Yvonne Chang
Mar 29, 2017

Is this the real life? Is this just (mobile) fantasy?

Criteo's Yvonne Chang offers some thoughts on how retail brands can be champions by striking the right chord with consumers.

Yvonne Chang
Yvonne Chang

Queen, by all conceivable measures, is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The band's fourth album, A Night at the Opera, released in 1975, produced the iconic anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody,” catapulting Queen to international stardom. Then, like all music albums, it was launched in non-digital formats—vinyl, cassette and CD. Today, like most thing, music releases and consumption are predominantly digital- and mobile-first.

All aspects of our lives are singing the same tune. The average person in Southeast Asia has at least 32 mobile apps installed and uses at least six of them daily[1]. By 9 am, many of us have already used apps to track a morning jog, check our daily schedules, book a cab to work, find the nearest Starbucks and comment on our fashionista friends’ OOTDs—all while listening to Spotify.

With digital formats the norm and brands now expected to engage and deliver through mobile, this raises the question: “How can marketers strike a chord with consumers who expect all information on-demand, in context, at every precise moment of need?”

“App-y” days ahead in Southeast Asia? It’s not all that simple

Mobile-optimised websites and branded apps have become basic elements for retail success. Consumers are now spending more money and purchasing bigger ticket items on these platforms. By the second half of 2016, the average order value (AOV) on mobile apps had risen to US$127, surpassing that of desktops (US$100)[2]. Asian shoppers are leading the charge, spending 40 percent more on in-app purchases than the rest of the world[3]. With an AOV of US$95, mobile browsers are not far behind[4]. These numbers confirm that mobile has become the primary digital channel for consumer interactions and sales acquisitions.

Having said that, if investing in mobile-optimised websites and branded apps is all you’re doing, you might very well be striking a false note. You still need to go beyond the walled gardens of your mobile assets to engage consumers and generate sales. Here’s why.

Consumers only spend a small portion of their time on mobile visiting your shopping site or app. They typically enter your platform with a preconceived but vague notion of what they are looking for. Their limited time is spent using keywords, filters and categories to scan through an overwhelming catalogue of options. If they fail to pinpoint what they need, they will leave and carry on with their daily lives.

Online retailers must therefore enable users to easily find what they are looking for. More importantly, they must find ways to delight consumers with relevant products—otherwise known as discovery ecommerce.

Create mobile moments by understanding intent and engineering serendipity

For the longest time, purchasing decisions have been dictated not only through intent, but also by serendipity. Recognising that consumers would gravitate towards stores whose ads or products caught their eye along various shopping districts, traditional retailers employed jazzed-up visual displays and billboards to attract wandering individuals and stack the odds of product discovery in their favour.

As the eyes of shoppers increasingly shift from offline to online windows, ecommerce players can orchestrate a similar discovery-led approach, using the latest technology. Imagine if consumers were given the chance to discover products and purchase them anywhere and anytime on mobile?

When consumers visit your mobile website or branded app, their browsing journeys and patterns already leave strong indications of their personal needs and preferences. Using machine-learning technology that automatically aggregates and analyses this information, you would have a strong understanding of what an individual would need the most. After the consumer inevitably leaves your platform, you can then engineer serendipity by automatically delivering personalised displays on the other sites and apps that the individual spends most of his or her time on.

In between news articles, selecting a new playlist, playing Pokémon Go and Candy Crush, or chatting with friends, consumers can “walk” across a store window and chance upon products that have been masterfully selected to address their exact needs and wants—all on mobile. This is a powerful development that opens up every third-party site or app as a potential retail storefront and engagement opportunity.

The ability to do this is no longer fantasy, but reality. Prominent brands like Zalora, MatahariMall and Tiki have already adopted advanced cross-platform and in-app retargeting technology to better engage potential customers across the region and achieve substantial increases in ecommerce sales.

Choose your anthem: “Another One Bites the Dust” or “We Are the Champions?”

Southeast Asia will continue to be a key driver of global mobile commerce growth. Competition will also intensify as many players vie for a slice of the pie. As annual consumer spending in this region is on track to hit US$2.3 trillion by 2020, driven by 100 million smartphone users joining the consuming middle class or moving into more affluent consumer segments[5], retailers who can best enable a consistent, seamless and truly relevant discovery eCommerce experience will benefit the most and outlast competitors.

Advertising across mobile sites and apps, when done right, will help consumers discover new products and inspire sales. Each mobile ad slot is an opportunity for you to introduce items that are hidden away in catalogues in a personalised and curated way to consumers. Here lies the next question: Do you call the tune and start maximising these opportunities today, or do you “carry on, as if nothing really matters?”

Yvonne Chang is APAC executive managing director with Criteo


[1] Google. Mobile Apps in APAC: 2016 Report. December 2016.

[2] Criteo. State of Mobile Commerce Report for Southeast Asia. 1H 2016.

[3] AppsFlyer. State of In-App Spending Report. July 2016.

[4] Criteo. State of Mobile Commerce Report for Southeast Asia. 1H 2016.

[5] Accenture. Digital ASEAN. August 2015.

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