As part of WARC’s series on ‘Rethinking brand for the rise of digital commerce’, Shopee’s Ian Ho explains how commerce and entertainment are combining in Southeast Asia, and what that means for advertising formats.

E-commerce currently accounts for less than 5% of total retail in Southeast Asia but with rising connectivity, a young population, and a widening middle class, there is plenty of headroom for growth. In a highly diverse and digital-first region, customers are prioritising convenience and turning to mobile apps for everything – to search, buy, and even be entertained.

E-commerce platforms like Shopee have robust ecosystems and provide integrated tools to engage and capture consumers' attention. Therefore, they can provide an important platform for brands to build stronger customer connections and create that seamless purchasing journey, regardless of the brands’ objectives.

Building an ecosystem

The simplified shopping experience of browsing on-the-go through mobile apps, ease of checking out and the promise of fast deliveries have made online marketplaces a preferred channel for shoppers. According to Google, the current use of e-commerce platforms is 1.8 times higher than brand websites across all categories and markets, with 51% of shoppers recalling purchasing from a brand flagship store within e-commerce sites.

In fact, e-commerce platforms are fast becoming the first touchpoint in a consumer’s purchase journey for branded products and deals. Last year, Shopee’s 10.10 Brands Festival drove 2.5 times more traffic to Shopee Mall than on an average day, and we saw a three-fold increase in orders on Shopee Mall across our year-end campaigns. Marketers targeting consumers in Southeast Asia are increasingly looking to drive potential customers into the e-commerce ecosystem.

To streamline a brand’s digital advertising, Shopee works with leading industry partners like Facebook and Google to assist brands in driving traffic from online pages into their Shopee stores. We also work with other affiliate partners so brands can drive traffic to their official Shopee store from multiple channels. These help brands effectively target customers with high purchase intent by capturing and analysing search behavior.

Combining formats

Once consumers are successfully integrated in-app, e-commerce platforms can help brands address the full customer journey, from discovery to delivery. With the right pairing of marketing solutions and brand assets, we have observed that brands who invest across the different touchpoints in-app, are more likely to have better return on investment. For example, on Shopee, brands can use a range of on-platform ads such as Shopee Search Ads to increase product and shop exposure. Paired with timely promotions such as vouchers to convert high-intent consumers, as well as a customisable loyalty and CRM programme such as Shopee Mall Brand Memberships, brands can increase retention rates and directly control how they cultivate stronger customer relationships.

A brand that has successfully done so is Tesco Lotus, a Thai retail hypermarket. The brand partnered with Shopee during the 10.10 Brands Festival last year to launch the Tesco Lotus x Shopee Super Brand Day. It utilised a series of marketing solutions and tapped onto both on- and off-platform solutions to build up its in-app presence, engage followers and drive conversion with competitive pricing.

Throughout the Super Brand Day, Tesco Lotus made use of onsite banners and Facebook Ads with Shopee to drive awareness of their offerings among users. They then used Shopee Live and Feed to educate and engage shoppers, highlighting the differentiating factor of the brand’s products. Lastly, they used promotional tools such as upsized discount vouchers to boost orders over live streams. These initiatives resulted in a five-fold spike in sales across all six product categories during Shopee Live, compared to normal days.

New consumer habits

The accelerated digitisation over the past year has changed consumer shopping habits for good. For instance, we see a new wave of ‘Cinderella’ online shoppers who prefer shopping late at night. At our 4.4 Mega Shopping Day in April, orders surged six times in the first two hours of the sale starting at midnight. To cater to these always-on consumers, brands need to engage them with exciting experiences to stay top of mind and drive repeat purchases.

In fact, we saw a two-fold increase in search volume for brand names on Shopee Mall from 2019 to 2020, with more consumers turning to e-commerce platforms to access their favourite brands. In-app engagement tools like games, livestreams and campaigns such as big shopping festivals or smaller-scale brand-themed days provide an avenue for brands to grow their online presence and deepen engagement at every touchpoint. For instance, brands can rethink the way they use entertainment and co-created brand assets to build brand affinity amongst the millions of users who come on Shopee to shop and seek experiences.

In this sea of opportunity for online retail to grow further, e-commerce platforms are most effective in helping brands reach a large pool of engaged customers. They are also ideal platforms for brands to test out new concepts and gain more experiences in what works best.