Customer Engagement Trends in Indonesia 2020

Customer Engagement Trends in Indonesia 2020

Indonesia is by a fair margin the largest country in Southeast Asia and is home to nearly 270 million people. The country has attracted the attention of major brands, business conglomerates and investors owing to multiple  factors :

  • A rapidly growing segment of Middle-class Affluent Consumers (MACs)
  • Young population – the median age in Indonesia is 30.2 years and 66.5%  of the population is between the age of 15 and 64 years.
  • Increase in internet & mobile penetration  – 80% of Indonesians prefer to use smartphones to access the internet
  • High Ecommerce adoption rates – 90% of Indonesia’s 152 million internet users have purchased online before.
  • Rapid Ecommerce growth – Indonesia’s ecommerce market stood at a whopping USD $21.0 billion in gross market value (GMV) in 2019

Customer Engagement & Brand Experience as a Competitive Advantage

The retail sector in Indonesia remains one of the most promising markets among Asian countries and is expected to grow to $42.34 billion by 2023. However, like many Southeast Asian markets, it’s highly competitive and fragmented with few dominant players like Indomaret and Alfamart.

According to a study by SurveySenum, ‘67% of customers in Indonesia switch brands not because of the price or the features, but because of the lack of good customer experience’.

Brands typically engage in price wars and discounts to stay afloat in these commoditized markets but it ends up making a huge dent in the bottom line. Retailers aiming at long term survival and success in the Indonesian market will need to invest in elevating the Customer Experience through personalized, omnichannel engagement, loyalty program enhancements like gamification, social commerce enablement and world-class after-sales support to capture the interest of the digitally-savvy consumers.

Indonesia is a Gold Mine for Omnichannel Marketers

With over 170 million internet and social media users, Indonesia is home to one of the largest digital audiences in the world. As of January 2020, online penetration in the country stood at a whopping 60%.  

For most Indonesians, social media is a convenient way to contact families in remote locations of the archipelago, allowing them to stay in touch with friends and also keep up-to-date with the daily news. The most popular social networks in Indonesia in terms of adoption rates are YouTube (88%), WhatsApp (83%), Facebook (81%), Instagram (80%) and Line (59%). However, Indonesia’s social media audience isn’t merely large, they are also very active. The average Indonesian spends 3 hours and 26 minutes on social media every day. This is a significant spike compared to the global average of 2 hours and 22 minutes.

Indonesians are also heavy mobile internet users. A Google Consumer Barometer survey found that 81% of Indonesians prefer to use a smartphone to access the internet, with only 3% preferring the desktop. A recent report by iPrice supports this, indicating that 87% of shopping in Indonesia is done on a mobile device. 

On the other hand, there is a steady stream of low-income consumers continually moving into the middle-income segment and they are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they engage with brands and decide what to buy. This will fuel a further increase in tech-savvy consumers who are ‘channel-agnostic’ and expect to receive personalized experiences in real time across email, SMS, social media, website and mobile apps.

Top 5 Customer Engagement Trends in Indonesia

While discussing trends, it’s important to remember that brands should adopt new technology or platforms not because it’s the latest buzzword but rather critically evaluate how it contributes to a better experience for their customers. On that note, here are the top 5 customer engagement trends prevalent in Indonesia. 

  • The blurring lines between social media and commerce

Social commerce is gaining rapid momentum in Indonesia thanks to the higher social media penetration. Brands are finding it easier than ever before to start selling through Instagram and WhatsApp Commerce by engaging customers with real-time videos and personalized product catalogues.   

According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance, 64% of all ecommerce transactions in 2019  occurred through social media. The Covid-19 crisis provided a further boost to the adoption of social commerce in the region. While establishing a social commerce strategy, it’s important for brands to deliver a personalized customer experience by integrating it with their existing tech stack like loyalty platform, marketing automation and CRM.

  • Indonesians have a higher distaste for Ads

While there is a growing trend of ad blocker adoption across the globe, it has seen explosive growth in Indonesia. A staggering 58% of mobile users in Indonesia have enabled one or more types of adblocker.  In comparison, mobile ad blocker adoption rate is  28% in India, 13% in China and 1% in the US and UK.  It is apparent that consumers are not interested in generic advertising and it is crucial for brands to use highly personalized engagement to drive high-value conversations.

  • The rise in demand for personalized, real-time, cross-channel engagement 

On any given day, Indonesians use a plethora of digital platforms like WhatsApp, YouTube LINE, WeChat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Email, Mobile App, SMS etc. They are also increasingly judging brands based on how it interacts with them across these channels. Unfortunately, one of the key challenges that Indonesian marketers face is managing the sudden surge in data brought about by this rapid digital adoption by customers.

This often leads to disjointed and ineffective customer engagement, which ultimately leads to a negative Customer Experience. Our experience with retailers in other emerging economies like India, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia clearly indicates that a combination of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) and cross-channel engagement solutions like X-Engage can significantly improve customer engagement through unified data pools, hyperpersonalization besides delivering higher campaign ROIs.

