Brands can no longer ignore the role social e-commerce plays in their media strategy and need to be prepared for the influx of social e-commerce partnerships and opportunities, writes Kantar’s Pablo Gomez.

As a decade of media evolution took place in just a few short months last year, 2021 is bringing new challenges and opportunities to media and advertising as we navigate different phases of the pandemic across Asia-Pacific. And marketers still have the difficult task of positioning their brands to appeal to new and constantly changing consumer needs and values while managing new media usage habits and smaller marketing budgets.

As agility and an intimate understanding of different consumer behaviours become fundamental to ensuring your brand remains relevant while generating demand, a new level of data-driven marketing will be integral to the experience commanded by Asia-Pacific consumers as they continue to flock to social e-commerce. 

The question all brands must ask themselves: is our media strategy shopping in the right place?

93 million Asia-Pacific households bought FMCG products through e-commerce for the first time in 2020

One of the rising pandemic media stars was social e-commerce. This fusion of social media and e-commerce will again command a great share of influence over the entire sales funnel making it a ‘must-have’ in your media strategy. Pre-pandemic sales in the genre in our region reached USD$2 trillion in 2019 and is expected to double by 2024, not surprising given Asia-Pacific accounted for 46% of the global social media market in 2020 with the number of people engaging with social media expected to reach 1.89 billion this year alone.

As we all became more comfortable with e-commerce across different product categories last year, digital platforms increasingly influenced our buying decisions. People are now viewing more influencer-based content than before, and as such, advertisers must focus on seamless integration between e-commerce and social media to deliver a tangible and immediate revenue stream and more efficient omnichannel sales presence. This means incorporating social and retail media strategies alongside a new, re-imagined direct-to-consumer approach to deliver the right experience to the right audience.

Understanding ever-changing consumer behaviours is critical but is also increasingly more complex

Kantar’s Global Business Compass found that 90% of global business leaders expect pandemic-driven behaviour changes to persist post-crisis – and this includes the increase in people using social media and community forums to browse and buy brands. Investing in understanding the audience behind the screen is now essential to media strategy. Media companies must reach, engage and keep their audiences in a fast-changing market as the gaps in understanding the total audience continues to grow – and this means more and more investigation of the social playground.

While we are navigating very different stages of the pandemic country to country and there are still very challenging times ahead – it's the enormous opportunities for those who are bold enough to embrace them that will make a difference. 

For example, Alibaba (Taobao Live) and Amazon (Amazon Live) launched live streaming within their e-commerce ecosystems to help consumers with product research, while smaller brands and youth marketers use content platforms (Facebook, TikTok, Red) and social networks to accurately target consumers and convert them into buyers through either their store (i.e. Diesel’s SIDE:BIZ) or an integrated e-commerce engine (i.e. China’s Perfect Diary). 

And there are continual new entrants commanding attention for brands of all sizes and budgets. For example, Malaysian Social e-commerce platform Poptron just raised US$1million in funding from a Nasdaq-listed company.

Even with some prevailing distrust of social media, it can be the most cost-effective advertising medium

Increase in social ad spend will continue as the genre offers creative opportunities to disseminate and amplify paid and earned messaging – something particularly prevalent during lockdown measures. For example, as sponsored events were put on pause in many markets, DHL moved its investment into the F1 Championship to its virtual racing events – with the first official F1 esports event, the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix attracting 3.2 million online viewers across different social platforms. Our own studies find 75% of consumer touchpoints come from outside the paid media sphere, meaning that social media alone won’t build a relationship with your audience. Campaigns are strongest when they reach across multiple channels in a believable and consistent manner.

As my colleague Anshuman Pandey writes in our Media Trends and Predictions 2021 report: “Brands must go beyond upper-funnel activities and use data to activate consumers across the full funnel on social media. And they need to consider retail media’s importance in driving awareness and consideration.” Agility, the right customer experience and the utilisation of community-powered platforms like Facebook Shop and WeChat social e-commerce in conjunction with influencers during promotion periods is paramount.

Context is still king as media spend shifts rapidly across channels in line with consumption trends

If you have a smaller budget, focus on digital media and accelerate your adoption of the latest media channels and formats. Online video will be the single biggest winner with continued growth in higher-reach environments like YouTube. And consider incorporating relevant influencers and the interactivity and engagement of hashtag challenges to better connect.

But always focus your efforts on the platforms providing the best value for your brand. Streaming wars and digital media are here to stay – and provide a great opportunity to create engaging content – but be cognisant of understanding your audience and be relevant to them in that platform. Gone are the days of a captive audience. If your audience is still on television, television is important. If it is radio, then radio is important. You need to be there. 

But be ready and prepare your digital ecosystem for the influx of social e-commerce partnerships and opportunities.