana Murugesan. Prior to joining Snap, Nayyar spent seven years at calling and messaging app Viber where he was the senior director and head of Asia Pacific. Nayyar was Viber’s first regional employee, and was responsible for establishing it as a leading messaging app in multiple countries in Asia as well as setting up operations across the region. Nayyar also previously helmed the role of head of marketing at Costa Coffee, as well as brand manager at Nestle, according to his LinkedIn page.

How Snapchat can gain popularity

In order to gain a foot in this social media scene, localisation and education is vital, according to WE Communications' Pereira. “To boost its user base, Snapchat will need to show its fans what sets it apart from other platforms and how creators can use it to make entertaining content that keeps fans coming back for more,” she said.

Lim echoes this point of view, adding that Snapchat’s unique selling point (USP) may still be hazy to users, who may be struggling to understand what the platform is about. On the other hand, consumers are more aware that Instagram is about capturing and sharing moments, while TikTok is about inspiring creativity and bringing joy through short-form mobile videos.

Snapchat can also look into tapping on the element of word-of-mouth both within and outside the platform. “After all, the most important and successful ingredient of social media marketing is the ability to leverage on the power of the word-of-mouth and the multiplying effect versus ad impressions and clicks,” Lim added.

In addition to setting itself apart from competitors via its identity, Chan from VaynerMedia said Snapchat will need to diversify their product offerings and continue to release breakthrough technology. “Consumers, especially young ones, are able and willing to try new social platforms,” he said, adding that consumers want social experiences that offer something fresh, new and trendy, and that is when Snapchat can come in. Additionally, customisation opportunities and flexibility will also help Snapchat create new experiences to capture consumers within the play space of the Snapchat platform.

In April, Snapchat claimed the number of app installs after seeing an ad on its platform increased by 36%, while swipe-up rates have seen a 19% increase overall during late March this year compared to late February. This is in line with industry-wide shifts towards mobile activity. As users practice social distancing, Snapchat said news and financial sites are seeing increases in activity as they seek to stay informed and plan accordingly in the current environment.

Besides news and financial sites, equity trading apps also witnessed a jump as Snapchat users were paying closer attention to their investments in this time of uncertainty. Meanwhile, online shopping for athleisure, pet products and home goods are also trending as they spend more time shopping on their phones rather than in-store. Snapchat also said there is a spike in fitness and wellness, streaming and music, gambling games, and mobile gaming, as public entertainment and fitness venues are shut down in accordance with social distancing measures.

In Q1 of the year, Snapchat saw an overall 20% increase in daily active users to 229 million in Q1 2020, an increase of 39 million. On average, more than 4 billion Snaps were created each day in Q1 2020.

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