The eCommerce market in Southeast Asia, which had been rising steadily for a decade, probably squeezed in a good chunk of the next decade’s growth into 2020 because of the global pandemic. 

Lazada saw its online grocery sales in Singapore rise a stunning 4 times after the city-state introduced Covid-19 restrictions. Shopee reported that users in Singapore spent 40% more time in-app per week during the second quarter of last year. Food delivery platforms also witnessed a significant jump in sales. Food Panda posted a 518% and 428% growth in orders, while Grab revealed that its food delivery operations now generate more than 50% of group revenue.

With online shopping becoming mainstream, eCommerce revenue is expected to grow by 7% annually from 2021 to 2025, according to Statista. These trends are set to create a market worth US$2 trillion by  2025. 

We look at 5 emerging ecommerce trends in Southeast Asia

As eCommerce permanently integrates itself into businesses, marketers must pivot to digital platforms and carefully consider their online brand positioning. But as the market expands, so too does competition. To thrive in an eCommerce-first world, brands need to make smart moves to stand out.

Drawing from my experience building a leading eCommerce enablement business across Southeast Asia through Awake Asia, which I continue to lead as Chief of eCommerce Enablement following our recent merger with ADA, I’ve compiled a best-practice guide on how to position your brand online and drive conversions in a crowded marketplace.

Planning is essential  

It’s easy to assume launching an eCommerce store is as effortless as setting up a website. After all, a dropship model requires relatively low start-up costs, and with so many hosting platforms in the market you don’t need deep technical or programming knowledge. 

Yet a full 22% of eCommerce businesses still fold every year. This is where planning comes in. 

An eCommerce business plan needs to consider a number of items including profitability, unique selling proposition, budget, and timeline. But the marketing aspects are just as crucial. Remember to make a checklist of the marketing resources you will need such as brand collaterals, creative assets, and product descriptions before getting started.

Map out user journeys 

Once your eCommerce store is live, the next step is to map out user journeys. A 2020 Salesforce study suggests that around 80% of customers prioritise their experience with a company as much as their products. 

Mapping the customer journey allows you to see things from the customer’s perspective. In addition, it can shine a light on common, but hidden, customer pain points. 

Remember to take stock of all customer touchpoints including social media, landing page and sales enquiries as well as create journeys for different personas. You can find free user journey map templates online. At the same time, be aware that user journeys are no longer linear experiences

Images sell themselves 

Research by Nielson Norman shows that web readers just skim through pages they visit, and a study carried out by PR News found online content with good images get 94% more views than those without. 

Dynamic images that give buyers accurate and ample information about your product will be able to immediately grab their attention. If possible, try to provide multiple shots that capture the product from different (appealing) angles. 

Even on social media, short stories with engaging visuals – a combination of dynamic images and videos with informative text – tend to receive higher engagement.

Product images contribute to your overall visual identity. Sophisticated images suggest a classy brand while creative images associate your brand with fun. Similarly, low-quality images can discredit your brand and imply the same of your products. Product images also need to be SEO-friendly, as file names and alt texts can boost your organic search rankings.

One example of good brand imagery comes from Everlane. With bright and well-lit photographs, they regularly feature timely campaigns on topics such as sustainability. They also shine a light on the people who manufacture their products via the #factoryfridays hashtag on social media.

Retail is detail

eCommerce may be a crowded space, but you can set yourself apart by paying attention to the details. Here are some key elements to consider:

  • Product descriptions: Compelling product descriptions allow customers to envision the lifestyle your product aims to deliver 
  • Hero images: The first images your customers see have an outsized impact on your brand, and the right hero images can increase sales by 10%-30%
  • UI/UX: Mobile commerce sales are projected to grow 22.3% in 2021, so make sure your product images and website are optimized for mobile

Nurture your SEO 

Don’t let search engine optimization be an afterthought. 

This is because organic search results trump paid ads by more than 3 times. Some 39% of global eCommerce traffic comes from organic search results, while 80% of users ignore paid advertising at first glance. Remember to optimise your product descriptions with keywords that best fit the marketplace’s search engine results page.  

Partnerships: Your (not so) secret weapon

Numerous reports and studies have demonstrated the importance of partnerships in a post-pandemic world, and eCommerce is no exception. Seeking partnerships where your brand values are aligned can take your enterprise to the next level, especially in our influencer and creator-led economy.

This may require going beyond superficial indicators. For instance, if you’re running a vegan food company and want to attract vegan audiences, then it may seem natural to reach out to vegan influencers on social media. But there are times when an influencer’s followers aren’t an exact match to their demography.  Female gaming influencers tend to have a large male fan base whereas male beauty influencers offer a more gender-neutral appeal. 

Leverage social media promotions

Last but not least, social media is a great way to drive traffic to your store especially during promotional periods. 

This is your opportunity to be creative. Lazada Malaysia added a surprise twist to its cinematic Livestream trailer by inserting a secret 11.11 promotion. The trailer featured several local personalities and entertainment shows that were live-streamed in the mobile app, and viewers who watched to the end received an exclusive RM5 discount code. The campaign was a hit and set record sales with many seller partners raking in over RM1 million each.

In summary, the technical, supply chain, and other operational aspects of running an eCommerce business usually get more attention, but to achieve long-term success, the marketing and positioning of your brand are of equal importance. 

Moving from bricks to clicks may seem like a challenging shift for many, but it’s a move that will pay off for those willing to take the plunge.

This article was contributed by Simon Paterson, Chief of eCommerce Enablement, ADA

About the author

Simon Patterson_ADA ecommerce

Simon is a visionary and skilled at cultivating leadership.

As the Chief of eCommerce Enablement, Simon’s foray into eCommerce started over a decade ago in SEA. One of his stints include a role as a Senior Vice President and Group Head on On-site Traffic Strategy, along with other C-level positions in Lazada.

Prior to eCommerce, Simon gained more than 10 years of sales and marketing experience in the FMCG industry with Colgate Palmolive and Reckitt Benckiser across Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia. His extensive experience living and working in multiple cities have brought about multiple perspectives and varying ways of thinking.

Before the merger with ADA, Simon was the CEO of Awake Asia and he was able to spearhead the geographical expansion of the company into multiple countries, including Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Now with ADA, he is dedicated to bring forth the same energy and commitment to provide brands with data-driven, AI-enabled eCommerce solutions today and into the future.

Over the weekends, Simon can be seen cycling or running around Singapore. His longest ride pre-COVID involved a 200km round trip to Malaysia for a Laksa.