Digital Retail Customer Engagement Trends in Southeast Asia

  • UPDATED: 21 July 2023
  • 6 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes

With 45% of consumers reducing offline purchases and 30% growing their online purchases—it is fair to say that COVID-19 has changed Southeast Asia’s consumer shopping habits.

The movement from offline to online will only grow in the future as most consumers have realized the benefits of convenient buying. This is, however, from a very consumer perspective. What about consumer shopping brands? How are they adapting to this change?

Changing consumer behavior leads to a digital retail shift

The digital growth of Southeast Asia is currently outpacing Brazil, India, and China, with 80% of consumer brands going digital. Leaving China behind in the digital retail race is a win-win for the region. Many regional brands are working on growing their online gross merchandise value (GMV). If this shift to digital is offering new growth avenues for the brands, on the one hand. On the other hand, this shift is pushing brands to do more in terms of experience and engagement.

Southeast Asia’s consumer brands absorb this shift with a pinch of salt because their end customers’ needs have changed. The expanding technology and channels offer these customers more ways to get what they want. This is leading to an educated change in the overall customer buying patterns. So brands have solved their one big problem, i.e., moving to the digital space. However, brands now face another challenge: reviewing and revising their online interactions with customers.

Digital retail engagement trends from Southeast Asian brands

To understand the pulse of digital retail and enhance experience and engagement, we reached out to some known Southeast Asian brands. We found some top trends that retail cum E-commerce brands can focus on to do digital retail right. Here are our findings:

4-Digital Retail by Southeast Asia Brands

Focus on insights-led engagement

When it comes to understanding and engaging with your customers, guesswork is not only old-school but outdated. The new era of customers requires you to know them and communicate relevantly. That’s where using insights based on shopping and buying patterns, behavior, preferences, and app/website actions is crucial. Brands like Fabelio agree to this approach and remark,

“Being relevant to the customer is the most important aspect of combating churn for your business. The road to relevancy comes from using insights left by customers while shopping.”

Arie Wisnu Pradono, CMO of Fabelio, says, “If a customer bought a sofa, there is no way we can offer them to repurchase a sofa. If we give irrelevant offers, customers will tend to churn. Identifying the patterns created by customers leaving or uninstalling our product can also prevent churn. Before these patterns repeat themselves with other customers, we must take the necessary precautions before it occurs. We can only gather app/website insights and analyze them.”

Even Linda Valentin, General Marketing of Alfamart—one of the popular E-commerce brands, also conforms to this approach.

“Knowing your customer is the best way to have a great journey with them. One of the best ways to do this is to analyze their behavior across channels – app and website is a must. Also important is to understand conversion/drop-off with the help of user paths to get more insights. Once you know the gaps, you can easily personalize engagement. We utilize MoEngage platform to do this, which is helping us to increase our mobile app engagement. The platform simplifies many complications, enabling us to achieve our goal. We are able to improve our app’s performance in the most effective way.”

SonKim Retail is another brand that concedes this approach, “We can offer the best experience to our customers when we deeply understand them.” Binh Le, Head of E-commerce at SonKim, then adds the importance of having a reliable tool to execute such insights-led strategy. “A good tool will help you collect all customer behavior data and provide features that drive them to take the right actions. A good tool helps you collect customer behavior data and provides features that list the next course of actions, eventually optimizing your business.”

2-Customer Engagement Trends

Ace it with personalization

After obtaining insights, the next best thing is to offer a more personalized engagement. Personalization is everything when it comes to digital retailing. Your customers want you to be relevant, specific, and personal with them. There’s no room for being generic and expecting customers to stick around. Marcella Dewi, COO of Mitra Adiperkasa Club, observes, “Seeing from the customer perspective, campaign personalization helps the campaign to be more personal and intimate, match the needs of the customer because it was personalized and unique for every customer. We don’t spam the customer with irrelevant generic campaigns. That’s because we look at our customer data, and from that data, we could deliver a relevant campaign to our customer.”

Drive quality experience through product

Yes, offering insights-led engagement is crucial in the world we live in. But remember this, the one thing that’s retaining your customers and building loyalty is your product. Customers want to make your product more technology-driven, intuitive, and convenient. Be it your app or the website, your customers will only return if your product UI/UX is seamless and consistent.

Here’s what Adi Purwanto, VP of Evermos Product, had to say about this —

“We have seen that technology is touching more aspects of our lives, therefore the expectation of technology products is getting higher. What worked yesterday might not work as well today. The best thing to do is to always discover what is the motivation of our customers, why do they hire our product. Building the right engagement is always a game of increasing customer motivation and removing the friction of the product so that customer ability will no longer be an issue.”

He further explains, “As the industry grows, a lot of things have shifted for the customer from a ‘delightful’ feature a couple of years ago into a “must-have” feature today. For example, a lot of customers nowadays are expecting “free shipment” as a standard in E-commerce. It is not enough to have those features to win the game; we don’t have to lose the E-commerce game. We believe that moving forward, whoever has a better understanding of their customer motivation and build a product that answers customer problem in the most frictionless way will win the battle. Therefore, it is paramount to always not just listen, but also empathize with the customer.”

We have Supisara Permsuk, Marketing Manager from Index Living Mall (ILM), who emphasizes the importance of website experience.

“During the pandemic, e-commerce has become the key pillar of the company. Therefore, customer experience on the website is so important. Not only desirable services, but the website quality and convenience must serve the customers well too.”

Invest in push notifications

Another important digital retail trend is to adopt push notifications as a channel to drive customers to complete their action(s). Push notification as a channel is very effective for grabbing eyeballs and driving customers to complete an action promptly. This channel can also collect essential purchase journey data that will help you map your engagement efficiently. Fanky Mulia, VP of Group Product of Blibli, explains, “We rely on Push Notification in almost all aspects of our app. This is cause push notification allows us to convey the exact information needed at an exact time to a certain segment. Eventually, giving us better visibility than any other notification channels like emails or in-app notifications. As we see this as a necessity to our app, pushing notifications increases customer engagement and gives us more control over what content customers receive.”

3-Customer Engagement Trends

Focusing on these trends will help you improve your digital strategy. Especially coming directly from the brands that utilized these trends and observed results is a testimony. To create a more dynamic customer engagement, brands should keep an eye on current trends and revise their strategy accordingly.

What to read next

1. Find out the current engagement benchmarks from the Southeast Asia region by downloading our new Customer Engagement Benchmarks Report.
2. Learn how consumer brands in Southeast Asia win with Insights-led Customer Engagement.
3. Read the success story of Livwell on monetizing health and wellness and growing business during a pandemic.