2020 is the year that changed everything, from the way we live to the way we work and play. As we grapple with the human and economic impact of COVID-19, this is also a time for us to reflect and plan the way forward in Asia Pacific.
This is the first global pandemic of the digital age. As a technology company that connects billions of people across the world, Facebook has seen how this even compressed five years worth of digital transformation into a span of months. People are spending more time online—connecting with each other, working, shopping, gaming and more. Given the economic uncertainty, people’s expectations of businesses are evolving even faster than usual.
So, businesses have an opportunity to be the driving force of economic recovery in the months and years ahead. In Asia Pacific, where small- and medium-sized businesses account for 40% to 60% of national GDPs, a lot hinges on their survival and recovery. For this to happen, they will need to adapt quickly to customer needs, both online and offline, and find ways to pivot their services. Numerous businesses of all sizes have done just that—engineering heroic pivots that are dazzling in their sheer creativity.
At Facebook, we stand at the intersection of community and commerce where businesses can take inspiration from the trends we are seeing. At the start of 2020, we had shared five social trends that were on the rise across our platforms: mobile, video, ephemeral sharing, messaging and e-commerce. As we head into 2021, these trends are even more pronounced in Asia Pacific, forcing businesses of all sizes to adapt to selling online. While physical stores will always be important to the social and economic wellbeing of local communities, it’s clear that e-commerce is here to stay. So what do these trends actually mean for businesses? And what areas should they focus on in 2021?
Mobile and short-form video
Let’s start with video. We’ve shared about the growth of video’s popularity over the years but 2020 shattered all records as people spent more time at home due to lockdowns and social distancing measures. Take the phenomenon of lockdown live-streaming, which led to the sector growing 45% just between March and April globally. Also, Asia Pacific now accounts for 77.5% of digital video viewers. Short-form video is very popular providing people with a much-needed source of self-expression and entertainment. Based on these trends, we expect that a new hybrid version of online shopping—a mix of entertainment and merchandising led by tastemakers and creators, will continue to grow. So businesses that want to be noticed and listened to will do well to think about their visual signature online.
Second, businesses need to tap into the fact that people of all ages are now more open to new ways of finding products and new modes of shopping. This requires an innovation mindset. Now is the time to be brave and experiment with services like shopping directly from social channels, live shopping, click-and-collect or subscription services. It means reimagining the channels and platforms on which your business can stand out and be discovered. For example, this year we introduced Facebook Shops which makes it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram. Other methods could be things like transporting people to your stores using 360-degree video, helping people try out products at home using AR filters, or using playable ads to let your customers interact with your products in a fun way. It also means being tuned in to local moments like mega-sale days such as 9.9, 10.10 and 11.11 which are driving new behaviours such as self-gifting.
Conversation and cross-border commerce
Lastly, think conversation and cross-border commerce. Messaging is one of the fastest growing channels for people to talk with businesses. For instance, more than 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account every day globally. And over the last year, we’ve seen total daily conversation from people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram grow by over 40%. Calling or emailing businesses are less preferred by today’s customer. This shift means messaging channels to chat with customers about products, logistics and other common queries are now vital. As digitalisation grows across industries, it has strengthened cross-border business opportunities. So, businesses also need to build connections within the region and be open to opportunity.
Dan Neary is the vice president of Asia-Pacific at Facebook.