The pandemic has changed the purchase habits of consumers. Today, consumers no longer hesitate to go online to shop for their needs, leading to eCommerce being on the rise. According to a Reprise APAC study online shoppers shop “a few times a month” (42%) and are now outpacing their offline counterparts (31%).
Also “time-saving” and “finding best prices” are perceived as the two biggest advantages by 76% and 65% of online shoppers respectively. Shoppers are also now keen to educate themselves prior to purchase, which means marketers must ensure product descriptions and discoverability remains high. For example, the top three motivations when purchasing online are “good reviews”, “promotion or sale”, and “good star ratings” as voted by 60%, 54% and 50% of online shoppers, respectively.
Online ads are helpful too, as 1 in 2 online shoppers look to online ads for discovering new brands and products when purchasing online. In Hong Kong, unlike countries in Southeast Asia where marketplaces are the preferred shopping destination, 56% of Hong Kong shoppers prefer buying directly from the brands’ website while making online purchases. 47% of online shoppers also use brand websites to gather more information before they make a purchase decision, unlike most other APAC markets.
In light of the rising importance of eCommerce, we asked the marketing industry in Hong Kong what are some of the trends they are looking out for as we fast approach 2022.
Ken Ip, assistant general manager – strategic marketing, B.S.C. Group
As a global trend, the eCommerce sector has enjoyed tremendous growth and success over the past two years. This was mainly attributed to the pandemic, and many people are also now more comfortable with buying things online. Each year, new technologies and trends emerge as eCommerce continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and 2022 will be no exception. One notable trend will be the concept of social commerce, a topic that is also part of my current academic study. In a nutshell, social commerce is a subset of eCommerce in which sales and marketing are conducted via social media.
Normally, brands and companies would market themselves on social media for the purpose of generating leads and online traffic to their eCommerce sites. The objective of social commerce, on the other hand, is to facilitate selling and purchases directly on social media platforms. This type of model is ideal for today’s demanding and impatient customers. It enables considerably faster and simpler access to products and information, and make a direct purchase without leaving the platform, thanks to features such as the “buy now” button.
Social commerce will likely become a popular trend in 2022, benefitting brands and businesses that are more accustomed to impulse buying.
I believe that the ability to apply the basic principles of marketing from intuition to something that is systematic and tangible is crucial to surviving in the digital landscape in the future. Actions that can be repeated, results that can be measured and success that can be replicated and all of which can be scalable are important. That’s where the beauty of data analysis of automation comes into play. Without these basic skillsets, you will be a lot less competitive, not just as a business, but also internally, since it will be incredibly difficult to gain buy-in from your own management and other important stakeholders. Digital literacy is another important area. Nowadays, not only marketers, but many cross functional teams and managers will also be expected to have basic digital literacy in data and business analytics.
Kevin Huang, managing director, Carousell Hong Kong
We will continue to see more SMEs embracing digital and adopting eCommerce, making Hong Kong a truly digitalised city. The effect of this is that consumers will be able to buy almost everything online at their fingertips on their mobile phones, from daily necessities to high-value products such as luxury items, properties, cars. Other examples include services such as locksmiths, renovators to helpers. Quick commerce, where daily necessities can be delivered in 10 minutes or less, will start to take off too. We can see more companies are investing in this in Hong Kong, and I foresee 2022 will be the year of mass adoption and this segment will take off in a big way in Hong Kong.
Buying is not just limited to shiny new toys. Recommerce, or the buying and selling of pre-loved products, will gain increased attention due to the rollout of municipal solid waste charging in Hong Kong and increasing focus on sustainability. People in Hong Kong will be more conscious and think twice before throwing out items that are still in good condition, as well as consider buying pre-loved first and making secondhand their first choice.
Marketers need to have a thick-skinned and dare-to-fail attitude to survive. CEOs and boards will have to do the same.
We have seen how fast the world evolves with ever changing consumer habits and preferences. We need to listen to consumers, observe the changes and needs, and act upon them. To do this, we have to be bold enough to try and be prepared to fail. We just need to learn from failure.
Daniel Cantorna, vice president of data, insights and technology at Collinson Asia-Pacific
The pandemic has transformed the way consumers interact with brands, with many of us now conducting the majority of our interactions online. This change in behaviour has led to a rise in brand promiscuity, making customer retention a challenge. Consumer expectation is at an all-time high, with 66% of consumers expecting brands to understand their unique needs and preferences and deliver bespoke yet personalised experiences.
Adding to this the impending restrictions on third-party data, and organisations – particularly marketers – are investing more time into identifying customers’ offline and online actions to build a more complete and accurate data profile, which is also known as a customer data platform or a single customer view (SCV).
To help achieve an SCV, we’re also seeing a trend where two or more organisations agree to share further insight on mutual customers for the benefit of all concerned. The organisations can use the additional details received by the partner brand to gain missing pieces of the puzzle, while the customer benefits from more relevant yet bespoke brand interactions.
