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Entering the South East Asian market

Fiona Thai, director of business development Asia at digital supply chain consultancy TMX, shares her advice for entering into the lucrative South East Asian Markets.

The best place to start is to conduct in-depth market research as having a strong understanding of your target region is essential for developing an effective go-to-market strategy

Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines represent the six largest markets in South East Asia. All can present huge opportunities to ecommerce businesses but you first need to decide which country to focus on.

In order to make an informed decision, identify the best option based on your products and pricing.

Different countries have different levels of purchasing power so you need to understand how your target audience is spread across these countries and where the majority live.

If your competitors already have presence in the region, find out where they have focused and how they have tailored their approach.

Choosing the right channel

Once know where you want to sell, you then need to decide how by determining which of the following channels works best for you:

  • Brand website: find out the level of investment required to launch an Asian domain for your site. This will require marketing spend as you won’t be established. You need to invest in raising brand visibility and driving traffic early on.
  • Platforms: many brands start selling on apps and online marketplaces, taking advantage of their huge reach. While this can be a great first step, remember there will be a lot of competition. Don’t just look at the leading regional marketplaces, also consider the smaller local heroes and vertical marketplaces. Vertical marketplaces are specific to certain categories as opposed to horizontal marketplaces that sell everything. While marketplaces can be an easy route into new markets, you also need to consider commission costs and will still need marketing spend to overcome high levels of competition.
  • Emerging channels: such as social networks and quick commerce options can also drive great results, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Coordinating across multiple channels can be a real challenge so, start with one, see what works and focus your resources accordingly

Once you have started to drive traffic to your channels, you will need to find ways to keep it flowing. Seeking out partners or agencies that can manage your channels for you and will work with local marketplaces to set your strategy and targets.

Managing fulfilment

As well as developing your go-to-market strategy, you will also need to develop a strategy for order fulfilment. Consider what type of storage your products will need, the categories they fall in, the best locations for stocking them, and the best “last mile” partners who can support you with distribution.

When selecting a partner for deliveries and returns, remember that customer expectations are in South East Asia are high so you will want to ensure your products can be delivered safely and on time.

Select a provider you know can handle the volume of deliveries and returns you expect. Some platforms have already started building cross-border operations so look out for ones that have their own logistics and fulfilment options.