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SMEs Selling to Emerging Markets

Social Media is part of the Marketing Story for SMEs in Asia

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With an economically active population of several billion people and rapid, sustained economic growth, Asia represents a booming market place that new and existing SMEs are continually trying to engage.

Out of the latest 100 million users to join Instagram, more than half reside in Asia or Europe, with Indonesia and Japan as two of the top three countries that gained the most users. Social media’s growth throughout Asia is increasing rapidly notwithstanding some country’s governments blocking access and censoring parts of social networks.

So how can SME’s capitalize on this new phenomenon? For an SME owner to reach their targets effectively through social media it’s essential to understand which channels are engaging and to whom and learn how these channels can be incorporated into your SME’s Asian marketing mix, then refine the marketing strategies that fit with individual markets to maximize impact.

 Asian Marketing Mix

Asian markets are not homogeneous. There are dozens of countries, hundreds of languages, and countless ethnicities.  Because of its diverse nature, it can be difficult to know where to start. Findings from a recent Asian marketing study show that smartphone usage dominates across Asia with 88% using their smartphone most or all of the time, consumers in China are the most prolific users; 94% use their smartphone all the time. Consumers are also buying more on the move, with 91% of them having shopped at least once on their smartphones. Consumers often or very often use their smartphones for social chat apps (83%) and surfing the internet (77%). Across Asia, email was identified as the best performing channel for driving a purchase (64%) followed by social media (53%). The majority of consumers receives personalised content via email (74%), social media (69%) and SMS (69%) but find the content on email (70%), social media (57%) and SMS (56%) irrelevant. The accuracy and messaging on integrated content can be improved across channels with 29 – 44% of respondents reporting receiving conflicting messages depending on the channels such as email, SMS and apps. “The new generation of digital consumers today access information on their own terms, expecting it to be current, relevant as well as device and platform compatible,” said one Asian Marketing expert. “This has forced marketers to rethink their engagement strategies when it comes to achieving a single customer view,” he continued adding, “SMEs need to move away from a one-size fits all approach. They need to focus on content relevancy and accurate targeting efforts or risk seeing constant missed opportunities, which impacts business growth.”

Email on mobile is the best way to reach out to the digital consumer in Asia. Across Asia, mobile is the most popular platform for opening emails (68%). At the same time, the best performing channel for driving a purchase is also email – nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents have purchased something as a result of promotional content they received via email. This is closely followed by social media at 53 %; especially in Thailand (65%), Indonesia (63%) and Malaysia (62%). Content from SMS and social chat apps like Line and WeChat are also highly effective in driving purchases (both 39%). Despite being highly connected, consumers in Singapore were found to be the least responsive to marketing content across channels such as social chat (19%) and mobile applications (27%), while email remains as a key driver for purchase (60%t).

Personalised Marketing

Key to marketing across Asia is the refinement of personalisation strategies across devices and channels. More than half of respondents in a recent survey showed positive sentiments towards receiving content based on their purchase history (59%), delivery options (57%), and recently viewed history (55%). “While most companies recognise the benefits of a multi-channel and multi-touch point approach, the challenge is to provide content that is sufficiently interesting and relevant to the audience,” concluded one Asian Tech Marketing expert. While the majority (74%) of Asian consumers receives personalised email, nearly three out of four consumers (70%) find the content irrelevant. In spite of marketers being aware of the need for personalised data; driving home the point that personalisation does not necessarily equate to relevant content, according to the survey.

Both LINE and WeChat offer in-app payments and are used heavily in their respective countries for everyday purchases including in-store, taxis, and utilities. Timing is key to effective marketing. During the one-week Chinese New Year holiday in 2016, WeChat had more that 8 billion transactions, far more than PayPal had in the whole of 2015 (4.9bn). In China, purpose-built social commerce apps are proliferating. XiaoHongShu, or RED, allows its users to share fashion tips and luxury product launches. Instead of just sharing, RED also allows its members to buy merchandise directly through the app. In 2016, the company reported that they had 5 million monthly active users and $200m in sales on the platform.

Dark Social

Finally, another challenge which SMEs are facing in Asian markets is that it is becoming more difficult to attribute clicks to the referring network. While the major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter deliver source information to web analytics systems, most of the new Asian networks do not. What this means is that any sharing or traffic which originates on these networks is hidden from the sellers. Because of this, traffic from these new networks is ascribed to have come from ‘dark social’. Dark social describes any web traffic that’s not attributed to a known source, such as a social network or a Google search. Referral traffic is usually identified by certain “tags” attached to the link whenever it is shared. While it is difficult to gauge the size of dark social in the region, one recent report shows that the problem may be much bigger than most expect. According to this research, dark social may account for nearly all of the content and data shared via mobile in the region. While Google Analytics and other similar systems are useful for attribution in the West, more sophisticated attribution modeling is necessary for Asian marketing campaigns. This has implications for Big Data in Asia in the future but with innovation in Asia developing fast it may be a matter of time before developments resolve these issues.

Some Asian countries are far ahead Western countries with the adoption of social commerce. The strategies of their indigenous companies are clever. SMEs using social media for marketing in Asia should tailor their mix of tools and channels to individual markets and personalize their communications to effectively position their products and services on-trend.

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Nahvin Chinaya
Nahvin Chinaya
With experience in providing marketing services for organizations like Masterskill Education Group Berhad and CIMB Investment Bank, Nahvin works on implementing ideas that increase customer awareness and drive sales of the suite of products offered by ABSS.

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