From O20 – Asia-Pacific to account for 41.4% of worldwide e-commerce

Customer experience is a top priority for companies targeting online customers, and it is definitely worth the effort as the amount of sales generated by e-commerce continues to hit new records everywhere.

Asia, despite being a new market, is now a hot-spot for e-retailers.

Findings in a survey on the e-commerce landscape in Asia by Worldwide Business Research (WBR) show that Asia-Pacific will account for an incredible 41.4% of worldwide e-commerce sales and is set to overtake the US as the world’s biggest e-commerce market.

Online sales in the region are estimated at US$388.7 billion at the end of 2013, while forecasts by Forrester Research show a 30% jump year-on-year for Asia-Pacific e-commerce sales. Technology spend by the region’s retailers is also increasing rapidly.

The survey by WBR was conducted as part of the third annual e-Tail Asia conference to be held on March 11 and 12 at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. It included interviews with more than 100 e-commerce leaders in the travel, food and restaurant, luxury goods, media, apparel and fashion industries in Asia-Pacific.

The findings show immense optimism as well as several areas of great importance and concern to e-tailers as well as traditional retailers going omni-channel.

The key issues highlighted include: Customer experience, social media, content marketing, mobile marketing, omni-channel marketing, cross-border marketing and competition for talent.

Of these, customer experience, mobile marketing and cross-border marketing are considered the most crucial.

On customer experience, interviewees say e-tailers must be prepared to understand and accommodate the more sophisticated shopping tastes of the modern Asian consumer. They have to find ways to showcase, sell and deliver their product offerings that not only meet but exceed customer expectations and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Interviewees emphasised repeatedly the need to understand customers’ online behaviour. Most of them focus on building an e-commerce experience that is both personal and consistent with the retailer’s physical store (if applicable).

This requires a continual commitment to an in-depth analysis of user behaviour and using the appropriate tech tools and data capture solutions, while constantly re-assessing and re-targeting the optimal customer.

The process to creating this customer experience — giving customers an optimal range of product offerings at the right price and making it easy for them to navigate and purchase — can be very challenging. But getting it right provides an environment that can create a “sticky customer” who may be encouraged to make repeat purchases and become a valued brand ambassador.

As a result, many of the companies interviewed are investing heavily in sophisticated data analytics solutions to better understand their users’ behaviour and thus deliver a fast, personalised and convenient way to showcase and transact.

Another crucial area for e-tailers is mobile marketing.

As smartphones become widely used across Asia, an effective m-commerce strategy is important. Here’s where e-tailers must pay attention to issues such as user engagement and payment facilities.

User engagement refers to e-tailers finding ways to ensure that the customer keeps using an app that has been created, rather than trying it once and then deleting it. So, e-tailers wanting to leverage on mobile platforms in a big way must develop apps with increasingly avid interest.

Payment is equally important.

As in the case of cross-border marketing — which also faces the problem of payment facilities — e-tailers must take note that in some countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, the majority of the population do not have either credit or debit cards. This can affect their online shopping activity. E-tailers have to find quick and convenient payment alternatives to circumvent this.

Pre-paid and post-paid accounts linked to the phone — as in the “buy online, pay offline system” used by companies such as 7-Eleven — are some of the solutions that have been created for these markets.

In fact, 7-Eleven is enjoying great success in cross-border marketing using this system. They have a strategic partnership with leading e-tailers which enable customers to choose their nearest 7-Eleven branch to pick up their orders and pay in whichever method that is convenient to them.

Methods such as these are among the ways in which retailers can make their mark on the e-commerce landscape in Asia.

E-commerce players sharing their expertise

MORE than 300 senior representatives from Asia’s major retailers and ecommerce players are expected to attend eTail Asia 2015, which will be held on March 11 and 12 at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. It will cover topics such as how to drive traffic and increase conversion to e-commerce, and developing the best mobile and social media strategies.

There will be more than 60 speakers and 15 sponsors at the conference, including senior executives from companies such as RedMart, Mango, Lazada, Harvey Norman, Zalora and Tarad.com.

For more information about the event, visit www.etailasia.com or follow @ eTail_Asia.