Once a more complete profile is held, it’s possible to humanise the data, using it to better understand consumers’ habits; how and when they prefer to be engaged; and their painpoints. Those who adopt a questions-based approach will enable stay on top of their customers’ needs, ensuring relevance and competitiveness into the future.
If there is one action that brands should take, that should be a grasp of their first-party data. Those who invest in managing their first-party data today will have an advantage over competitors tomorrow. This is particularly important, as restrictions on third-party data, such as cookies, a major channel through which marketers receive information on consumers today, will increasingly come into play in line with data protection policies.
Lastly, using AI-powered technology and segmentation strategies, marketers can identify and invest in their most valuable customers, deepening their relationship with these groups.
Charlene Ree, CEO and founder of EternityX
Amongst all the rapidly growing trends, Social Commerce will definitely be one of the substantial trends that eCommerce marketers should be aware of. In China, shopping on social platforms such as WeChat, Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo have already become an everyday routine for Chinese consumers. It is important to constantly optimise customer experience and suit customers’ personal needs with data analysis and appropriate audience segmentation. With precise targeting, social commerce would be the most direct way to increase brand awareness, improve engagement and boost sales.
Agility, being adaptive and analytical are the most key qualities for marketers in the digital landscape. To start with, in this dynamic digital landscape, it is very important for motivated marketers to move fast and be agile to get a head start with all the emerging trends and technologies. And since the customers’ online shopping behaviours have drastically changed over the past decade, being adaptive is even more crucial as audiences no longer expect to receive general, impersonal messages from brands, but instead, they long for tailored messages which target their own needs.
Last but not least, an analytical mind is indispensable for marketers. We often receive data throughout the whole consumer decision journey, so knowing how to analyse inert and complicated data and turn it into organised and valuable insights would be key attributes for a successful marketer.
Richa Kapse, head of commerce collective for Southeast Asia at Grey Group
Phygital experience, metaverse, social commerce, and conversational commerce will be the trends. Phygital experiment is a combination of the same engagement on the digital front and physical at the same time. Brands took to this as a way of engaging with their estranged customer base. Going forward, consumers are expecting a lot more from regular digital engagements.
Social media users are expecting to have immediate access to the content and products that have captured their imagination. On social media, content relevance is key to garnering conversion. As a medium, social can serve super precise affinity-based targeting. “Shop the Look” is a popular feature both on Instagram and Pinterest. With new platforms like TikTok exploring commerce capabilities, we see the gap closing fast between inspiration and conversion. Parallelly, the retailer platforms are moving towards being content hubs, where they want to improve shopper retention on the platform through features like live commerce, gamification and limited time group offers.
Meanwhile, conversation commerce is the real time, interaction between brands and their customers through mediums like onsite chat functions, chatbots or even offsite social media chatting apps. Brands can directly reach their consumer base with business accounts on messaging apps like Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, Instagram messages and Line. Websites that use chat-bots and live consultations to guide their shoppers to find the right products, reduce friction in their journey.
A happy shopper is a loyal, repeat shopper, even if they don’t find what they are looking for.
If shoppers are willing to give their data to brands, it’s because they expect a value exchange. They want to have a hyper-personalised experience that shows the brands’ understanding of their preferences. Product recommendations, timely promotions and sampling are ways to engage with shoppers post-purchase and convert them into advocates for your brand. Also, with climate change now a real issue, the world is getting hotter and more volatile. Brands are expected to play their part and are well rewarded with loyal customers who believe in their principles. While staying away from greenwashing campaigns, marketers must find ways to better their practices and communicate them in an honest and transparent manner.
Jack Lambert, head of social & social commerce at Havas Hong Kong
We’ll see innovations in terms of the way commercial functionality will be embedded into existing and emerging spaces, from owned website and app ecosystems, to digital media inventory, gaming interfaces, and even voice search. It’s never been so easy to connect a customer interface with a payment gateway. An example of this is the recent partnership between Spotify and Shopify, which allows artists on its service to connect their Spotify profiles with their Shopify stores for a seamless checkout.
Adding to this, I think all brands, big or small, should acknowledge that today you can’t be seen to have any obstacles in the buying process.
Whenever someone is ready or almost ready to buy, the brand should be present and the checkout process should be as frictionless as possible. Whether this comes in the form of an eStore link to a Google search extension or a WeChat mini program where customers can buy their most popular goods, it’s really important to think about this as a slight improvement in your conversion rate could mean much more revenue.
Finally, something that’s really exciting in commerce is the development of live media – we only have to look to China to see its huge opportunity, especially for the apparel and fashion category. The numbers are truly staggering. Li Jiaqi, a top livestream salesman widely known as the ‘lipstick brother’, recently sold goods worth US$1.9 billion in a day. For brands, not only is it a way of getting your brand out there in a dynamic way, but it also accelerates the path to conversion with the use of one-off coupons which create a sense of urgency.
