The Southeast Asian market has a lot of potential for eCommerce businesses, like the success of Shopee and Grab, to name a few that have successfully entered the SEA region.
The SEA region's digital economy was estimated to have reached 100 billion dollars in 2020, and that by 2025, it is forecasted to grow up to 300 billion dollars.
If you're planning to enter Southeast Asia's digital market because you see a lot of potential in expanding your business in this region, keep on reading to know more about how translation services and other factors can increase your chances of a successful marketing campaign!
New Frontier: Southeast Asia Digital Market
Because most countries part of MITI-V, or the five manufacturing nations to replace China in the coming years, are from this region, it's not a surprise that Southeast Asia is a new frontier for marketing opportunities.
The following are just some of the data gathered about Southeast Asia's digital market:
- There are 70 million online shoppers despite low internet connectivity. (CNBC, 2021)
- It will have an estimated 360 million online shoppers by 2026. (CNBC, 2021)
- #1 most active demographic in Southeast Asia are from the ages 16 to 24. (Data Reportal, 2021)
- Young adults from Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore use eight platforms each month. (Data Reportal, 2021)
- About 72% of online users in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia said they research products and services online before purchasing. (We Are Social, 2021)
- Southeast Asia is leading in mobile connections as there are 887 million mobile connections in the Southeast Asia region – 132% of the total population. (We Are Social, 2021)
CNBC reported that Southeast Asia's eCommerce sales are 14% growth per year. Even with the pandemic still affecting many parts of Southeast Asia, its digital market continues to expand, making it an excellent market for digital and tech-based companies to explore, especially fintech companies. Last year, Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam saw a growth in digital wallet adoption of 133%, 87%, and 82%, respectively.
How Translation Can Open Up Your Business to the Southeast Asian Digital Market
Despite the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia being considered part of the top five countries in Asia with the highest rate of English proficiency, digital marketers will still have to create marketing strategies that will align with their target locale.
We interviewed companies from the language sector on Southeast Asia's eCommerce growth and gave some advice on creating a marketing plan for this target locale.
William Mamane, the Chief Marketing Officer of Tomedes, a translation services company, explains that a couple of years ago, businesses would primarily seek out foreign markets from developed nations, like the US and European markets, as it was seen as "too much of a gamble to seek out anywhere else."
"The challenge for digital marketers when marketing to this region is finding ways to connect with their target locale. Many of the countries from this region are multiculturally and multilingually diverse. For example, the Philippines is a multilingually diverse country with several languages and dialects, but it considers English one of their official languages. However, their version of the English Language is very different compared to the US and UK English. As marketers, you will have to consider the linguistic and cultural approach in your marketing strategy for it to be successful," Mamane said.
Xiaofeng Wang, the Principal Analyst of Forrester Research, a research and advisory company, advises those seeking to enter this region to connect offline and online shopping experiences of their target locale. For example, about 32% of Singaporeans research online before buying products or services offline. As it's not only about having an effective online marketing campaign, but you will have to consider that Southeast Asia still prefers purchasing products and services offline.
Lauren Supraner, the president and founder of CAL Learning Inc., an intercultural communication consulting, explains how essential it is to consider cross-cultural business communications that boil down to High and Low Context Communication Styles. She explains that High Context Culture involves relationship and group-oriented aspects of culture in communication while Low Context Culture is the direct and task-oriented side.
"Developing cultural competence starts with self-awareness, audience awareness, and mindful communication. Expect differences. Stay curious. Have patience with and seek to learn about these differences," Supraner advised.
In conclusion, language and culture need to be part of your marketing campaign and not just an afterthought. It's not enough to be grammatically correct in a foreign language but lacks the cultural context needed to connect with your target audience.
Best Practices when Creating a Multilingual Marketing Plan For the Southeast Asian Market
What is multilingual marketing? Multilingual marketing is the process of creating content in several languages to make it more relatable to your target locale while retaining the original intent of the message.
From the research and interviews we gathered, we came up with seven best practices you will need to consider when you're planning to enter the Southeast Asian market.
#1: Local Market Research
We cannot emphasize enough how crucial local market research is as many international marketing campaigns failed due to a lack of research. You can research by evaluating your local competitors, local market demand, cultural and linguistic preferences, digital accessibility, and more.
QUICK TIP: Use this period to profile your ideal customer based on your target locale's cultural and linguistic preferences. If you need to make a feasibility study, then conduct one.
#2. Speak Their Mother Tongue
The Education First reported that the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia were among the top 30 countries with the highest English proficiency. However, many parts of Southeast Asia are considered to be low and very low in English proficiency.
So, you will need to create marketing campaigns tailored to each country and shape them based on your target audience's linguistic and cultural preferences. This is the only way you will maximize the number of users and online shoppers from this region.
QUICK TIP: Based on the data presented in this article, a majority of online shoppers read content online before purchasing. With assistance from translation services, you can create content, like reviews, blog articles, and videos tailored to your target locale.
#3. Go Mobile!
As previously mentioned, there are 887 million mobile connections in this region. Take advantage of this by creating your digital platform mobile-friendly like through websites and apps.
Shopee and Lazada are eCommerce companies that successfully implemented this tactic in their marketing strategy. Through their apps, users are directly updated with sale offers and promos.
QUICK TIP: Creating an app for your target locale isn't enough. You will also have to consider the shipping services available in their region and your target locale's currency when buying products and services.
#4. Social Media Platforms Matter
Engagement in social media platforms is necessary, especially if you're targeting the Southeast Asian Youth (ages 16-24). To connect with your target audience, you will need to keep up with social media trends, slang, and culture.
QUICK TIP: You can use your social media platforms to determine the demographics of your target audience while you're creating a profile of your ideal online customer.
#5. Collaborate with Local Influencers and Celebrities
We can take a page from Shopee's approach on how this six-year-old startup became the eCommerce powerhouse that it is today. And it's all because of how effectively they collaborated with local influencers and celebrities.
QUICK TIP: When selecting influencers and celebrities, you will need to look at their previous endorsements and persona if they are in line with your business's brand and ideals.
#6. Create a Flexible Business Plan
As I have stated, Southeast Asia's market will demand a combination of online and offline marketing because many users still prefer shopping offline. You will have to create a flexible business plan that works well with your marketing strategy, like making your digital platform available in cryptocurrency or make it available in different languages through translation services.
QUICK TIP: You can have your marketing and operations team work together when building a business and marketing strategy. This will speed up the changes you will need to make when tailoring your products and services for your target market.
#7. Integrate Local Laws and Regulations into Your Plans
To avoid any lawsuits in the future, we suggest that you will seek out local legal experts for compliance with any labor and operations-related laws and regulations. You will also need to hire translation services for legal documents that need to be translated.
QUICK TIP: Working with local government officials is one way to speed up compliance and it will help integrate it better with your target locale's community.