Take a look around when you’re walking down the street, and I’ll be surprised if you don’t find just about everyone checking their phone. Many probably even have a second phone in their pockets.
In a survey commissioned by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) last year that was conducted by BuzzCity, we looked at some of trends around mobile, particularly ecommerce in the region. The most notable finding was the astounding number of people who are now using their phones as the screen-of-choice.
With powerful capital moving into the space, 2014 has been eventful for folks in ecommerce and technology across Asia Pacific. Indian ecommerce player Flipkart, raised over USD 2 billion in 2014 alone in two different rounds of funding that came barely five months apart. The company has over 22 million registered users and handles five million shipments every month. The scale that Flipkart has been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time, especially in a challenging market like India, is indicative of the potential of ecommerce.
At the same time in September 2014, China’s Alibaba broke records for the largest global IPO ever raising over USD 25 billion. Due to sheer size, Alibaba is a clear leader in the online marketplace arena but it does face stiff competition from other players such as Rakuten, Qoo10, Baidu, Tokopedia, Carousell and Lazada, all of which are incredibly strong players in their local markets.
Online marketplaces will continue to be a driving force for ecommerce in 2015.
Another major trend in 2014 that deserves mention was the emergence of apps such as Uber. Representing true disruptive innovation, it has been wildly successful and shook up a sector that has long been plagued with problems of inefficiency. While Uber is not without its own challenges and is facing questions of legality as well as safety, it too has been valued at over USD 40 billion.
In addition to companies like Flipkart, Alibaba, and Uber that continue to challenge the status quo when it comes to the purchase, sale and delivery of goods and services, online payments are also becoming a core area for innovation in Asia.
The future of ecommerce has another ‘m’ in it
There is no doubt that e-retail will continue its upward spike in 2015 and mobile will be a major driver of this trend. In the Buzzcity and MMA study, 63 per cent of the audience polled were accessing the internet through their phones and much of the time spent looking at their mobile devices was spent online shopping. The report also revealed that nearly half of mobile users (48 per cent) make purchases online regularly, while one in five mobile consumers browse products online before buying them in physical stores. Other studies, such as research conducted by Tapad in conjunction with Forrester, corroborated these results while pointing out that 44 per cent of consumers who use a smartphone in the discovery phase say it’s because it was the device closest to them.
Merchants will need to go beyond offering a basic online store experience for their consumers and mobile can help them achieve this. Aside from a simple and clean user interface, the ecommerce 2.0 experience must offer much more: advanced personalisation of content, increased consumer engagement, richer content and more convenience.
Making life easier for the consumer
Research shows that more users now expect merchants and websites to “know them across devices” when they enter the purchase path. Interacting with the same merchant over different devices is now common, making the cross-screen experience critical to purchase. In the Tapad study, 71 per cent of consumers reacted negatively to an inconsistent brand experience across devices, with one in 10 even stating that the inconsistency would drive them to stop interacting with a brand altogether.
eBay’s Zero Effort Initiative is a great example of this personalisation, and how consistency means more than just standardising fonts. Nobody need ever run out of groceries again as this app simply tracks how often items run out, and re-orders them. Retailers can also experiment with ways to bring the online, mobile and physical experiences together. eBay created an interesting digital storefront experiment last year that turned giant screens at a mall into electronic versions of pop-up stores. Consumers could browse through selected products, attracting others to view the products as they browsed; purchase them through eBay’s Paypal and then pick them up at retail locations within the same mall in a creative campaign that blended elements of both ecommerce and the physical retail experience.
When re-evaluating your ecommerce strategy for 2015, one fundamental rule holds: consumers will only come if it makes sense for them. The experience has to make life easier, or do something they need. Merchants which stick with the status quo could be left behind as the Asian audience demand increasingly sophisticated e-commerce experiences. If you don’t know your customer, it’s time to find out more. Start strategising today.
The write up is part of the DMA Annual Report ‘What’s Trending 2015‘.
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