With 2020 coming to a close, many companies are examining how to make their businesses more robust for 2021. After an uncertain year due to factors like COVID-19 and political unrest, tech startups in Southeast Asia must guarantee a strong presence, both in the region and abroad. Tech trends, like the updating of supply chains, finding solutions in fintech and smart customer service procedures, adopting agile models and structures, and always focusing on promoting their products in the digital sphere, will let startups dominate uncertainty and take advantage of the digital transformation the world is experiencing.

Digitized supply chains

With the unexpectedly rapid increase in online shopping, digitization of the supply chain process is a natural result of Industry 4.0, a new revolution in commerce where automated processes are streamlining and optimizing traditional supply chain processes. Recently, there have been significant investments related to logistics firms in Southeast Asia. Amongst them are Singapore’s Tramés, Andalin in Indonesia, and MyCloudFulfillment and Flash Express in Thailand. 

Furthermore, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ global consulting team Strategy& suggests that traditional supply chains should evolve into a Supply Chain Ecosystem that takes into account two frameworks: a Customer Solutions Ecosystem, and a Digital Operations Ecosystem. This allows them to notice shifts in supply and demand quickly and gives them time to readjust their supply chain process to increase profits. 

Locating solutions in fintech

Another game-changer is how companies manage the finances behind their operations, specifically with the increased use of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) models and cashless transactions. From a big-picture perspective, KPMG states that the lines and fundings between big tech and fintech companies are disappearing. Earlier this year, Google, Tencent and others invested $3 billion USD in Gojek, a company that started as a ride-hailing service and has now expanded to over 20 services. Gojek, in turn, acquired Moka, a Philippines-based payments company in April. Also, hoolah, a Singapore-based BNPL payments company, is expanding its retail partners in Asia at an impressive rate, with a 280% jump from October 2019, representing an increase in over 1000 stores. 

Finally, the IT consulting services company Capgemini predicts that cashless payments are likely to rise by 40% in Southeast Asian countries, from an estimated US$208.7 Billion in 2020 to 352.8 Billion in 2022.  

Innovation in customer service

If content is king in 2020, user experience is queen when it comes to digital transformation. Startups must consider all options when interacting with their customer base. Key factors are the use of Artificial Intelligence(AI) and live chat solutions. AI offers predictive insights, visible in shopping recommendations on Amazon and facial recognition on social media. Along with data science, AI gives companies an edge in the race for information. 

Beyond offering round-the-clock availability, chatbots help enterprises obtain metrics on the needs and want of their clients. However, the human touch is still a determining factor, and this is why live chats have impressive statistics when compared to other communication channels.

Change management and agile workplace dynamics

2020 was a year of unprecedented change for businesses. While the startup environment is no stranger to dealing with pivots and fluctuations, the pandemic has heavily impacted how people consume, interact and work. To survive with constant upheaval and transformations, companies must make their internal and external structures more agile to fit these needs. Even traditional banks have had to reconsider their relationship to fintech due to changing needs and demands. Julia Stead, Chief Marketing Officer at Allocadia, suggests the following three principles will help make organisations more agile: 

  • Prioritize people and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Collaborate with customers instead of focusing on contracts and numbers and let them inform product development and marketing.
  • Respond to change, versus simply following a plan, with continuous adaptation.

A new dawn for digital marketing 

Internet usage has skyrocketed during the pandemic in regions that already have high internet penetration rates, like Southeast Asia. Therefore, digital marketing efforts gravitate towards this environment through the use of classic SEO, social media marketing, and content marketing channels. Experiential marketing has taken centre stage when engaging with the customer, given that in-person events are no longer available. Meanwhile, tech trends like webinars and Instagram Live are bringing brands and consumers together by creating organic communities behind the products and services on offer. 

With a year that has brought so much change, it is only natural that the frameworks that tech startups in Southeast Asia and abroad rely on required readjustment. With the digitization of supply chains and logistics, creative fintech solutions and agile workplace environments, the operations of companies can face a more resilient future. Alongside this, innovation in both digital marketing and customer service will promote healthy relationships with the customers, no matter where in the world they may be.