Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

How e-commerce marketers can better resonate with today’s smart consumers

E-commerce has exploded over the last few years, leaving many traditional retailers reeling from the need to rapidly adapt and accelerate their online offerings. Spurred along in large part by the pandemic, 2021 saw over 40 million new internet users in Southeast Asia, with eight in 10 of these new users having purchased something online at least once.

A significant percentage of merchants in Malaysia (43%) and Singapore (38%) are now attributing digital platforms as a means of business continuity during COVID-19. As a result, the role of e-commerce has significantly risen in importance for the retail sector. For marketers, this presents new ways to reach and engage with their consumers. 

The rise of the discerning consumer

Consumers are no longer relying on social and display ads or sales representatives from brands to inform their purchase decisions, with a study from Hubspot even finding that only 3% of people trust sales people. This eye-opening truth highlights the stark fact that today’s consumers are more discerning than ever - especially with the pandemic accelerating the adoption of online services. 

With the power dynamic having shifted, today’s consumers are more likely to make informed decisions, based on advice and information from sources that have a community element, whether it is through customer referrals, recommendation from a trusted content creator, or word-of-mouth from friends and family. While online ads do best at capturing the attention of APAC consumers, today’s shoppers turn to researching brand websites, search portals and online marketplaces to seek out more information before making the decision to buy.

While brands can overcome the advocacy challenge through paid advertising and testimonials, informed customers may wonder about the authenticity behind these testimonials. One solution is to create authentic advocacy through partnerships with entities who have already built a credible name and trustworthy relationship with their audience. This can be in the form of an influencer or key opinion leader who has a following that trusts their judgments and beliefs.

Building trust in the age of doubt

In today’s oversaturated market, gaining strong consumer trust is more important than ever before. Okta’s The State of Digital Trust report found that 58% of respondents in Asia said they would be unlikely to purchase a product from a digital brand they did not trust - rising to 73% in Singapore.

Brands looking to build that all-important trust should consider affiliate marketing and partnerships, which are mutually beneficial collaborations between your brand and another individual or business, such as an affiliate, publisher, influencer or even another brand that already has a trusted relationship with the consumer. The brands then only pay these partners when the agreed results (e.g. a conversion or action) is achieved. They’re distinct from traditional marketing and sales but can be effectively managed by marketing and sales teams as an independent driver of revenue.

Image from Love, Bonito

Online fashion brand Love, Bonito, for example, leveraged trusted partnerships to raise brand awareness and acquire new customers in Asia, where traction has previously been low. Within a year of launch, Love, Bonito grew its partnership channel to nearly 20% of total new orders, highlighting the power of trust. 

Relationships built on trust is key, with Forrester reporting that brands who have actively engaged in building mature partnership programs have seen an overall revenue growth of 28% and twice as fast as companies with less mature programs.

Embrace automation for efficiency and to  scale

The idea of adding another sales channel like affiliate marketing and partnerships can sometimes feel like more work than it’s worth, especially when your marketing team is already under-resourced and overstretched. That’s where utilising a partnership management platform comes in. 

With a partnership management platform, it not only enables marketing teams to track the traffic and value of what each affiliate and partner brings to the business, but also helps automate and manage the full cycle of their affiliate marketing and partnership program, from recruiting new partners to customising flexible payouts — ensuring their energy is better utilised and focused on optimising partners that bring in the highest possible ROI . Sporting goods retailer Decathlon, for example, moved away from manual processes and embraced partnership automation to manage and scale different partners ranging from diverse businesses to influencers and content creators.

Instead of piling on a higher workload for Decathlon’s marketing team, leveraging a partnership management platform saved its teams a substantial amount of time and resources through automation, averaging 49 hours per month.

In an increasingly competitive online landscape, it is key to focus on relationship-building, connecting with audiences and providing better value propositions. In fact, many fast-growing retail businesses have begun to explore alternative growth strategies like affiliate marketing and partnerships. Get it wrong, and they’ll risk losing out to their competitors - but get it right, and there’s a whole new world of retail opportunity sitting online through the partnership channel as we speak.


Written by:

Antoine Gross
General Manager, Southeast Asia, impact.com

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