Ecommerce is booming in Southeast Asia. You probably know this already, but understanding this mammoth industry is challenging. With record numbers inflated by a pandemic, are we looking at a potential depression or is this just the beginning.

To find out more, we needed to speak to an expert and Ben Poole from fifty-five fit the bill perfectly. He just joined the company after two decades of digital marketing experience in WPP and IPG. In his role as the Head of the Singapore office, he will be tasked with leading fifty-five’s operations and growth in the Southeast Asian region as the company plans to grow.

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The company is data and martech company with over 200 digital strategists, tracking and media experts, engineers and data scientists, based around the world. The company was founded in 2010 by former Google executives. Fifty-five is headquartered in Paris and operates from 9 offices located in New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Geneva, Shenzhen, Taipei and Singapore.

Congrats on the new role. Maybe you could share a bit more about fifty-five and what your plans are for this year?

Thanks for having us! 55 is a data consultancy founded in Paris and expanding rapidly in South-East Asia. We focus on improving a brand’s marketing and sales performance, driven by data. We help brands with their data strategy and architecture, as well as media and UX performance.  We’ve recently set up the Singapore office, given the region’s strategic importance to the company. 

e-commerce has exploded across the world, but as we know every region is different. What are some of the trends you’re expecting to see in the industry in Southeast Asia?

We expect to see data increasingly driving personalised experiences. Social and livestream commerce will continue to develop and grow. Shopping platforms and media investment will continue to diversify, making omni-channel strategies evermore critical. We also expect to see increased integration from both an organisational and data perspective. Finally, a lot more direct-to-consumer launches will take place as brands seek to take control of their data to deliver better customer experiences.  

Given the strong growth of e-commerce, how long are we able to sustain this level or are we about to reach a plateau shortly?

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of e-commerce globally. In South-East Asia, we see the fastest growth in categories such as grocery and luxury goods. We expect this growth to continue exponentially in the next few years.

That said, physical retail in South-East Asia is one of the most innovative worldwide. We believe that both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar are here to stay.  So how do brands structure and connect data and experiences to achieve the best possible experience and sales performance?  This question is central to how we are helping clients in the region.    

Which markets do you see as the front-runners for e-commerce growth in the next 24 months?

Indonesia will power the region’s growth. Its e-commerce sales volume is greater than all other markets combined, and its share of total retail is one of the highest in the world, according to a 2022 eMarketer report. The Philippines will continue to grow (albeit from a much smaller base), while Thailand will lead the way in social commerce innovation.

What is your opinion of e-commerce platforms (shopee, Lazada, ezbuy etc)? Are they a boon or potential problem for brands looking to build their e-commerce presence?

As with all types of sales channels, brands looking to build their e-commerce presence need to weigh the pros and cons, and decide if this is the channel for them.  

In our experience, as the e-commerce industry in South-East Asia grows rapidly, brands that are selling on the e-commerce platforms have the opportunity to sell more products as they get instant access to the platforms’ large customer base. That said, this way of selling products will come at a cost to brand experiences as the individual brands may not be able to fully customise or personalise online shopping experiences, that will deliver high-value customer engagements. 

Secondly, the platforms’ control over customer data and the usage of a walled garden approach, which is a closed platform wherein the provider of the platform has complete control over the content, means that brands are challenged from a data availability and integration point of view. 

Finally, we expect to see the competition for flash sales sponsored slots only intensify, which will drive costs up and profitability down.

What’s next for fifty-five?

We continue to develop our e-commerce solutions for the South-East Asia region, particularly in the areas of data architecture, reporting automation, media performance advisory, inventory feed optimisation and UX consulting.