Customer Community as Word-of-Mouth Marketing
The Taiwanese have an average of 2 mobile devices per person, ranking at the top globally, along with an amazingly high penetration rate of social media such as Facebook and LINE. With our daily diet of news and information coming mainly from social media posting and sharing, e-commerce companies are now looking to hone in on mobile platforms, to connect with online communities, and creating strong word-of-mouth marketing to further develop their business.
With a wide portfolio spanning all of Asia, CyberAgent Ventures investment associate Takashi Kitao believes the reason social media such as Facebook are drastically changing the way we find and read information is that social media actively recommend to users the content they might otherwise not search for on their own. Another key to attracting the eyeballs of online users, is that a majority of social content consists of visual and graphic content. The above, in addition with instant messaging functions, have made it easier for consumers to interact online compared to the traditional email method.
In Japan, the rise of Facebook and LINE digital communities have greatly changed how users behave, and e-commerce companies now target active online users of more than a few million.
Connecting to online communities adds a “human touch” to e-commerce
Compared to the traditional ways of online shopping, most consumers worry about size and fit, materials and if the overall shopping experience is as expected, and also if they will be paying more for the same product. But with the addition of social media to many e-commerce sites, consumers can now see reviews, comments, and friend recommendations, and can even communicate directly to customer services online, becoming the preferred selling method of many online merchants.
Lately, with the rise of livestreaming, many livestream channels are now working hand in hand with e-commerce, with buying incorporated into their livestream content. Celebrities and key online influencers are now looking to nudge their audience into buying through sharing, introducing and connecting them. Social media sites now place great emphasis on the great potential of livestream, and sign contracts with key opinion leaders online to build awareness and drive sales, becoming more effective than traditional modes of e-commerce marketing.
CyberAgent also owns the well-known blogging platform Ameba (アメーバ) and internet video platform Ameba TV, which connects online social function to content and in turn attracts more users. Taking Ameba TV for example, with more than 20 million hits on their site, they continue to create sticky content with celebrities and random recommendations.
Compared to just displaying product info online, the commercial potential that social media and content marketing have is greater, and can even evoke buying not just based on needs, but may be products that celebrities or influencers have, thus there is a greater possibility of consumers buying under the mechanism of livestreaming selling than just plain internet promotions and marketing. Apart from CyberAgent, instant messaging apps such as LINE and WeChat have integrated several services and functions into their app platforms, and they have continued to produce sticky services and content to retain and grow users. Takashi Kitao thinks that this is a more active way of enhancing the overall online transaction experience, and will become a key point in future e-commerce developments.
New Retail and Cross-Border: The Next Big Things in Asia’s E-commerce
According to Takashi Kitao, “New Retail” models that integrate online and offline selling have been greatly increasing, but challenges still remain in areas such as ensuring a consistent customer experience, simplifying the payment process, and making sure that the right consumer is being targeted for online and offline channels. These are areas where more convenient fintech, artificial intelligence and big data can be really helpful.
Taking the example of ensuring a consistent consumer experience across all offline and online channels, Takashi Kitao tells of the modern day customer who might browse online but pickup their purchase in-store this time, but complete their online purchase directly online the next time, and maybe go instore another time. It is up to the retailer to ensure that consumer experience is consistent across all channels online and offline, and also providing an easy and uniform payment and returns method. Another thing for the retailer to keep in mind is that, no matter for online or offline channels, product information must be integrated and kept unified to enable the development of even better promotional activities going forward.
Seeing that cross-border e-commerce is also continuously growing, Takashi Kitao believes that traditional retail modes, which are dependent on local sales and under the great influence of distributors or dealers, are now changing as trade regulations across countries start to roll out, making it easier to make purchases abroad. You can now buy from Taobao.com or Amazon Japan in Taiwan, and this is subtly influencing the way goods are traditionally sold and how the technology is being developed and it will be a key aspect of future e-commerce operations.
Takashi Kitao thinks that as online communities and social media become the main modes of communication for e-commerce, there will be a great number of brands that will utilise Facebook and LINE to face customers directly and diminish the anxieties of product expectations and pricing issues. This combined with livestreaming may very well become the main mode of operation for many e-commerce businesses in the future. In Japan, they have now caught on to China’s modes of combining livestreaming and e-commerce selling, or the American style Youtuber with their multi-media promotional tactics, and these are all trends that are next on the list for Taiwan’s e-commerce market.
“Social media” and “content creation” are two important forces that have disrupted the traditional e-commerce model, but what are the nuts and bolts and how do they actually work? At this year’s 2017 DATE SUMMIT Discover Advanced Trends in E-economy, Takashi Kitao from CyberAgent Ventures hails all the way from Japan, and from an investor point of view he will bring the latest to the table and share his unique insights into e-commerce today.