Insights from Asia – Growing customer relations without a physical store

Customers purchase from brands, but they value and trust people more than the brands they buy from. This is why omnichannel marketing efforts are important as they can be used to help provide a consistent experience across all platforms and offer a personalized experience for each individual customer. This improves the overall customer experience (CX) and leads to increased customer loyalty.

 This article looks at what’s happening in the field of customer interaction in Asia and how this is affecting business strategies for retailers in the region.   

Increase in the use of social media

People are now online much more than before, working from home, attending school from home, catching up with friends via video calls from home and more. The pandemic has changed the way in which we interact.  An article published in March 2020, by the Victoria Newsconfirmed that: overall Facebook messaging is up more than 50 per cent over the previous month in countries that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. In those same locations, voice and video calls have more than doubled on Messenger and WhatsApp.  As social media usage has increased, customers have started to notice a change in what they and others are posting during these uncertain timesPeople aren’t just on social media to share updates and read the news — they’re shopping too.   Some major brands have allocated a budget to famous bloggers to increase their credibility on Instagram for example. And it's this change that is making some bloggers in Asia into stars.   


KOL Marketing

Key Opinion Leader (KOL) marketing is now an international phenomenon and highly efficient in China; especially due to the increase in the use of live streaming.  A great example of this was given by the most famous KOL in cosmetics in China, Li Jiaqi, who sold 15,000 lipsticks in just 5 minutes during his live stream  Sales are now a major part of social media platforms, such as Instagram, where accounts that meet the criteria to add swipe up links to their Instagram Stories have the option to be more versatile. Instagram swipe up is incredibly useful because it allows businesses to promote products, blog posts and sign up pages. These pages open right in the app for users to explore as well. When a swipe up link is added to a Story, viewers can simply tap on the arrow at the bottom of their screen or swipe up on the Story to access the link. 

The use of streaming has been demonstrated by many retailers in China – and an example can be seen on TAOBAO’s e-commerce platform. The idea is that because customers stay longer in the environment that they know, with people that they trust, brands can expect more sales.  In the travel sector, Layla, a Chinese blogger on Sina Weibo, has created China’s first “Female Private Collection of Independent Travels” with 4.8 million loyal followers. She is helping to shape a new image of Chinese women as travelers with “Independence + Culture + Insight”. Her unique travel model is based around her tagline “In-depth travels by an independent female – do not follow fashion to explore the destination”. She has also created her own successful brand and is highly regarded as a travel KOL.    


No need for physical stores

One fundamental reason for the Chinese blogger’s success is the prevalent usage of mobile devices among the Chinese population. There is no age barrier for mobile penetration in China, enabling brands to maximize the potential e-commerce market value. Brands can reach everyone from 8 to 80 years old as potential followers and buyers, even though the young generation still has the main purchasing power. This demonstrates how e-commerce businesses can increase sales when a physical store is no more accessible.   


The importance of CX

With this change in promotional methods, we are now seeing new bloggers creating their own brand and selling it exclusively online. However, it is important to remember that the quality of customer experience is not only related to online business. Some opticians in China for example have reported a sales increase with less customers, by scheduling a dedicated slot due to covid-19. These customers are no longer disturbed by other customers and have a dedicated professional to help them select the right product. Customers who book a slot, come to buy a product but expect a better customer experience.   

Following the lockdown experience, people have started to look for different ways to communicate, share ideas and do business. And one media that seems to be opening opportunities is that of video.  High quality and emotive content on video channels encourage people to like, follow, share, and interact.    

Such videos are much more likely to have a lasting impact and encourage conversations afterwards. Furthermore, online retailers are realizing that if their video content includes a narrative/subtitles/voiceover, users will be able to get information subconsciously – making it more relevant to each individual viewer.