Paving the Way for the Online Shopper in Asia

Charting a path toward successful checkouts in Asia takes more than designing where the buttons go, but an understanding of what makes online shoppers in the region click.

It’s said that, on average, a person makes up to 35,000 decisions a day.[1] Included in this weighty number are consumers’ purchasing decisions as a buyer navigates their way to purchase. For example, analyzing how a product fits a need, to judging how many virtual or physical steps it takes to reach the product, to even seemingly minor considerations such as the typography used on a product label.

The online shopper has even more questions and motivations on their consumer purchasing journey. Therefore, understanding the contemporary online shopper and their motivations is crucial to designing a virtual shopping experience that leads to the most critical stage of online shopping: payment. Identifying an online shopper’s emerging behaviors can ensure the longevity of success in the APAC eCommerce landscape, which Forrester projects will be worth US$1 trillion in 2020.[2]

The Shoppers Behind the Mouse and Mobile

UPS’s Pulse of the Online Shopper study termed today’s online shoppers ‘flex shoppers’ – and “ruthlessly efficient” at that.[3]

The flex shopper is highly aware that time and tide waits for no consumer. They take advantage of the omnichannel approach that online retailers use, and evaluate products through different devices and multiple channels before purchase. Furthermore, their online purchase decisions are influenced by convenience, efficiency, communications, delivery speed, the amount of information provided and personalization, such as site recommendations for products based on known preferences.[4]

As such, having a seamless transition between multiple channels is significant to the flex shopper, especially on mobile devices. We are Social reports that over 90% of the world’s Internet users access the Internet on these.[5] Beyond creating mobile applications or mobile versions of retail sites, online retailers can consider options such as gamification, location-based notifications and offers, and even working with social and mobile application brands. Partnering with these brands allows consistent access to the mobile-toting flex shopper, and opportunities to push them towards a purchase journey.

Tailoring the Different Paths to Purchase in APAC

Knowing how and what makes consumers click is critical for retailers to sway online purchase decisions, but big data makes it easy to see the web audience as monolithic. Even among flex shoppers, some touchpoints will matter more to some than others, and vary in different locales within APAC. The Thai phrase “same same but different” applies perfectly to the APAC online shopper.

For example, an April 2017 survey by Mastercard showed that Indonesia leads the region for satisfaction with online shopping, followed closely by India and Malaysia.[6] At the same time, Indonesia is known for a strong culture revolving around physical retail: malls figure prominently there as places to hang out, relax and eat, and continue to grow despite the government’s attempts to curb mall growth in recent years[7] – backed further by MatahariMall’s trailblazing O2O (online to offline) concept. Many doubt the concept’s implementation,[8] but as a precursor to true omnichannel and a potential solution to the country’s well-known logistics issues, it should not be overlooked by any brand entering the Indonesian eCommerce space.

When designing options in the path to purchase, businesses would do well to note such localized nuances in consumer preferences. And it is not only in Indonesia where opportunities to leverage a physical retail presence may be found. For instance, according to PwC,[9] such a presence remains more than relevant among Thai online shoppers, who take well to special in-store events and personalized offers, and Singaporean ones, who want brick & mortar stores to be places from which they can gain visibility into stock availability across a brand.

A Look Into Suburbia and Asia as a Whole

Given the larger consumer base and incomes, the pull of capital cities is great, but casting the net beyond major cities and into emerging markets in provincial or suburban areas does matter, too.

Online retail platforms can be a lifeline to consumers in non-capital or rural areas where physical retailers have not made their mark. Identifying these markets and their gaps, allocating inventory and firming up logistics and delivery processes to cater to these physically far-flung consumers can provide further assurance to an online brand’s longevity as these untapped markets grow more accustomed to online shopping. Nowhere in APAC is this more pertinent, perhaps, than Indonesia, where second and third-tier cities are known to have few malls compared to Jakarta.[10]

But as online retailers look towards other markets, it would also be wise to track the progress of regional eCommerce reforms and laws. Thailand, for example, is expected to introduce a new tax on cross-border eCommerce by the end of 2017, starting with small merchants and gradually ramping up to large enterprises.[11] Developments like these will undoubtedly impact on online consumer behavior, possibly hindering growth in certain markets.