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How To Surf The Digital Economy Successfully

By Kawal Preet | First published: July 7, 2020    Updated: August 25, 2022

Your customers are most likely shopping on their mobiles – and social media. It’s time to optimize your business to match the shopping habits of consumers in Asia and beyond.

There’s been a seismic shift in global trade and online retail in recent years. E-commerce – already on the rise before the pandemic – has gone stratospheric since COVID-19. Businesses of all sizes, from start-ups to small and medium-sized enterprises, have the opportunity to raise their profile and drive sales overseas.

With e-commerce, SMEs can showcase their brand and product to customers anywhere. And thanks to social media, they get first-hand, often real-time, feedback on what customers like, meaning they can improve their product fast to meet those needs. How can e-tailers surf the digital economy to target overseas customers? Check out my key takeaways below:

Social commerce is now a must for business success

Of course, it’s no longer enough just to have a website. Businesses need to make the experience simple and compelling for customers shopping on mobile phones and through social networks. Integrating e-commerce, mobile commerce and social commerce means working across multiple platforms to stay connected to customers at all times.
A man sitting on sofa and using laptop

The trend is most sophisticated – and lucrative - in Korea and China, generating huge revenue for sellers and streaming platforms.

For mobile purchases, companies can add features like geo-targeting, in-app notifications, mobile wallets and QR codes, so potential buyers can make successful, frictionless purchases. These options are making one-click repeat purchases easier too.

But social commerce is taking things a step further. Depending on the market you’re selling in, the rise of live streaming within social commerce may be driving a special kind of one-click purchase - the impulse buy. The real-time, experiential aspect of live shopping, combined with the likelihood of an online personality fronting the product, is compelling online shoppers to make instant purchases.

Factor in flash sales and the ability to contact the shopping host or channel directly to chat about the purchase and some brands, especially in the fashion, jewelry or beauty space, are onto a huge win. The trend is most sophisticated – and lucrative - in Korea and China, generating huge revenue for sellers and streaming platforms.

Research the audience where you are selling. Live commerce hadn’t taken off everywhere, and you may have greater success focusing on social selling one the platform that really works for you – whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, LINE or TikTok.

APAC consumers are mobile-first

In Asia Pacific, mobile commerce is on the up. 63% of consumers in the region use mobile apps as their primary shopping method. China, especially, is at an all-time high of 86% thanks to the popularity of apps like Taobao, Tmall and XiaoHongShu.

Of course, Asia Pacific is a diverse region of varying technological infrastructure, affluence, youth population, GDP and many other factors. That means usage of mobile commerce does fluctuate. While mobile shoppers are at 88% in Indonesia, in Japan it’s just 49%.
The trend is most sophisticated – and lucrative - in Korea and China, generating huge revenue for sellers and streaming platforms.

Indian woman using mobile phone

Digitalization has made the world more connected and accessible. The rewards are high and the start-up costs are low. Owning a website is all you need to sell to anyone around the world. But precisely because it’s so easy to set up a business, there’s far more competition. Anyone can copy an original idea and start selling something similar very quickly, undercutting you in the process.

With such low barriers to entry, many small online businesses are springing up across the region, meaning more choice for the consumer. Thanks to short attention spans and shifting social media trends, SMEs have to fight harder than ever to attract customer attention.

The shift from online storefront to marketplace

Given these challenges to convert to purchase decision, it’s crucial that SMEs make the final step – the checkout process – as straightforward as possible. Overseas customers want currency, fees and taxes to be straightforward, and most importantly to have the delivery process fully integrated without a hitch. Consumers, especially when shopping on their mobile or on social media, can be easily distracted, as well as put off by too many steps at the final checkout. SMEs need to remove every possible barrier to purchase completion to avoid cart abandonment.
A woman shopping online with laptop and holding credit card

That’s why many e-commerce operators have diversified, choosing to sell on third-party marketplaces as well as their proprietary site. Integrated platform tech means that the buyer is given simple, streamlined checkout options. Increasingly, e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce 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. At FedEx, we have also teamed up with many leading e-commerce marketplaces to offer one-step shipping.

The final step is seamless delivery. When it comes to connecting businesses with their customers efficiently, the right logistics provider can be the missing link.

Got questions or need help with shipping, or setting up the right e-commerce solution for your business? Our Small Business Center has all of the resources you need in one place to expand your business overseas.
About the Author
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Kawal Preet

Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, FedEx Express

Kawal started out as a FedEx engineer in Singapore over 26 years ago, and she’s now the President of FedEx Express AMEA. Kawal is based in Hong Kong.

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