Maksym Yemelyanov - Fotolia

Keeping pace with the evolving millennial consumer in Southeast Asia

Businesses are revamping their technology and omnichannel strategies to keep pace with the millennials

The recent Millennial 20/20 Asia Pacific Summit in Singapore revealed an appetite amongst businesses for using digital technology to understand and attract Southeast Asian millennials.

Asian millennials are impossible to ignore. As a group, they have greater spending power than any previous generation, with an estimated US$6tn in disposable income by 2020, based on research by Accenture.

Millennials can be loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 2000. However, they are not a homogenous group and would also include those that are older or younger with the same mindset.

At the Millennial 20/20 event, Teo Correia, senior managing director at Accenture, said all industries and countries have been affected by the millennial consumer revolution. “It is very important for brands to understand this generation, because their values and behaviour patterns represent the majority of consumers.”

Millennials the world over stand out for being a tech-savvy, digital generation. In Asia, they are leapfrogging the desktop and creating a mobile-first web landscape, with Southeast Asia, for example, having a high number of millennials becoming mobile-only web users, according to Rupa Ganatra, founding partner of the Millennial 20/20 event.

Millennials seek a personalised shopping experience, said Clarence Chew, chief marketing officer at Decathlon Singapore, a manufacturer and retailer of sports equipment.

This involves a multichannel approach that offers the customer a seamless shopping experience online, at a bricks and mortar store or by telephone. “People don’t come to you because of an amazing ad, nor do they want to see a product that is cheap. They want to come close and have a relationship, so an omni-channel business model is very important.”

Bridging the online-offline Gap

Building strong customer relationships involves collecting and analysing the right data as well as understanding the customer, said Chew. This allows organisations to create a personalised journey for the customer through an omni-channel.

To this end, brands are ramping up their analytics capabilities to enable personalised customer experiences and pricing based on loyalty, purchase history and demographics, said Millennial 20/20’s Ganatra. They are increasingly utilising predictive analytics to provide personalised service offerings, and using location-based services to embed themselves in customer lifestyles.

The online shopping experience is crucial, said retailers in a panel discussion at the Millennial 20/20 Summit.

“It is very important for brands to understand this generation, because their values and behaviour patterns represent the majority of consumers”
Teo Correia, Accenture

The speed of information dissemination has made it a challenge to forecast trends. “When you are doing a marketing campaign, you are actually shooting in the dark. You are not sure if it will work out,” said Raunak Mehta, regional category director at Zalora Group.

Zalora’s approach to personalisation extends to personalised marketing campaigns, where four separate visitors to the site will experience different marketing messages, depending on their past purchases and browsing history.

The challenge is treading the “thin line between a focused and a creepy campaign. Imagine searching for something on Zalora’s website and then seeing the same thing you searched for appear on Facebook, and again on another website,” said Mehta.

Reduce online friction

In terms of the online transaction, speed and ease of use is essential.

“When the purchase process crosses the five-second mark, there will be huge drop-offs or bounce rates. Also, three or four is the ideal number of steps to complete a purchase. Every step added will lead to a 10-20% drop in conversion,” said Anil Srinivas, senior director e-commerce at Levi Strauss & Co.

Rachel Lim, co-founder of Love, Bonito, a Singapore online retailer, agreed that a hassle-free experience also matters.

“When customers experience a connection failure, they may find it too much of a hassle to reorder or to go through the payment process again. We are now looking at building in one-touch payment or storing credit card details on our database to save customers having to key in details again.”

Using technology to serve tech-savvy consumers in Southeast Asia

The hospitality industry is also targeting millennials. For instance, hotel group Shangri-La has launched a loyalty programme that offers people a new way of experiencing the brand through food and drink.

“We are at a stage where we consider every guest, not only while they are in the hotel, but also across the complete customer journey,” said Widhadh Waheed, director of eBusiness, Shangri-La International Hotel Management. “We need to move away from basic buckets of age-defined groups to a more individual approach to developing our value proposition for each customer.

“Technology is the foundational building block and tool that enables us to solve real-life problems. We need to constantly test and iterate for each person that comes through the door to find out what works and what doesn’t.”

Asian complexities

Alexis Horowitz-Burdick, managing director at Sephora Digital, the e-commerce arm of beauty product firm Sephora, said organisations targeting the millennials in Southeast Asia still have a way to go, and need to be mindful that it has complexities in terms of the diversity of languages, third-party logistics, currency and other operational matters.

While operations, logistics and processes can be replicated between countries and regions, marketing efforts still need to be localised for successful digital communication with customers.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in Southeast Asia for businesses to create a really easy, informative customer journey,” said Horowitz-Burdick. “Do organisations have the content the customer wants? Is there good enough interactivity? Essentially, have you made it easy for them?”

Read more on IT for retail and logistics