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The Future of eCommerce and mCommerce in APAC: Predictions for 2023

Natalie Karakina
November 28, 2022

Both eCommerce and mCommerce are seeing rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. This trend will only continue into 2023 and beyond, making it important for businesses targeting this region to take the right approach to their marketing. There are certain predictions that you can keep in mind when developing your future campaigns.

In this in-depth post, we'll explore the differences between eCommerce and mCommerce, what mCommerce is, some of the latest statistics in the APAC area, trends you can expect to see in the next year, and how to prepare for the eCommerce era.

What Is the Difference Between eCommerce and Mobile Commerce?

If you want to connect with the APAC market, you'll need to appeal to both eCommerce and mCommerce. This is why it's important to understand the differences between these two models.

eCommerce, or electronic commerce, entails using an internet connection and electronic devices to purchase and sell various products or services. Users on eCommerce platforms tend to use desktop or laptop computers to complete transactions. For example, many people shop online through eCommerce platforms like Shopee using some type of computer and internet browser.

mCommerce, or mobile commerce, is slightly different from traditional eCommerce in that people use mobile devices to buy or sell goods or services. A mobile eCommerce platform could include mobile applications like Shopee or Lazada that allow people to use smartphones or tablets to complete transactions. Through mCommerce, people can easily shop online anytime, anywhere, using their mobile devices. All they need is an internet connection, whether through Wi-Fi or cellular data.

How Is mCommerce Shaping Online Commerce in Asia?

Recent statistics show how mCommerce is influencing E-commerce in Asia. 

First, let's look at eCommerce in general. 79% of adults with internet access in the APAC region claim to have recently purchased a product either online or offline, and the APAC region remains the world's largest eCommerce market with nearly $2.992 trillion in eCommerce sales in 2021. Many of these nations' shoppers are active users of mobile devices, with 96% of the APAC population possessing mobile subscriptions. 

In particular, countries in Southeast Asia are seeing growth in eCommerce. Some of the leading countries in this region include Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. These and other bordering countries continue to see an increase in online transactions.

Let’s have a look at how Mark Sage, COO of yuu (DFI Retail Group), interprets the matter:

“We’ve seen a significant increase in overall online commerce over the last couple of years and especially mCommerce. It naturally spiked during COVID and we saw large increases in demand during lock-down periods. However, this demand has continued to increase and we’re seeing a change in consumer behaviour more broadly within the market. As the largest retail consumer app in Hong Kong, the omnichannel experience is key for us so that we can best meet our customer needs across all channels and our yuu loyalty programme helps us to link up offline and online behaviour seamlessly.

The market though has clearly also become more competitive both with new entrants and existing competitors expanding their capabilities and this is why it’s important to innovate but equally important to do this sustainably. Whilst new customer acquisition is key to growth, it’s equally important that the customer experience is there to match it so that these customers keep coming back. This requires a focus on the whole funnel so that we make it easier and more rewarding for customers to purchase from us – whether it’s their 1st purchase or 31st – by initiatives such as increasing payment options, enhancing relevance through personalisation and building loyalty through points and promotions. These are all areas of focus for us.”

What's Causing the Growing Popularity of eCommerce in APAC?

The main reason for this growth is the increased use of online platforms among APAC consumers. There is an ever-increasing demand for a combination of online and offline shopping experiences, also known as integrated shopping experiences. People enjoy the convenience of online commerce as much as they still appreciate the in-store experience. This means that offering a blend of online and offline shopping experiences can be critical in acquiring and retaining customers in this area.

Shopify also identified a few other reasons for the rise of eCommerce in the APAC region. These reasons include:

  • Rapid urbanization along with technological advancements
  • An 85% growth in the middle-class population in APAC
  • An increase in private and government initiatives in China.

Looking back at Southeast Asia, one reason for the rise in mCommerce more specifically is the fact that 90% of internet users in this region are active smartphone users. Of course, this growth is reflected across Asia. As more and more internet users complete transactions on mobile devices, mCommerce will likely be the primary method of shopping in the near future. 

But we need to look beyond the retail industry to better analyze the rise of eCommerce in the region as Jheeva Subramanian, CEO of Protinus Group, highlights:

"E-commerce is also beginning to become vital in other industries and not just focused on retail.

