How to Surf the Digital Economy Successfully

Getting one’s product in front of overseas consumers used to be reserved for big companies with big marketing budgets. But with technology democratizing the playing field, even small and medium-sized enterprises in Asia Pacific are now able to peddle their wares internationally.

Through e-commerce, these SMEs are now able to showcase their offerings to customers anywhere in the world. At the same time, through social media, they get firsthand, and often real-time, feedback of what customers like and want, which means they can better tailor their product to meet those needs.

These days, it’s no longer enough to just have a website. Businesses need to make it easy for customers to shop online, on their mobile devices and on their favorite social media platforms. They have to integrate e-commerce, mobile commerce and social commerce to stay connected to customers.

It is little wonder that the majority of APAC SMEs have adopted these new technologies to source goods or find customers outside their country. The recent FedEx Express Asia Pacific SME research report [1] found that four in five (82%) APAC SMEs are using e-commerce, which continues to be a key driver of exporting behaviour.

While e-commerce is still the most popular, mobile commerce is fast catching up. Businesses tend to think of m-commerce as e-commerce on mobile devices, but it’s so much more. When targeting customers on their mobile devices, companies can add technologies like geo-targeting, branded apps and QR codes, so potential buyers can make a successful, frictionless purchase.

In APAC, m-commerce is now used by 72% of the SMEs, up from 61% in 2016. With mobile internet penetration on the rise in the region, this figure is set to increase. The majority of SMEs using e-commerce and m-commerce are optimistic that revenue will continue to grow, with China, Philippines and Vietnam most likely to generate new export revenue from these two channels.[2]

Social commerce meanwhile, is now practiced by 74% of APAC SMEs compared with 64% in 2016.[3] By being connected to a product via social media, customers can shop from their frequently used social media platform or make a purchase based on recommendations from friends and family.

The SMEs are seeing the value of social commerce in a number of areas of their business, including helping them identify new customers (43%) and suppliers (38%), providing customer support (42%) and in tracking deliveries (39%). Philippines is the most advanced in this area and Facebook, in particular, is helping to drive SME exports and imports in the APAC region.[4]

Navigating challenges

Digitalization has made the world more connected and accessible. The rewards are big and the start-up costs are low. One just needs a website to sell to anyone around the world. And precisely because it’s so easy to set up a business, anyone can copy the original idea and start selling something similar very quickly.

With such low barriers to entry, small businesses are springing up across the region leading to more choices for the consumer. In this age of short attention spans and social media feeds fed by the latest fads, SMEs have to work and fight harder than ever to attract customer attention.

Given these challenges to convert a purchase decision, it’s crucial that SMEs make the final step – the checkout process – as straightforward as possible. Overseas customers do not want to be figuring out how much the product costs in their currency. Nor do they want to be surprised about additional taxes or duties.

There are tools that provide a safe, seamless, localized experience for customers, automatically displaying the checkout page in their language, accepting their preferred payment methods and showing prices in their local currency. It can also display a total landed cost, which leads to price transparency during checkout.

It’s essential that such tools have been pre-integrated within a number of popular shopping cart platforms for quick implementation, e-tailers have the ease of using their existing systems to access global markets and connect with their customers globally.

When it comes to connecting SMEs with their customers, the right logistics company can be that one-stop shop.

[1] ”Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, a commissioned research study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of FedEx Express, July 2018.

[2] ”Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, a commissioned research study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of FedEx Express, July 2018.

[3] ”Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, a commissioned research study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of FedEx Express, July 2018.

[4] ”Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, a commissioned research study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of FedEx Express, July 2018.

 

   E-Commerce, SME