In several categories, today’s online sales are relatively small across most of Southeast Asia, portraying a much lower market value when compared to Western counterparts in particular.  But with eCommerce giants such as Alibaba, Amazon and Tencent making huge strides in the SEA market this year, there is business to be had and significant investments are being made.

So, is now is the right time for brands to invest and join the digital commerce revolution?

In short, the answer is yes – and below we share our top three reasons why we believe now is the time to batten down the hatches and start investing in eCommerce today.


1) You will need time to get it right – better to learn now

eCommerce is fundamentally different from classic offline operations for most sectors. We have found our clients need to make a number of organisational and mindset changes before they even start optimising operational processes.  If one thing remains consistent on digital, it is the need to continuously test, learn and innovate, and most importantly to build that mindset into your organisation… remember, even the first version of Amazon was a bit of a horror! (exhibit 1).


Exhibit 1: An almost unrecognisable circa 1994. Just look at it. ?


At today’s scale, the sales contribution should be enough justification to invest in setting up; meaning that as sales grow and consumer buying behaviors change, you and your team are ready to deliver, and benefit  from the predicted 30% year on year growth (exhibit 2) from this channel moving forward.


Exhibit 2, Size of Southeast Asia’s eCommerce Market


2) You will enhance your offline consumer’s experience

Even as far back as 2013, Accenture found that 78% of its respondents were Researching Online – Purchasing Offline, or the ‘ROPO’ approach to making in-store purchases. Depending on your source of research and category, it is fair to say that your eCommerce footprint is likely to influence the majority of your consumer’s purchase decisions. The online visibility and ability to compare and contrast helps to drive intention in-store.

Bazaarvoice’s research on DSLR cameras, for instance, further supports this ROPO behaviour. They discovered that online information directly leading to a $1 purchase online, leads to a further $5 purchased offline; significantly increasing the contribution of digital sources to your sales. Exhibit 3, from Bazaarvoice, shares its findings of the ROPO effect across categories.


Exhibit 3: % of consumers that research online before offline purchase, across categories

Original source: Bazaarvoice.


3) You will a get deeper understanding of your product and your consumer

If you’re not yet sold on the idea of online sales or the offline influence eCommerce can have, we believe there is another important area to consider that offers long term benefit – Investing in eCommerce provides opportunities for much stronger consumer research – real data that cannot easily be obtained offline.

With the right set-up, brands can obtain rich data sets that enable them to further improve their online (and offline) presence, understanding of product usage and ultimately of their consumers, through a better, more direct dialogue and availability of feedback.

CDW, a US based technology provider, released a ‘Retail Innovators’ report last year, highlighting that 90% of Retail Innovators believe in the power of data analytics utilisation to increase sales. The majority of respondents believe proper use of data can increase sales by more than 20%. In addition to this, rich data sets obtained from eCommerce stores can be used to further increase consumer loyalty (56% agree), forecast accuracy (48% agree) and consumer acquisition (47% agree). eCommerce can provide this data not only from observation, but also specific experiments that can further enhance understanding. E.g. price sensitivity; all of which contributes to improving your bottom line.

All in all, we believe there is a strong case of starting – be it for Sales, Influence, Learning or Data – and we believe the time is now.  We have helped brands like L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline, Guardian, Giant, Coca Cola and more on their eCommerce journey.


If you would like to learn more about those experiences or about the possibilities of eCommerce for your business, drop us a message or give us a call.