Healthcare is a prime example of where ecommerce is gaining traction and organisations that adopt this will stand out from the competition. eCommerce in the health sector goes beyond a B2B and B2C model. It means transforming access to available medical services via a really useful omnichannel experience, not just via superficial messaging, such as online chat windows on hospital websites that almost never work and end up redirecting you to scheduling personal appointments.

According to Goldman Sachs, health eCommerce promises to grow even more than any other branch of digital commerce: ‘Healthcare institutions spend now 10 billion dollars a year on digital technology, and will reach 32 billion dollars a year in 2021.’”

mCommerce is Becoming Equally Popular in Asia

Asia is seeing the same upward trend for mobile-first eCommerce as other regions all over the world. Today, it accounts for most of the online shopping space in many countries throughout Asia. In addition to the increase in smartphone users, another reason why mCommerce is so huge in Asia is the faster mobile connection that many users are experiencing. Mobile retailers are also marketing more effectively to users in this region, and the increased number of people staying at home amid the pandemic has further contributed to mobile sales.

APAC consumers are generally far more likely to buy products online through their mobile devices than in other countries. Specifically, recent stats show that Indonesian shoppers are the most likely to engage in mobile-first eCommerce—93% of Indonesians stated that they made a recent mobile purchase. This and other statistics show that Asia is a leader when it comes to mCommerce.

As mobile commerce continues to dominate the APAC region and across the globe, the popularity of mCommerce will grow in the coming years.

14 Must-Know eCommerce and mCommerce Predictions for 2023

If you're wondering what the mCommerce and eCommerce forecast looks like for 2023 and the years ahead, there are plenty of predictions out there. To get and stay ahead of the competition, companies will need to be aware of the most important trends and keep up with them.

Here are some of these predictions to help companies take full advantage of them, starting with eCommerce.

1. Social Media Platforms Will Play a Bigger Role in eCommerce

One of the biggest Asia e-commerce trends is the increased use of social media platforms. If you want to succeed with mCommerce in the APAC market, social media is a crucial tool. Kannan Rajaratnam, General Manager of ZALORA Taiwan, also highlights that "There is a strong and renewed interest in social commerce stemming from Covid trends. Live video and AV-supported shopping trends are gaining good traction."

However, keep in mind that you can use social media for far more than a mere mCommerce platform. Industries of all kinds can use these channels to inspire prospective customers. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and others offer people a chance to explore, imagine, and ultimately make a buying decision.

Social media activities are increasingly influencing eCommerce customer behavior. One of the driving forces behind this is influencer marketing, as social media influencers drive trends among large and loyal followings.

Brands can use social media platforms for everything from selling directly to users to gaining more exposure through popular influencers. These are some of the key reasons why you must use social media to get ahead in the mobile-first eCommerce environment.

2. Artificial Intelligence Will Become Increasingly Important for Running Your Business

AI is seeing advancements that will only make this technology more integral to eCommerce and mCommerce.

There are different components of AI that can help businesses thrive in this environment. These include:

  • Natural Language Processing — This entails AI essentially learning about how humans communicate with them.
  • Data Mining — AI can collect and assess large quantities of data to make more accurate projections for the future.
  • Machine Learning — Over time, AI can learn from previous results and mistakes to improve continually through the use of algorithms.

If you use AI effectively, it can offer numerous advantages that help you dominate your industry. For example, AI capabilities enable more precise targeting for your marketing and ad campaigns. It can also help automate various processes, allowing you to focus more on running and growing your business. In addition, AI will help develop personalized communications with new and existing customers to increase retention and loyalty.

AI will be a part of our lives in one way or another in the very near future. The mode of operation for doing business will be also altered. “Virtual reality such as shoppable virtual stores and Augmented reality will start gaining traction. Having a standard e-commerce channel is no longer sufficient” says the CEO of Protinus Group, Jheeva Subramanian. Some examples, Subramanian added about AI’s importance:

  • Richer online shopping experience compared to traditional e-commerce shops.
  • Compared to regular e-commerce sites, virtual stores offer a much richer product experience. Therefore, you can look at your products from all angles, view them in different colours or materials and get live demos."

3. Omnichannel Will Become the Norm

Omnichannel eCommerce is another trend that's not going anywhere anytime soon. The goal of an omnichannel eCommerce strategy is to create a seamless customer experience that efficiently carries consumers along the buyer's journey. Businesses achieve this by using a combination of different online and offline channels.

