In a fast-changing environment, major e-commerce players have had to rethink their business strategies for Asia. In an exclusive interview, Martell Hardenberg, CEO of Lazada Singapore, weighs in on what he believes is the future of e-commerce in Singapore and beyond.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges Lazada faces in Singapore?
A: In Singapore some still remain apprehensive about shopping online. Apprehension or inertia when shopping online is a common issue, and consumers often need the reassurance that their products will be delivered safely, that the quality of what they purchase meets their expectations, and that their online payments are being made securely.
To tackle these challenges, we always aim to deliver an effortless and reliable, one-stop shopping experience in order to make online shopping as easy as possible for consumers. For instance, shoppers who are uncomfortable using online payment methods have the option of cash-on-delivery. Similarly, we are constantly gathering feedback on the web and mobile interface and updating/enhancing the experience, making it friendlier and easier for them to find what they are looking for.
Lazada Singapore focuses strongly on providing customers with an all-round effortless shopping experience. With our Buyer Protection, Money Back Guarantee, 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed return policies and integrated customer service team, it sets us apart in the e-commerce field and helps ensure that customers benefit from a safe and convenient online shopping experience.
Q: Does the increasing popularity of C2C e-commerce platforms, such as Carousell and Ebay, pose an immediate threat to the business?
A: The B2C model allows Lazada to provide a better customer experience and offer customer protection policies that will ultimately benefit the shoppers. We are also able to work with local brands, sellers and merchants through our marketplace platform. This not only allow us to achieve exponential growth in assortment quantity, but also in quality. We only work with registered sellers, established local retailers and international brands, ensuring authenticity and quality of products. With a B2C business model, we are able to provide our customers with a broader range of secure payment options including cash-on-delivery. On top of that, Lazada Singapore’s mobile shopping experience is one of the strongest in the market, with our mobile web interface and app.
Q: What are some strategies major e-commerce businesses like Lazada have to look at to ensure longevity in the evolving e-commerce space?
A: As consumers become more discerning in an increasingly cluttered online world, it is important to ensure our consumer experience is seamless. The customer and their experience is at the centre of Lazada's operations. By making sure the customer is treated right and the service provided is top-notch, there is an increased rate of repeat visits and our continued success.
Our success also lies in the sheer breadth of products we offer on our marketplace - we have one of the widest ranges of products across the region through our marketplace, which automatically attracts shoppers.
Additionally, Lazada has invested heavily in developing its app to meet the needs of the mobile shopper. With Lazada Singapore, 63 percent of all web traffic is coming through mobile devices, and keeping up with the shopper's consumption habits ensures that Lazada remains relevant and accessible. This serves a dual purpose - by rewarding app users with exclusive discounts and promotions, plus offering in-app secure payment options, we are offering a unique mobile shopping experience. This in turn helps to build brand loyalty; consumers are more likely to stay in the app than flick between retailers on different browsers.
In addition, we also offer exclusive product launches as well as speedy delivery solutions such as same day delivery on selected items. We even offer guaranteed delivery before certain festivals or special days. In addition, Pick Up Boxes have been recently introduced along with our logistic partners. This allows customers to ensure they receive their products in a timely and efficient manner.
Q: With a presence across 6 markets in Southeast Asia, how is Lazada adapting its marketing strategy to fit the needs and preferences of this diverse region?
A: When Lazada first entered into the Singapore market, it was a very different experience from when we launched in countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and even Malaysia four years ago.
Singapore is the youngest in our Group (we turned two in March this year), and it is home to a population that is extremely connected to the internet and even more so on mobile devices. As such, the strategy that we reached out to the Singaporean shopper with was vastly different from a market like Vietnam.
Even though mobility might be rising rapidly in the region, Singaporeans are way ahead in the mobile game and we have offered app-exclusive deals and even free shipping if you shop through the app. Expectations on logistical aspects of the business like expected delivery time differs greatly in the region. In the Philippines, if you can fulfil a delivery only two days later, that is generally considered extremely fast, but in Singapore, it is expected that delivery is done within a maximum of one-to-three working days.
Each country in Southeast Asia stands out as being unique. It is impressive to see how each country is responding differently to different messages and channels. Having a team on-the- ground in each market has proven useful to understand the local consumers and culture, and to understand the most efficient way to reach out to the local consumers.
Q: In this fast-evolving industry, what do you see as the future of e-commerce in Singapore and beyond?
A: eCommerce is constantly evolving, and the demands of the consumers are also changing on a daily basis. We notice a trend of e-commerce headed towards micro-optimising the experience for shoppers, and reaching out to each shopper with customised deals. Within the next couple of years, the omnichannel customer experience will be an essential part of the shopper’s journey. The shopper is growing more knowledgeable, demanding and interactive, and e-commerce models will have to evolve to stay one step and anticipate these changes.
At Lazada, we have been working extensively with utilising big data and data scientists to efficiently and effectively analyze raw data and translate them into something that is useful for our business and benefit the consumer in the long run. For instance, at present, we capture about 100GB of data a day which our data scientists meticulously mine through for insights. With this, we can understand the habits of our shoppers and with that, enhance, streamline and even personalise the user experience and interface from the browsing stage to when the purchase is made.
And of course, m-commerce will be increasingly critical to e-commerce companies’ success than ever. Mobile penetration in Southeast Asia is at 124 percent, and will continue to grow at exponential rates. People are constantly on the move and want an effortless experience on-the-go. Companies need to keep up by optimising their websites for mobile screens (smartphones, tablets etc.) and even invest in producing a powerful but easy to use mobile app to offer a fuss-free and delightful shopping.