Indonesia has come online at the speed of light, but most people don’t realize only about 25 per cent of Indonesians are connected to the internet today—so there still a long way to go with this story.
Digital technology penetrated the archipelago relatively late, but adaptation rates have been stellar. Indonesia is one of the most active countries on Facebook; globally trending hashtags on Twitter often originate here; and this is the only country in the world that went all in with Path—a social media platform that still struggling in most markets.
Any serious efforts to develop digital infrastructure have pretty much focused exclusively on the two biggest islands, Java and Sumatra; no surprise that these two urbanized islands are overrepresented online. When you break it down even further, you’ll notice that young people from the upper and middle class have the best access and are the most active demographic.
Over the past three years e-commerce has started to take off, but Indonesians have not yet moved past their trust issues when it comes to online transactions, hindering growth. On top of that many rural people are not eligible for credit cards, which leaves them standing in the cold. Young Indonesians are starting their own online stores, using Facebook, Path and Instagram as their platforms to sell homemade products (you will not believe the amount of cupcakes in my timeline) or they try to set up shop as a broker or a middleman. But the financial transactions that seal the deal are mostly done—to use a digital phrase—IRL.
Digital startups, website developers and what have you flood Indonesia. And in a market as young as this, everybody who can implement a theme on a WordPress site is an expert. It’s going to take time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
What can brands do utilize this digital development? They can use digital media to create community and facilitate consumers. But first they’re going to need to understand how and why consumers use technology in order to interact with them. They need to study the creatures’ habits before engaging.
This goes for media agencies too. They need master the local nature of digital media, anticipate digital developments that could occur here, and use that knowledge to empower the current media.
Radio and TV are still strong in Indonesia, but digital is on an unstoppable path to becoming the new source of information for all generations in Indonesia. Eventually it will become the norm.
Indonesia is unique in a sense that we’re dealing with a young generation that went online using mobile devices. They completely skipped the desktop and went straight to mobile. If there was ever a market where a good, non-intrusive, non-annoying mobile advertising strategy would come in handy, it’s Indonesia.
Even when that code is cracked, Indonesians still need to be approached differently than other cultures. Our youth is on Path. BlackBerry and its messenger are still very big. Kids snubbed WeChat and went to Whatsapp and Line. Indonesians are particular in what they use and how they use it. A deep knowledge of the market is essential to be successful.
The digital growth numbers are enough to make any brand want a slice of this pie, so media agencies need to be prepared to drive digital capabilities. If they’re not doing this already they have already missed the boat. This push needs to be made on the agency side, but also on the client’s side—just so that everybody speaks the same language and understands each other.
This country is dynamic, what is in today might be out tomorrow. Understanding that, and being prepared to be on top of all developments is essential to be successful in Indonesia.
Ernita Ariestanty is the CEO of Carat Indonesia