You can use a wide range of channels to create various touchpoints that connect with your customers. For example, you can design and develop a website that serves as your business's main online hub. Meanwhile, you can use social media platforms that your customers use on a regular basis to grow a following or make sales. Through omnichannel marketing, you can connect all of these channels to build a cohesive journey that converts more leads into customers.

The fact is that eCommerce customers want to do plenty of research before committing to purchases in most cases, especially when it's so convenient to research offerings online. An omnichannel strategy would facilitate this research while ultimately leading people to a sale. For instance, a customer might first encounter your brand in a social media ad. From there, they visit your website and subscribe to your email newsletter but still neglect to make a purchase. The person may then encounter a more in-depth video ad on another platform that lets the viewer know what sets you apart from competitors. At that point, the person may return to your website to complete a purchase.

Omnichannel eCommerce is particularly effective in grabbing and holding people's attention, which is increasingly difficult to do in today's competitive eCommerce environment. As a result, a growing number of businesses will adopt these strategies when connecting with eCommerce and mCommerce customers.

However, it is also important to look beyond the omnichannel approach and focus more on the concept of unified commerce, as Jheeva Subramanian, CEO of Protinus Group, argues:

"A unified commerce offering is now the next phase building on omnichannel. The difference between unified commerce and omnichannel is that unified commerce focuses on the customer and ensures that there is a single version of the truth, whereas omnichannel is based on numerous different backend systems talking to each other. These systems all have different functionality and hold different data – but are very seldom in sync. Businesses need to now understand the difference and move towards a more unified commerce approach."

4. Voice Shopping

mCommerce statistics have established that voice shopping is becoming increasingly popular. The total value of voice search is actually expected to reach $19.4 billion by 2023, a significant increase from $5 billion in 2021.

The reason why voice search is rising in popularity is convenience. It's easier for people to use platforms like Alexa to instantly order products online without even opening a device. Using specific voice commands, shoppers can order a product and begin the shipping process with software that quickly completes the order for them. 

5. Mobile Commerce Will Continue to Grow

Mobile-first commerce is only going to grow as time goes on, based on the latest data. This is especially true in the APAC region, with eCommerce in this area expected to see an annual growth rate of 7.98% by 2025 to reach a projected market volume of $2.635 billion. With the growing reliance on eCommerce and a higher number of mobile users, this number will continue to rise.

6. Millennials Will Be the Pioneers of the Adoption of mCommerce

As mCommerce sees a continued surge in popularity, millennials are the generation leading the way for mobile-first eCommerce. According to Twitter, 42% of Asian millennials on the platform shop exclusively on mobile devices, making up the largest group of mobile shoppers. While millennials in other parts of the world aren't quite as eager to shop on mobile, Asian millennials use smartphones and tablets to complete all types of transactions. 

And Yan Ming (Lim), Account Executive of ChannelEngine, urges us to take Gen Z shoppers into account:

"Gen Zs and Millennials are also most likely to browse online and purchase in retail stores. According to Lazada, browsing online for research is a key characteristic of consumer behaviour in APAC as well. 57% of shoppers in the region search for products directly on eCommerce marketplaces, establishing eCommerce platforms as a new search engine.

As more mCommerce and eCommerce channels continue to spring up across APAC, it is vital to have a strategy to strengthen your network of systems so that you can effectively manage your growth across all channels."

7. Personalization Will Be the Key to Success for Online Stores

Another big trend you'll see for eCommerce and mCommerce is personalization. This involves creating personalized messages and other content based on specific aspects of your audience. You may craft personalized content based on demographics, interests, order history, and other factors. You can also cater messaging based on the type of device shoppers use, including desktop and mobile devices. All of this is achievable by collecting valuable data on customer behaviors and buying habits. 

Using personalization, you can push dynamic ads, product recommendations, emails, and other content to establish a strong connection with audiences. There are also many tools to help you achieve this.

