Today’s consumers are more difficult to please than ever before. They tend to engage digitally with brands across six or more channels on average. This presents a challenge to marketers who must now engage with customers on their preferred channels when they are most active.

To find out what impact this has had on brands and how Southeast Asia is evolving, we spoke to Insider founder and CEO Hande Cilingir. The company just announced a US$121 million Series D round led by QIA, at a $1.22 billion valuation. Other investors participating in the round include Sequoia, Riverwood Capital, 212, Wamda Capital, Esas Private Equity, and Endeavor Catalyst.

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Insider’s platform is currently used by marketing teams from more than 1000 global enterprise brands, such as Samsung, GAP, IKEA, Virgin, Toyota, Singapore Airlines, Madeira Madeira, Marks & Spencer and Estée Lauder. The company now has teams on the ground in 28 countries.

Congrats on the raise. Could you share how you will be using the investment?

The investment is across all key markets in Asia including Southeast Asia, to fuel our aggressive expansion in Asia, Europe and LATAM, we’ll carry this momentum in the U.S. market.  We will be creating 400 jobs by 2025.

Why the focus on growth in Malaysia? What about that market is attractive to Insider?

Today Insider has local teams and offices across 11 markets in Asia – Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

Out of the 11 countries in Southeast Asia, we are very strong in 6 of them and are currently serving top tier ecommerce and retail customers in each country and growing quickly into fintech, finance and banking, travel, ride-hailing, and more new verticals.

What’s next for customer engagement? What are the trends you are seeing in Southeast Asia? 

Today’s consumers engage digitally with brands across six or more channels on average. Marketers are challenged with engaging with customers on their preferred channels when they are most active. We’ve seen many companies across industries feeling the growing pains of scaling up their digital businesses. Now there are more users, more channels, and more segments to consider. With all these new variables, the need for cross-channel orchestration backed by AI-based automation is one of the most significant spikes in demand we’ve seen this year.  Some data points we have seen

  • 47% of visitors bounce from a website before exploring or discovering any products
  • Email is not enough. More than 85% of visitors on a website are anonymous and not logged in, making it hard to personalise their experience
  • 60% of marketers feel their multi-channel marketing fails because of the lack of IT resources and tools
  • 2x increase in CPC since 2018 makes user acquisition more expensive and ineffective
  • Personalization pays off. Brands that personalize on-site experiences have 20% higher conversion rates.
  • One size does not fit all! Different age, gender, lifestyle Customers behave differently, making it hard to use generic layouts.
  • Because of the listed above, combining AI-led personalization capabilities with extensive set of messaging channels is creating the real value.  

Insider will be at the forefront of supporting these brands, and we’ll continue to evolve our own AI technology to anticipate consumer demands and emergent behaviours. 

Why Southeast Asia? What were/are the reasons that you picked this region to set up your base of operation?

Digital transformation in Southeast Asia has been opening a range of opportunities for growth, many Asian countries are even in the lead globally in certain sectors of digitalization. For example, the Philippines and Malaysia have become the top two countries in e-commerce retail growth, increasing by 25% and 23% per year, respectively.

The UN-ESCAP reports that Asia is the fastest-growing region in the global e-commerce marketplace. With that, there has been a great demand from enterprises of known brands such as Adidas, Watsons to Singapore Airlines to support their rapid growth as Insider becomes part of their digital teams in driving their online strategy and generate ROI through humanised experiences.

What’s next for Insider? 

Following our aggressive expansion we are laser-focused on bringing Insider to additional markets, and becoming the number one choice for every marketer on this planet. Insider will be contributing to serve in upscaling the quality in a digital connection, digital engagement and digital experiences to create a stronger digital society. Insider’s technology leadership and investments into Singapore include innovation and localization of technology to help connect the digital and mobile-first society. Our goal is to humanize customer experience through:

  1. Personalization – timely and meaningful messages to engage consumers
  2. Mobile mastery – keeping pace with the mobile and app lifestyle and upscaling the quality of engagement and experience
  3. Data and AI sophistication – for a unified 360 view of customers to discern context, behaviour, history, and predict a best and most meaningful way to interact with the consumer
  4. True cross-channel best-of-breed end to end suite – integrating touchpoints and going with lifestyles that are already habitual of consumers e.g. whatsapp, facebook messenger, etc to reduce friction

We will continue to grow our customer-facing frontline teams including sales, digital growth consultants, customer success, customer operations, marketing, partnerships, and vertical-based consultants. We will also grow our product marketing and talent acquisition teams here and will look to expand into product and engineering functions. An important note is that as a woman-led organization, Insider prioritizes women leadership and provides opportunities for women to join the tech industry.