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Your 2-Step Guide to Mobile Commerce Success in Southeast Asia

As eCommerce transactions increasingly shift towards mobile, Southeast Asia is leading the way.  

In a region that’s mobile-first and often mobile-only, modifying the customer journey for mobile should be top of mind for brands looking to ramp up their online sales.  

In 2019, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines were already among the top five countries globally by number of mobile commerce (mCommerce) users. The COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to slow that trend, with a report from Google, Temasek and Bain & Co showing 90% of Southeast Asia’s internet users are now online via their mobile phones 

But how did a region that previously fell behind on internet adoption become one of the world’s most mobile-centric regions?

One reason is that as late adopters to the internet, many households in Southeast Asia never owned a desktop computer to begin with. They jumped directly to smartphones, and one of the first things they did with that was online shopping. Today, the majority of web search activity takes place on smartphones, while eCommerce consumer spending on mobile has gradually chipped away at the desktop.  

The numbers below give a sense of the burgeoning influence of mobile in eCommerce and of the market’s potential in Southeast Asia. 

Source(s): Similarweb e-commerce website desktop and mobile users; Statista Digital Market
Outlook; We Are Social; Hootsuite

Although mobile users spent 60% to 70% less time on eCommerce apps and sites during online shopping events compared to desktop users, they are the single largest source of shopping traffic in the region at 90% – and therefore a force to be reckoned with.

Source: Similarweb desktop vs mobile users demography

Meanwhile, a ranking of the top shopping apps for mobile users in 2020 puts Shopee at the head of the race, followed by Lazada and direct-to-consumer fashion brand Shein.

The situation differs slightly for Indonesia and Thailand, where locally-owned marketplaces have a dominant share.

Tokopedia Bebas Ongkir, operated by the Indonesian shopping app Tokopedia, offers free shipping if consumers buy from selected merchants. Indomaret Poinku is a membership program from Indomaret, a national retail franchise, where customers collect and exchange points and stamps through the network’s own digital payment platform i.saku. In Thailand, the Central Group owns an eponymous app that rewards users with discounts.

Source: Similarweb desktop vs mobile users demography

But how should brands and marketers ride the mCommerce trend in 2021?

Drawing from ADA’s work with clients in South and Southeast Asia on the telco and mobile sectors, there are two must-have strategies for winning in mCommerce:

1. Data-driven & Personalised mCommerce Strategy

What do TikTok, YouTube, and Netflix have in common? Data and algorithms that serve up what customers want the most – personalisation.

Personalisation not only results in a more satisfying user experience but also deepens the relationship between brand and customer. And in a world where most companies are focused on improving personalisation in their digital user journeys, brands that don’t make this a strategic priority seriously risk falling behind.

As the three companies above have proven, leaning into data-driven insights will be key to personalising the mCommerce experience.

However, the basic ingredient needed to achieve the gold standard of personalisation – down to the 1:1 level – is also the biggest hurdle for brands: data, and lots of it.

One step marketers can towards reaching their personalisation goals is to work with a data management platform like XACT, which combines online and offline data from 375 million consumers in South and Southeast Asia to assist marketers with data enrichment.

Still, data is of little use if it doesn’t lead to actionable insights. This is where tools such as ADA’s Consumer Insights Explorer (CIE) can come in handy. Built on XACT, CIE leverages on machine learning to make sense of the digital footprints of customers.

2. Mobile-First Touchpoints for Smoother CX

As mobile shoppers spend less time on eCommerce than desktop users, optimising the customer journey for a mobile-first experience should be a priority.

There are several ways to design this.

The first thing to remember is that mobile users tend to be goal-oriented, according to a Google study. Depending on how much a brand’s mobile and desktop users differ in terms of their needs and purchase intent, a dedicated mobile site or app may be needed.

Second, the call-to-action needs to be front and centre. Customers should have a direct route to the intended conversion point with few distractions. For example, the “call us” button should take pride of place at the top of the landing page.

Third, the visual cues should make it clear which elements on the site are interactive. Any buttons or links should be large enough to see and to be clicked with a thumb.

Fourth, the site search, filters, and chatbots can dramatically facilitate navigation. Mobile users are looking for something specific, so integrating smart search functions will bring up relevant results even if an incompletely typed phrase is entered. Including frequently searched terms and navigation-trained chatbots will also help reduce search friction.

Finally, the entire mobile experience should be re-imagined around customers’ micro-moments. Campaigns are still important, but as user journeys become less linear brands need to think about winning the moments that matter.


Mobile-First is Customer First

With mobile taking the lead on eCommerce, marketers will need to continuously design and build around a smartphone-first world. Personalisation and mobile-friendly touchpoints will be more important than ever. Having the right MarTech stack is key to achieving that – but marketers should avoid creating a “franken-stack” of tools that haphazardly link back into a stack. It’s not just about acquiring new technology, but also working with what is already there and increasing the return on investment of those tools. To tie it all together, a cohesive strategy that combines data-driven marketing, MarTech and eCommerce will be essential.

The ADA Difference

To get the best results out of your MarTech stack, there’s no one-size-fits all solution. Business leaders need to take a deep dive into how their MarTech is working for or against them, and ensure their technology stack is outcome and returns-based.

At the same time, eCommerce is becoming more fragmented and competitive, even if the market opportunity will be many times larger than where it is today.

Your business needs dedicated experts in these areas to make data, MarTech and eCommerce work for you. Get in touch today.