Looking forward, it’s so easy for brands big or small, from your country or another, to launch any kind of digital advertising and appear on your potential customer’s news feed. I would say there are two qualities that brands need to understand to stand out and survive. One quality is the consistency in the message. Link every touchpoint to the next by using the same brand identity and brand values, over an extended period of time. This is something that does often get ignored when different people are responsible for running different parts of the marketing strategy. Second is the need to be daring. Allocate some budget for this as one disruptive campaign can create a long-lasting impression.
Chris Ngan, general manager, Hong Kong and Taiwan at The Trade Desk
eCommerce will continue to grow, and more brands will use programmatic advertising that enables them to leverage their first-party data, helping them connect with consumers more effectively and generate sales. With Google’s plans to phase out third-party cookies in 2023, and increasing concerns about consumer privacy, marketers will need to take advantage of the incredible valuable asset they have in their first-party data. This allows them to engage the right audience through the right channels and measure their advertising performance, so they can stay ahead of the curve.
Fragmentation in today’s cross-channel digital media environment presents challenges to today’s marketers.
But we see incredible opportunities for marketers in the open internet. There is a huge mismatch between ad dollars spent and consumer attention in the walled gardens. By embracing the open internet through an effective omnichannel solution, marketers can identify new ways to reach and influence consumers especially in rapidly growing channels like connected TV and digital out-of-home.
Benjamin Yeo, senior director, eCommerce, Wavemaker Asia-Pacific
The irregular restriction evolved consumers to be highly dependent on social and content marketing to fulfilled discovery and purchase needs. Unlike OOH media that provides an almost guaranteed impression, eCommerce impressions are driven by machine learning personalisation. In the simplest sense, it’s not just decoding what, where, when, why, and how people are purchasing the products that clients sell on a particular channel. It is also who consumers are listening to now. With ads serving up in real-time 24/7 regardless of platforms, consumers are almost drawn into shopping mode anytime (discovery Commerce). If being consumer-centric is the cornerstone of retail, then engagement-centric will be the new normal. Of course, with every unique audience across diverse topics, a standard targeting setting will not be enough. Hence first-party data will be precious for marketers for cost efficiency amid needs to tailor creative messaging.
With transport and food delivery apps (quick commerce) integrating into consumer lifestyle, you will witness the evolving of O2O to O&O. Whether it’s driving from online to offline stores or delivery from offline for online purchase, these apps make it possible. Online will not completely take over brick and mortar stores. Consumers still want to have interaction in a physical store environment. The online landscape only lifted convenience to a new height and consumers will adjust purchase behaviour to specific category dynamics. Hence, there is a more crucial need for co-existence and collaboration of online and offline.
When it comes to offline, brands must work with the digital team to ensure operational excellence, such as stock availability when they receive an order online. The capability of these super apps will further push the shift to harness first-party data, as deeper segmentation, such as location, payment habits, or eating habits, are now accessible.
Retail sales are plateauing even with COVID-19 recovery, which signals that consumers no longer view retail solely as a purchase touchpoint. Instead, they expect more experiential and personalised in-store services. eCommerce business has reached a tipping point where eCommerce should not be thought of as a conversion channel, but rather as a business philosophy. An eCommerce-first mindset needs to be in place for a successful marketer.
This eCommerce-first mindset shift needs to be committed organisation-wide, where business planning, communication, media activation, operations and technology would support eCommerce, and eCommerce in turn would power the organisation. eCommerce would be used as a recruitment drive for new audiences, to engage lapse audiences and should have a role through the entire consumer journey, and not just purchase.
With this, a marketer must be able to take a macro view and adopt a full-funnel planning approach. No more is each purchasing journey planned in silos. Consumer reach needs to be at the heart of every workstream. The continuous cycle of audience building is then a sustainable business integrated with brand building and an efficient cost model.
Howell Wong, co-founder of Zero Plus One
eCommerce was on a sudden surge once the pandemic has hit the world. Brands scramble to put more focus on this channel as the offline presence was under different challenges. As we are entering a post-COVID era and consumers have started adapting to a new way of living, brands are redefining the role of each sales channel and omnichannel may be a totally different thing. Consumers are now expecting even better services online and brands are utilising different technologies to help them make purchase decisions, such as AI, AR, and chatbot.
Location-based technology is becoming more mature which can personalise offers and experiences to different consumers which will be a key in driving better omni experiences in the future.
Marketers need to stay curious about data to stay competitive in this digital era. Keeping an innovative mindset and constantly looking for new and better ways to produce a great consumer experience are always the key qualities. While the digital world is changing constantly, brands and marketers are in even more urgent need to prepare themselves for change. It is not just simply having a fancy data dashboard in your office but to developing a culture that can quickly identify insights and react quickly
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