One effective solution you can use is Storyly, which makes it easy to develop personalized messaging that speaks to shoppers. Storyly connects with people through engaging Stories. In these Stories, you can make personalized product recommendations, send messages that are unique to each user, and reach people on both mobile devices and computers. As a result, you can experience numerous benefits, including reduced cart abandonment, improved product exploration, and the ability to inspire potential buyers. “New entrants are enticing customers with strong subsidies and loyalty is diminishing. In each and every product line or category, customers have a wide array of options be it platform or brand of choice. Loyalty proposition needs a revamp to remain relevant with more bite-sized rewards but rather continue to keep the excitement going,” – said the General Manager of Zalora in Taiwan. 

8. The Challenge of Customer Retention Will Be the Top Priority

With an increasing shift toward eCommerce and mCommerce, brands are seeing an uptick in one-time purchases among shoppers. Unfortunately, many companies are having a hard time retaining these one-time buyers. To keep people on board with your brand, you need to do what you can to keep your customers returning after an initial purchase.

You can do this in a number of ways. For one, you can offer top-quality products or services that customers love. You can also harness the power of personalization to connect with audiences. Additionally, you should lead people along a clear, seamless journey with multiple touchpoints. 

While it may be challenging to retain customers in a mobile-first eCommerce environment, it will be necessary to overcome this as businesses can no longer sustain one-time sales.

9. Customers Will Keep Asking for More Intuitive Payment Options

One of the biggest issues that online businesses face today is cart abandonment. Many customers may add items to their shopping cart and prepare to make a purchase, only to encounter a deterrent or distraction that keeps them from completing their purchases.

If you want to ensure more people buy your offerings and don't neglect their carts, you must make the payment process smooth. In fact, a complex checkout process is one of the main reasons why people abandon their carts. You can streamline the checkout process by offering multiple payment options, allowing for guest checkout, and minimizing the number of steps involved when completing a purchase.

10. Gamification Will Define Success

Gamification, or turning the customer experience into a kind of game, can keep audiences engaged with your brand. It can be as simple as including a progress bar showing how far people are along during checkout or as complex as a loyalty program that allows customers to earn points in exchange for rewards.

People love gamification, and that's not going to change. You can benefit in many ways through gamification. For instance, a smoother gamified checkout process can reduce cart abandonment rates. You can also attract audiences you might otherwise fail to engage without gamification, including younger generations. People who feel rewarded for doing business with you will also likely stay loyal to you over competitors that don't offer a gamified experience.

11. New Customer Activation Will Be Crucial as Ever

When acquiring new customers, you should offer a helpful and engaging onboarding experience. People yearn for a good onboarding strategy when they become new customers. Wyzowl found that 86% of people would be more inclined to be loyal to a brand that devotes enough attention to onboarding.

Onboarding is all about showing the value you bring to your customers. A good onboarding process will keep people interacting with your brand and offerings. It will also keep people from growing frustrated or disinterested in your brand. With the help of personalization, efficiency, and interactivity, you can offer an onboarding experience that your customers truly enjoy.

12. Video Content is Growing

Video remains the most effective type of content that shoppers love to consume. If you're not using them in eCommerce and mCommerce strategies, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with shoppers. Video is also crucial for successfully selling to shoppers, with 55% of shoppers from around the world stating that videos influence buying decisions.

Video streaming is particularly popular in the APAC region. According to TechSci Research, the video streaming software market is expected to grow at a 26% CAGR rate by 2023. One reason for this growth is the increased viewing of online videos on handheld devices.

One tool you can use to reap the benefits of video content is Shoppable Video Stories from Storyly. This solution enables you to create all types of videos for mCommerce efforts. You can record product demos and campaigns, include polls and other elements for interactive videos, and include calls to action that drive engagement.

13. More Attention to Zero-Party Data

Businesses will want to gather as much data as they can to help them perfect their marketing efforts. As part of an omnichannel mCommerce strategy, you should capture zero-party data through apps. Request contact information and other details from users, which you can then use to develop personalized campaigns and optimize them. 

Zero-party data requests people to voluntarily submit information to companies, often through sign-up or contact forms. This is going to become absolutely necessary to use when third-party cookies are no longer available, as platforms like Google place emphasis on people's privacy. Because of this transition, as you prepare for the year ahead, you'll need to learn how to adapt to a cookieless mobile-first eCommerce landscape.

