Business & Economy Startups How a single user-centric approach unlocked Southeast Asia for us

How a single user-centric approach unlocked Southeast Asia for us




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Shopee shares how to get the “happy user, happy future” ratio

Southeast Asia’s e-commerce industry is growing rapidly and is a key driver in the digital economy.

According to the Google Temasek e-Conomy SEA 2018 report, Southeast Asia’s Internet economy will exceed US$240 billion by 2025, while e-commerce, which has already passed US$23 billion in 2018, will exceed US$100 billion by 2025.

This growth has been largely fuelled by rising internet access, especially on mobile devices. Improved connectivity and decreased mobile data costs have attracted about three million new internet users in Southeast Asia every month.

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As of June 2018, there are over 350 million internet users in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. That is 90 million more than in 2015.

As more Southeast Asians go online, their increased trust and familiarity with e-commerce will be a major factor in its development in the coming years.

Thus, given the growth potential in the e-commerce industry, here’s how startup founders can utilise Shopee’s learnings to create platforms and communities that will win Southeast Asia.

1. Relating to users

Knowing the region will tell you that it is predominantly mobile-first. It has leapfrogged generations of technology and adopted the mobile phone.

With more than 90 per cent of Southeast Asians surfing the internet primarily through their smartphones, we have to grab their attention with highly localised strategies across all areas of the business to ensure that user experience is relatable and engaging.

Having a different app for each country is one of the ways that allow for a hyper localised user experience, resulting in nimble marketing campaigns that target directly at local cultural nuances.

Case study

During Shopee’s regional campaigns, we adopted localised strategies and content to suit the preferences of locals.

For example, we had different campaign ambassadors used for different countries during Shopee’s 12.12 Birthday Sale.

In Vietnam, we worked with a local footballer, Bùi Tiến Dũng, who is popular with his community, while also partnering with Jose Mari Chan (affectionately known by locals as the Father Christmas of the Philippines) to draw the Filipino crowds. Riding on the Korean-pop wave, Bambam became the face of Shopee Thailand’s 12.12 campaign.

This not only made our campaigns highly localised but also deeply engaging for users who were also fans of these ambassadors.

We hosted exclusive fan meets, live concerts and utilised social media platforms to hold live streaming events that allowed for further engagement with our users.

2. Engaging users

Every brand and every app is looking to win the attention of users.

Attention alone is not good enough; we want to keep users engaged as an experiential e-commerce platform.

A study done by App Annie showed a strong correlation between time spent in shopping apps and e-commerce sales.

Therefore, time spent in-app is an important metric which is why companies customise their in-app experience for their consumers.

Also Read: Why be a thought leader at Echelon Asia Summit 2019?

Through elements of gamification, flash sales, the curation of categories and products, these e-commerce platforms want to keep their users constantly engaged through entertainment and personalisation.

We first learnt what users in the region enjoyed and understood their motivations before deciding on a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach ranging from in-app activities to regional and local celebrity ambassadors.

Case Study

We found that users enjoy “slicing” food/fruits on their mobile phones, so we created a Shopee version of it and localised it so that each market will play a unique local version of the game.

We had Shopee Chop-Chop Curry Pok in Singapore, where users had to slice falling curry puffs (a snack of choice for many locals) and an Indonesian version of the game titled Shopee Potong (Bahasa word for “slice”) for one of our local Super Brand Days.

Another in-app game that we introduced was Shopee Quiz where we had local celebrities from the various countries host the quiz sessions, making it an interactive and social experience for our users.

This was a combination of strategies: localisation and deeper user engagement.

Using what was familiar to consumers and creatively adding them to in-app games allowed locals to spend more time on the app which may lead to additional browsing and purchasing.

3. Listening to the users via feedback

Putting users first in whatever you do is vital as the entire online experience is shaped based on their preferences.

Companies often collect user data so as to continually improve the online experience, resulting in a more satisfied and hopefully “repeat” consumer.

Actively reviewing their feedback helps platforms to improve on their features and services and to better cater to users’ needs.

Case Study

One example of utilising our users’ feedback is Shopee’s live chat function improvement.

The previous version of our live chat did not allow for multitasking which led to instances of the conversation timing out and users having to go through the help process again. We listened to our users and updated the chat function to allow for multitasking, and also introduced additional push notifications to remind users of ongoing chats.

These changes were made possible due to a strong feedback loop between our community of users and us.

Also Read: These two entrepreneurs help elderly Singaporeans improve their independence and age better

In the fast-paced and dynamic e-commerce industry, the relevance and importance of data cannot be understated in identifying consumer behaviour and buying patterns. The combination of updated technology and the resultant data we are able to obtain has also helped us better map out an optimised buyer and seller user experience.

Furthermore, this enables us to pre-empt customer demand and anticipate potential surges in order volume—a great asset when it comes to helping our seller’s manage stock and logistics.

In addition, we use AI technology throughout the app, including modules such as our recommendation engine, to prompt relevant products to customers based on their past browsing and purchase patterns.


As technology and people’s online behaviour evolves, we must constantly look towards creating greater value for users beyond just being a transactional platform.

Founders need to have the courage and honesty to ask themselves if their product is able to relate to, engage with and learn from their users.

Image Credit: imtmphoto

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