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5 Ways Marketing In Southeast Asia Will Evolve In 2020

Brands expanding their efforts may have some trepidation due to the complexity of regulations, potential language barriers and multiple currencies, but the opportunity remains lucrative

Photo by Huy Phan from Pexels

Author, Kieryn Cowan

Home to more of 2019’s top 10 countries for retail ecommerce growth than any other region, Southeast Asia holds enormous opportunity for brands to continue growth in 2020. While strategies will likely include a variety of marketing channels, many will focus on partner and affiliate marketing in this highly mobile region. Brands expanding their efforts here may have some trepidation because of the complexity of regulations, potential language barriers and multiple currencies, but the opportunity remains lucrative. Taking action regarding these major trends that we expect to see in 2020 will help pave the way for success.

Fraud Detection Becomes a Top Brand Priority. Online fraud has been an escalating problem in Southeast Asia for some time. As both mobile penetration and eCommerce volume in the region rise, top markets such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are at greater risk than ever for fraud. High mobile engagement can lead to a rise in fraudulent app installs and other methods of mobile fraud. While affiliate and partner marketing have been less vulnerable to fraud than other channels due to their pay-for-performance nature, fraudsters will continue to seek new ways to game the system.  

Lack of transparency in the channel is one of the reasons fraudsters have been able to succeed. Incomplete and inconsistent data created an opening for and greed prevailed. In 2020, we’re going to see a line drawn in the sand by brands committing to fraud prevention. The good news is that what once required manual checks and balances to determine whether transactions and app downloads were legitimate can now be done with technology. Most affiliate networks now have some form of fraud detection as a matter of course. Data science and artificial intelligence will start to deliver more sophisticated detection of anomalies in clicks, conversions and commission payouts.

Influencer Measurement and Payments Will Evolve. In a region that is seeing incredible growth in mobile activity, social media usage and the  influencer marketing opportunity naturally rise. It’s been reported that in one of SEA’s fastest growing ecommerce categories, fashion and beauty, social media influencers have a bigger impact on buying decisions than celebrities. With more brands turning to influencers, it’s going to become more important to have the data to identify the right influencers, as well as the tracking capabilities to measure the real ROI of programmes. This will lead to more brands shifting influencer marketing management from their social teams to their affiliate and partner teams to consolidate these efforts. 

As brands in Southeast Asia begin to trust influencers more as a path to conversion, commission and payment strategies will need to become more sophisticated. This goes hand in hand with the need for better data. Automation tools abound that can help with tracking effect on purchase decision, which affects commissions and payments for influencers. Brands operating these programs in SEA may be working with influencers who want to be paid in a variety of currencies. Having one system that can then make trusted and secure payments will make marketer’s lives much easier.

Transparency Will Reign Supreme. With Southeast Asia being fraught with fraud and experiencing record-breaking mobile adoption, the partnership ecosystem is going to require greater transparency in order to continue to thrive in 2020. Brands will need to properly attribute actions to their rightful partners and having clear insight into all programme data is key. Networks and technology providers will be held to higher standards than in the past when transparency was simply a nice-to-have.

This need for consistent and trustworthy data will transform the way performance marketing programmes are managed. Verified transaction data in real time will greatly enhance the ability of programme managers to optimise campaigns, allocate budgets for the channels and report on ROI. 

Partner Mix Experimentation Will Be the Norm. Partner marketing in Southeast Asia is transitioning from traditional affiliate sites to deeper partner relationships. Brands are continuing to see the massive growth potential in the region and with that comes the drive to be more strategic in terms of partner mix. It used to be about sharing the most lucrative deals, coupons and cashback opportunities. With more sophisticated tracking and transparency, it becomes easier to manage a wider range of partner types on programs. Bringing in influencers and content partners can enhance targeting, opening the floodgates for customer acquisition and increased order size. Aligning different types of partners with specific program KPIs will be all the rage in 2020.

Regional Expertise for the Win. As programmes expand and grow in Southeast Asia, it’s going to become more important for teams to have regional experts on the ground in the countries where they are doing business. With the added complexities of working with influencers and other partner types, having people in place who understand the nuances of eCommerce and consumer behaviour in specific countries with be a huge benefit. Partnership is a relationship-driven business and people who speak the same language and have cultural understanding will only help to advance a brand’s cause. 

Beyond personal connections, a keen understanding of the logistics and infrastructure in each country will benefit brands and those managing partner programs. Internet connectivity continues to expand further and further beyond the biggest metropolitan areas, which means providing promotions will require the ability to ship and deliver products to more rural areas.

Online commerce in Southeast Asia is expected to grow from $100 billion in 2019 to $300 billion in 2025. Additional proof of the opportunity for retailers can be seen in recent Singles Day results for a number of the region’s top ecommerce players, including in-app purchases. Planning for partner and affiliate programs should include consideration of the emerging trends mentioned above. While there may be many paths to success, these ideas might help pave the way to high performance and increased ROI in 2020.

Kieryn Cowan is the APAC Partnerships Director at Partnerize

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