This post was sponsored by ForwardPMX (becoming Assembly).
In today’s connected world, where consumers engage across a variety of online environments, they expect a level of seamlessness from brands that makes shopping a simple and relevant experience. It has also spurred an expectation of immediacy, with consumers looking to shop anytime, anywhere, with ease.
That’s why when we think about connected commerce as a concept, we know it’s not a new one entirely – and yet, the conversation around it has evolved and come much more to the forefront.
While many might say we’re currently at the height of digitalisation as a result of the global pandemic, the truth is that many brands had delayed digital acceleration, and the development and use of DTC platforms, before our COVID-19 reality came to be.
When the pandemic hit and consumers fled online, in some cases, the absence of a strong digital brand presence meant consumers needed to turn towards marketplaces to fill the vacuum for their connected commerce needs. This opened a new frontier for brands in Southeast Asia to battle it out for the consumer’s attention (and wallets!).
iPrice Group’s “Map of E-commerce Year-end Report 2020” effectively illustrates the tremendous growth of marketplaces. Singapore leads the ASEAN markets with a surge of 35% of website traffic to online shopping platforms, followed by the Philippines (21%), Vietnam (19%), Malaysia (17%), Thailand (15%), and Indonesia (6%). Average spending by consumers also increased by 19% in these six countries.
In other words, it’s no longer a question of “if” or “when”, but “how” brands in Southeast Asia should integrate marketplaces into their retail marketing strategy as soon as possible, or risk losing their competitive edge as consumers seek a more seamless online shopping experience.
The growing influence of marketplaces in Southeast Asia
Shopee leads the pack with an average of 281 million visits per month in 2020, followed by Lazada with 137 million visits and Tokopedia with 89 million. The success of these three powerhouses is the result of the millions invested in creating the most streamlined shopping experiences for customers.
Their mobile-first business strategies, streamlined supply chains and logistics, vast product portfolios and the unrestricted ability to shop anytime and anywhere makes them unstoppable selling machines. These marketplaces have pioneered a new shopping experience for customers, one that many brands may find difficult to replicate.
Let’s take, for example, the strong promotional culture of marketplaces. The success of Alibaba’s Singles Day sales has spurred an emergence of “mega-sales” events on top Southeast Asian eCommerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee.
Identical-number date promotions such as 6/6, 7/7, 11/11 are launched throughout the year with consumers conditioned to shop on these dates. Deal hunters and price-sensitive consumers are drawn to marketplaces by these events, and they naturally become part of their purchasing decisions.
The ability to bundle products also elevates the shopping experience on marketplaces. Consumers can buy whatever they want from any brand they want, all on one single platform, satisfying their need for convenience, immediacy and cost savings. Added features such as wish lists, abandon carts and payment options take the experience to a whole new level.
Over time, consumers’ expectations have risen as marketplaces continue to evolve, making the relationship between consumers and marketplaces even more intertwined. Instead of competing against marketplaces, brands need to quickly understand the role of marketplaces within their customer journey and find ways to deliver a meaningful and cohesive brand experience on these platforms.
Integrating marketplaces into your customer journey
Start by understanding how your customers interact with your brand on marketplaces. Are they looking for cheaper alternatives or the option to bundle various products? Are they shopping from locations that you don’t ship to or maybe just seeking quicker shipping options? Knowing your customers’ motivation for using these platforms will help identify the moment in the purchasing journey that marketplaces can help bridge the gap.
This means your marketplace team can no longer be an independent operation, but needs to be integrated within the rest of the marketing organisation. It is a critical cog in the machine; without it, the machine doesn’t run smoothly or doesn’t run at all. Collaboration between different departments is what will ensure the unification of your brand across all digital touch-points.
Most importantly, understand that marketplaces are not your competitor. They have enabled a unique shopping experience that doesn’t need to be replicated on your eCommerce store. Instead, take advantage of the promotional and bundling culture and complement your marketplace store with support from other marketing channels, giving consumers what they want and still expect from your brand.com. Ultimately, this gives your brand more chances to win the consumer’s loyalty.
Connecting the dots
Creating the connected commerce experience requires the constant collaboration of numerous stakeholders, each with their challenges and goals. As the industry continues to trend in this direction, we, at ForwardPMX, have invested heavily in training our digital experts to look at eCommerce holistically within the larger context of our clients’ businesses.
The growing dominance of marketplaces cannot be overlooked and should be well-integrated into your marketing strategy. Our multi-channel digital experts in Greater China and Southeast Asia have worked with clients to seamlessly fuse marketplaces into their customer journey through the design of full-funnel strategies that unify the brand experience across all channels.
This writers are Alexei Filippov, strategic partnership lead, APAC and RU; and Kelvin Lee, marketing manager, APAC and RU, ForwardPMX (becoming Assembly).