Negotiating the Thai online retail market with Thomas Kroman

With the world's third largest population and growing Internet connectivity, Southeast Asia is an upcoming market of interest for e-commerce. Its current US$6bn online retail market is forecast to grow to US$70bn by 2020.
Published on: 29th April 2016
Thailand — the second-largest economy in the region — has become a commercial hub in Asia with Bangkok providing a thriving retail market for Thai residents and overseas visitors. As such, Thailand has attracted a number of multinational retailers alongside a high penetration of local brands such as WearYouWant (WYW) — Thailand’s leading online fashion community. We caught up with Thomas Kroman, Head of Marketing at WYW in prelude to his Global E-Commerce Summit appearance, to find out more about the nuances of the Thai e-commerce market.
Thomas Kroman
Have there been any surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t in the Thai market?

Compared to my previous experience in Europe there are certainly aspects that are unique to the Thai market. One is  the value of social medias as an efficient channel for closing orders. Facebook — the biggest partner within our social media channel — is in many cases out competing Google search in terms of both efficiency and volume. [i]

Another aspect, which is slightly different to the European or Scandinavian context I come from, that also ties into social media, is consumer trust and the eminent need for building preference through brand awareness. Social medias, and especially Facebook, provide good opportunities for conducting this type of communication. Being present on trusted branding platforms with compelling content and communication — preferably both online and offline — makes a difference in this market to a greater extent than in Europe.

The reason for this may be that in Europe it is commonly a larger share of the total retail trade that happens online, and thus perhaps a general trust in shopping online may be a little more widespread.  For example, comparing offline branding campaigns one to one with Europe, our experience tells us that the impact in terms of direct conversions and new traffic is immense. We’re in a fortunate situation with respect to addressing this given WYW’s 400-plus storefronts all around the city where we engage in numerous branding efforts. That physical presence goes a long way towards establishing a trusted brand.

So how does mobile come into play in the Thai market?

Well, in a country like Thailand where a significant part of the population in fact owns several smart phones per person targeting mobile users is obviously more important than ever. [ii] Our mobile traffic is superseding our desktop traffic and as the trend continues, we anticipate the vast majority of our traffic will come from mobile within the fairly near future.   

How have you adapted your marketing strategy to the increasing importance of social mobile?

In a social mobile environment, trends are fickle. You need to either anticipate, or quickly respond to the changing demands of the consumer. Knowing your customers and their behavior is of the essence to maintain a seamless purchasing experience. That means that a constant focus on analytics  and the ability to convert numerical insights into actual strategy and actions is key. Lean tech adaption is essential to accomplish this. When changes and implementation of crucial new features are needed for our conversion rate to improve, it is important to make that happen fast.  At WYW, we use data analytics robustly, but more importantly, we’ve created a dedicated mobile division within the tech team capable of timely acting on the data gleaned. So, if there’s a need for user-interface optimization, graphics and tech can deliver. For us  it’s all about knowing the demands —and sometimes even changing our target customers when necessary — and executing to deliver on those demands.
Join Thomas Kroman and a host of other insightful speakers this year in Barcelona for Global E-commerce Summit 2016, May 29th – June 1st.

[i] As of Q4 2015, reports 56% of the Thai population had an active account with any social network. The most popular social network was Facebook with a 32% penetration rate. TNS Research International also reported Facebook the primary information channel for Thai online shoppers.  A key resource for the 70% of shoppers who research online prior to buying products.

[ii] Thailand’s smartphone penetration currently stands at 53%. However, IDC expects smartphone penetration to reach 70% - 80% by the end of 2016. The anticipated increase of smartphone penetration is attributed in large part to the growth of 4G network in the country.
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