Storyly can help with zero-party data collection through Interactive Stories. Our solution embeds immersive mobile and web Stories that users can interact with in different ways, such as through surveys and certain types of forms. Whenever an interaction takes place, you can collect data that you can use to deliver more powerful personalized content to users. These Stories are particularly effective because they can blend seamlessly with the rest of the experience people have with your app or website.

14. The number of online sales channels available for consumers will increase

The eCommerce market is growing rapidly, and so are the opportunities to reach customers.

The shift from building an eCommerce site to building an ecosystem around it has led to a boom in third-party marketplaces. This is good news for consumers, who now have more choices when making purchases online or on their mobile devices. For retailers and brands, however, this means a sharp change. CEO of Protinus Group, Jheeva Subramanian, points out a shift in the market. He says, “The concept of building an ecosystem around the eCommerce offering is changing. An example of this is the adoption of a marketplace (or curated marketplace) to ensure that the offerings to the consumers are more varied”.

It’s no secret that retailers are investing heavily in their online presence — and they’re not alone. In this digital age, it’s easier than ever to market your brand and products online. And with the rise of third-party eCommerce marketplaces, businesses are finding that they don’t need to invest in traffic to their own sites — they can simply promote their products on these platforms.

Another shift we observe is an increase in the number of third-party eCommerce marketplaces available worldwide. According to Yan Ming Lim, Account Executive at ChannelEngine, “Third-party eCommerce marketplaces operating worldwide have increased by more than 500% since 2007. Besides new players entering the marketplace realm, part of this trend is also driven by large retailers like Central Group and online giants like Google and Facebook embracing the marketplace model. For the consumers, this means that more choices will be available in the online and mobile space, and it will be more challenging for businesses to attract and retain attention.” Brands are also investing their resources into being where their customers are — which means participating in third-party eCommerce marketplaces.

How to Ensure That You Are Ready For the mCommerce Era

As you brace your business for the growth of mobile & mobile eCommerce, you need to do what you can to optimize your mCommerce strategy. The following are some ways you can prepare for the future of mCommerce.

Be Sure That Your Website is Mobile-Friendly

The first step to take is to ensure your eCommerce website is mobile-responsive and works with mobile devices. You can do so by testing your site on different devices, including smartphones and tablets. Not only will this create a seamless customer experience for mobile users, but it will also help improve search engine optimization (SEO). Google today places mobile versions of websites at top priority when indexing and ranking.

Invest in Your Mobile App

If you have a mobile app, channel enough time, money, and resources into it to help it flourish. The top apps in the APAC market have reached hundreds of millions of downloads, surpassing Amazon's international downloads. With so many people using mobile devices to shop online, you should offer a superior app that outperforms competitors. Create an intuitive experience with plenty of features that help your app stand out from the rest. 

Use Mobile Payment Methods

People should be able to easily purchase your offerings using their mobile devices. This makes it important to offer mobile payment methods such as virtual credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and other methods. These will further simplify the payment process and keep people moving all the way through the buyer's journey.

Use Mobile Marketing to Reach Your Targets

You should also use mobile marketing to connect with your customers, including notifications and tools like Storyly. At the same time, be cautious when using notifications, as too many notifications may simply annoy mobile users. Personalized and engaging marketing will help keep people engaged with your brand and increase loyalty among existing customers. You'll also be able to differentiate your brand from the many others competing for the same customers in your industry.

All in all, with more mCommerce and eCommerce channels in the mix, consumers will no doubt embrace a hybrid mode of shopping to stretch their dollar. “To ensure a good shopping experience for your customers, it is important to have information synchronized across your different sales channels”, says Yan Ming Lim, Account Executive at ChannelEngine, a tool to sync orders, stock, and optimize product content across marketplaces. He remarks, “You should focus on wherever your customers shop and synchronize these channels”.

Keep Up With the Latest Trends to Succeed in the APAC Market

As the mCommerce market size grows in APAC and across the globe, you need to keep up with the latest industry trends. By following the most recent advancements and consumer behaviors, you can create a mCommerce experience that gets real results.

To find out more about what Storyly can do to create the perfect customer experience on mobile apps and websites, get in touch with us or register with Storyly today.

Natalie Karakina

Natalie, as a growth marketing manager of Storyly, unlocks the Asia region for Storyly with her deep knowledge about mobile marketing trends with a focus on eCommerce in the region. She also thinks that Stories are able to make the apps – super apps.

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