Interview: Southeast Asia's fragmented markets open new opportunities for MINISO

Over the past year, while many retailers struggled to keep their operations afloat, MINISO exploded across the globe and set up its presence in all corners of the world. Here in Asia, given its role as the region’s economic hub and its wide influence across the markets, Singapore is today one of its more developed and key markets in Southeast Asia. Closely following in presence is Indonesia, due to its large population and the maturation of eCommerce – which Robin Liu, vice president, CMO and head of eCommerce says is one of the among the most established in the region.

“What’s exciting is that we’re in a rapid growth stage in both the Philippines and Vietnam. MINISO has more than 100 stores in the Philippines and over 40 stores in Vietnam, and we have an ambitious expansion plan for both markets given their huge potential and market sizes,” said Liu.

Currently, in Asia, MINISO localises much of its products to fit the culture and nuances. For example, given a large number of its Indonesian customers are Muslim, the company has adapted its beauty line to be more flexible to their religious customs. Since Muslims cannot wear makeup during worship, the company has developed a peelable nail polish so that customers can be stylish during their daily lives and also easily remove their nail polish quickly and easily for worship.

“It’s a subtle yet impactful localisation,” said Liu. But the challenges across Southeast Asia are many.

Southeast Asia is a fragmented market composed of markets with different levels of economic development and expendable income levels, cultural and religious customs and taboos. Collectively, these naturally lead to more dynamic consumer behaviour trends and present a big adaptability and localisation challenge for brands such as MINISO which are rapidly expanding to serve the local customers.

However, undeterred, Liu says it’s observing these nuanced traditions and evolving daily lives through customer feedback that leads to truly localised products. Currently, the company has a team of over 200 buyers responsible for analysing the interests and preferences of consumers in different regions, such as the aforementioned nail polish example in Indonesia.

And with every challenge comes an opportunity, said Liu. Southeast Asia skews younger than the majority of MINISO’s other global markets, and this matches the brand’s target audience quite well. Moreover, both Japanese and Chinese cultures have a huge influence on the region, which are core design aesthetics MINISO embraces.  

“We see this reflected in our IP partnerships, as our most popular in the region are Hello Kitty, Sanrio, and Budding Pop,” said Liu.

He added that eCommerce also presents a huge opportunity in the region with its boom. “I have already seen an incredible corresponding sales increase in the region. Our e-commerce sales surged 250% in Q1 2021 compared to the same quarter last year, and online channel sales accounts for 13% of our total sales in Indonesia,” he added. Pending how pandemic recovery progresses, Liu says the brand sees an even bigger potential for larger footprints across the US, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Colombia where MINISO can gain sustainable growth in the long run.

Currently, MINISO has a "7-1-1" strategy, which means that every seven days, it will launch approximately 100 new products that have been carefully selected from a large library of 10,000 product ideas. The goal is that customers will never feel bored when exploring in its stores, as there will always be something new.

“Our customers usually make spontaneous or splurge purchases when they visit our stores,” said Liu. Given the affordable price point, Liu said the customers can easily make the purchasing decision without worrying about their budget, because more than 95% of the products are priced under roughly US$7.5 in China, also very competitively priced in overseas markets, including Southeast Asia.

Liu added that the company believes in letting customers explore the shelves at their own pace and leisure. “Our in-store staff will not interrupt customers’ immersive shopping experience; instead, they offer help only when consumers need it,” he said.

“Customers often enter the store without a shopping list, with nothing in particular that they are looking for, but end up checking out with a smile, because they found many small, lovely-designed items at prices that make them feel happy,” he added.

Related article:
Interview: MINISO might ‘think small’ but markets big