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News E-commerce exec outlines how global brands can scale businesses across SEA region

E-commerce exec outlines how global brands can scale businesses across SEA region


DEEMED the fourth largest economic bloc by 2030, there’s no stopping Asean from being in the radar of global trade.

With gross domestic product (GDP) in the region growing at 5.4 percent on the average in recent years, the Asean is on track to follow in the footsteps of the United States, China and the European Nation.

Thanks largely to the unification and integration of its member-states—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—Asean is populated by a growing educated and young workforce, as well as an emerging middle class.

Alongside its flourishing economy and promising demographic profile, the booming online trade amid the pandemic has made it become one of the most attractive markets that companies worldwide—big or small—want to penetrate into.

Despite this, businesses beyond Southeast Asia (SEA) find it hard to enter the region given a complex process that requires a deep understanding of e-commerce fundamentals and customer experience.

Now, a local ally claims it can equip them, provide guidance on diverse legal and cultural nuances of each country, and offer fulfillment services on their behalf in their bid to set foot and gain ground in the Philippines. 

“Going into the SEA market, you will never make it without a partner,” said Alexander Friedhoff, chief executive officer (CEO) and cofounder of etaily.

The top executive, who is immersed in the Asean digital platforms and legal frameworks, talked about the needs of brands who want to make it to the regional marketplace in two recent webinars organized by the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines.

“Players who want to enter into SEA need strong local partners for import licenses, e-commerce expertise in customer service, influencer management —all these nitty-gritty things which are happening in the back end which are completely underestimated when it comes to observing the overall e-commerce outlook,” he noted.

The ‘right’ one

IT takes no one for any business who likes to expand overseas to succeed. Being new to a certain market requires finding a right ally to collaborate with so as to go beyond simply establishing a presence there but also a foothold to stay in the long run.

With this in mind, a partner on ground in any part of the Asean can guide international brands entering into the local industry’s inner workings, which are held by channels like Lazada, according to Friedhoff. It can also help them become acquainted and in sync with the various markets’ complex warehousing, delivery, and customer infrastructures, he added. However, a local ally can assist them to scale in the region by way of a skillful implementation of e-commerce, data analytics, and core technologies, he noted.

Know your customer well

THE people who use a product or service need to be identified and well thought of by an entity for it to effectively cater to them.

Because of this, it’s important for brands to constantly update their granular, deep-dive understanding of their Asean customers in their campaigns. 

Coming from different historical, cultural, traditional, spiritual and political backgrounds, they must meet the specific needs of each client in such a diverse market. Knowing the patrons’ journey, the competitors, and what both are looking for can also make a difference in their business strategy, especially in the digital space. “It’s always about the customer. Making the customer happy to allow them to buy, fulfill, return, and get information about the products they want to have,” Friedhoff pointed out.

No way but tech up

WITH 60 percent of the SEA population under 35 years old, innovation is the name of the game in this tech-savvy market.

Embracing technology will enable foreign businesses to adopt and respond to a changing Asean landscape. Hence, using social-media data on market behaviors, efficient logistics and inventory that can be accessed real time, and a multi-regional warehouse system and supply chain system for distribution is very crucial.

An omnichannel experience that is faultless can also link the brands’ offline channel with its online portal, allowing this market to see offerings even in the comfort of their native countries and guaranteeing them safe and secured delivery of these products right at their doorstep.

E-commerce enabler 

TAKING into account that Asean is a diversified market teeming with vast opportunities for growth, it’s essential for businesses to tie up with a provider of end-to-end fulfillment solutions for their customers. 

This is where an e-commerce enabler steps into the picture. This e-commerce-enabling start-up based in the Philippines has established a strong presence in five other strategic business locations across SEA, thus bringing international brands closer to their target clients in the region. 

The data-driven social media abilities in its platforms provide them massive user bases for their marketing campaigns. They can, likewise, depend on the company’s extensive safekeeping capacity as it developed numerous regional storage facilities.

With its reliable infrastructures built in just two years since the inception of its operations here, etaily’s suite of services including e-commerce strategy, data and analytics, and multi-warehousing has made it a strong partner for European brands such as Nivea, Alpecin, and Sebamed, among others.   

While it gives foreign entities the building, management, and scaling solutions needed to thrive in the Asean corridor, another advantage of working with this firm is that they will be free to focus on their core business and offer more rewarding preferred products and services to their new SEA markets. 

“Online is, was, and will always be relevant and the pandemic was its semi-accelerator,”  Friedhoff said, while citing their proven foundation remains as the brands’ strength—“the fundamental methods which have also made e-commerce important and thriving.” For global business players to expand to the Asean market, it calls for a combined offline methods and digital technology approach toward a rewarding customer journey. 

“In the end, we are here for one thing: to build great customer experiences, and we are happy to do this with you,” he stressed.

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