Updated: Apr 16, 2022
With a young and economically rising population e-commerce is a must have for B2C businesses in SEA, but can be tricky. Infrastructure, lack of systems and competition by platforms and social commerce can be obstacles on the way to sell successfully on your own E-commerce site.
As described in our previous blogs e-commerce is the end to end customer experience from choosing and ordering online to delivery, product experience and possible after sales interaction if needed rather than just fixing complaint issues.
How to start launching E-commerce in South East Asia
Most clients who approach us for E-commerce have already a running brick & mortar business in Electronics, Fashion, Household items, etc. and want to expand into E-commerce or boost their existing but often neglected e-commerce site.
It is important to understand that e-commerce should be treated as an equal channel regarding the product and the resources in order to be successful and especially when targeting a younger customer segment. That means we would advise to build a similar search experience as in shops (e.g. with consultant chats or hotline), a wide range of payment channels and a fairly fast delivery with convenient return policy. The moment we treat e-commerce differently e.g. with just special products and less favorable terms, it is doomed to fail.
Furthermore e-commerce should not be seen as a competition to the shops but serve as a further lead channel for sales and attracting people into the shops (as e.g. in fashion, the cross-selling ratio is higher in shops as online).
In order to launch e-commerce successfully, we need to implement a basic order management system (or order to production management system for producers), payment channels, delivery capabilities or partners and a clear customer policy for online, ideally before the launch. As Asia PMO, we have successfully built e-commerce blueprints for H&M SEA & Toto Vietnam setting-up the operations, logistics and customer service to launch online sales.
What to avoid as a retail E-commerce site
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is paramount to get your internal procedures and policies in place before launching e-commerce in order to be able to offer a great search, purchase, delivery, product and after sales experience.
Furthermore a company needs to be clear on it's strategy of their own e-commerce site versus Social Commerce and Platform Sales.
Social Commerce is selling products or services via social platforms like Facebook, Carousell (Singapore), Line (Thailand), Zalo (Vietnam), Linkedin, etc.
Platform Sales is selling products via e-commerce marketplaces like Lazada (Alibaba), Shopee, Shopify, Ebay, Zalora, Tokopedia (Indonesia), Tiki (Vietnam etc.
While the cost of selling on Social Commerce is relatively cheap and the setup is easy, the issues is that we are competing with a lot of smaller shops and informal sellers who have a lot of advantages regarding low costs, faster in city delivery and personalized communication and return services. For us it makes sense to have a social media presence and connect sales and service channels to it. We need to caption the attention of social commerce commerce customer as a very high segment in SEA, however the own e-commerce site should be prioritized as a professional provider.
Platform Sales could be a quick start while we are building the e-commerce site of a company, however the fees and the overwhelming competition regarding price and similar products on these platforms could be difficult. Similar to social commerce we advise to use platform sales as an add-on to boost the branding and to offer multiple channels of advertising, sales and customer engagement.
How to ensure Omnichannel experience
Omnichannel experience means to have a seamless customer experience over all brick & mortar and online channels. A customer should not need to choose between any of these channels in order to have a better service or pricing. Of course sometimes to boost or introduce our own e-commerce channel versus social commerce and platform sales, we could offer discounts.
To implement an Omnichannel strategy starts with an inclusive customer experience mindset in the entire organisation to treat all customers and all channels as similar and favorable as possible. The online experience should be as convenient as the shop experience in terms of product search, payment and customer service with the add-on that the customer does not have to come to our premises. Return of online products should be accepted in the shops and vice versa as customer buy from your brand or company and not necessarily from a specific channel.
This blog was written by Carsten Ley, Entrepreneur, Enabler & Project Lead in Customer Experience, Project & Business Transformation leading large scale project implementations in Retail, E-commerce, Banking, Consulting & Experience Management for companies like Deloitte Germany, VW Mexico, Rolls-Royce UK, Lazada Vietnam and H&M South East Asia. He founded 2018 Asia PMO, a consulting firm focussing on getting clients fast and efficient into implementation of company objectives, customer & employee experience improvements to foster a result- and team-oriented environment.