  • Gamified loyalty programs will be key to drive deeper engagement

Gamified loyalty programs are simply engagement-oriented reward programs that focus more on the non-purchase aspects of customer engagement. Unlike traditional loyalty programs which are heavily focused on earn/burn aspects of a transaction, these new-age loyalty programs are geared towards the digital consumer who wants to be rewarded for social actions like reviews, comments, shares, retweets etc. 

  •   Location-based mobile interactions

Considering the high smartphone penetration in Indonesia, it’s no surprise that several brands are experimenting with wi-fi beacons and very granular IP addresses to deliver location-based promotions and offers. While the technology has been so far used by shopping malls to invite shoppers to download a proprietary app to get access to exclusive details and sale information, we expect this trend to be adopted by Single Brand Outlets (SBSs) and large department stores. For brands, there is also an exciting possibility to use location data to improve their social media strategy by engaging customers across Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc.

Wrapping Up 

While Indonesia’s geography and fragmented topography render it unique, the audience shares similar behaviour and aspirations as other emerging markets in Asia. The winning playbook for brands is to understand their customers, invest in AI-powered digital/technologies and analytics, and seize the opportunity to engage customers in a highly personalized way to improve brand loyalty and sales.

Ecommerce in Malaysia : Growth, Trends & Opportunities

Ecommerce in Malaysia : Growth, Trends & Opportunities

Malaysia’s tryst with Ecommerce started in 2004 with the launch of eBay Malaysia. This was followed by in 2007 – a C2C platform –  that attracts more than 9.56 million visitors per month. Lelong is credited for pioneering the Malaysian ecommerce industry and enjoyed market dominance for a few years; before it was joined by and in 2011.

The current state of Malaysian ecommerce market started taking shape In 2012 when two major players Lazada and Zalora launched their Malaysian operations, followed by Shopee in 2015. 

Fast forward to 2020, Malaysia’s eCommerce market is worth US$ 4.3 billion, and is expected to double to $8.1 billion by the year 2024;  at 14% CAGR.

Malaysia Ecommerce

  • Comparisons with Singapore: A Case of Similar Yet Different

Singapore and Malaysia represent the largest ecommerce markets in SEA. Between them, they account for more than 50% of total online retail sales in the region despite being home to just 8% of the Southeast Asian population.  

While the ecommerce markets in Singapore and Malaysia are nascent compared to mature markets like China and Japan; they stand out with respect to the relative size of the cross-border share of the ecommerce market

An estimated 55% of all ecommerce transactions in Singapore and 40% of ecommerce orders in Malaysia are cross-border orders from American and Chinese webshops

These numbers are much higher compared to Japan, South Korea and even China.  

However, there are differences between the countries when it comes to tax regulations for ecommerce platforms – Singapore is renowned for its favorable rules and regulations and extremely low rates of corruption. Items valued below US$ 320 are shipped duty-free. This stimulates cross-border e-retail shopping. On the other hand, goods imported into Malaysia are taxed more heavily and must comply with more stringent regulations (e.g. the duty-free limit is set at US$160). And while Malaysia’s much larger and younger population as compared to Singapore highlights its future potential as an e-commerce market, website localization may be more difficult owing to the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

Factors Spurring Ecommerce Growth in Malaysia

Ecommerce growth in Malaysia is primarily driven by a growing number of digitally-savvy, middle-class who are looking for great deals and access to international brands. Here are the other major factors driving ecommerce growth in the region.

  • Geological & Topographical Advantages 

Traditionally ecommerce players in Southeast Asia faced logistical challenges due to the fragmented topology of the region dominated by multiple islands and dense jungles. However, Malaysia is segregated into only two major parts – Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia; which makes ecommerce logistics a whole lot more straightforward and cost-effective. 

  • Surge in Grocery Ecommerce

Similar to other countries in Southeast Asia, grocery & FMCG ecommerce is rapidly growing in Malaysia. In fact, Malaysia ranked 2nd in Statista’s world’s fastest growing grocery market list in 2018, with only Singapore registering a higher YoY increase. IGD Asia predicts that online sales value of grocery in Malaysia will increase at a CAGR of more than 60 percent between 2017 and 2022 (

  • Digitally-savvy, mobile-first consumers

Malaysia boasts of an incredible 140% mobile penetration and 85% internet penetration. More than 26 million Malaysians access the internet and 80% of users between the ages of 16 and 64 are already shopping online.

  • Social Media Growth

The lines between social media and ecommerce are increasingly blurring, thanks to several native shopping initiatives by Facebook & Instagram. Besides, social media serves as a  great discovery and post-purchase platform for ecommerce businesses.  As of 2019, Malaysia had 25 million active social media users which accounts for 78% of the total population. This digitally-savvy, upwardly mobile segment presents a massive potential customer base for ecommerce businesses.

  • Consumer Comfort with Digital Payments

Consumers in emerging ecommerce markets typically steer clear of digital payments and tend to rely heavily on Cash on Delivery. This has been a roadblock to ecommerce growth in several regions like India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia etc, since COD imposes scalability challenges on ecommerce businesses. Malaysia is an outlier here with bank transfer and digital payments accounting for a whopping 93% ecommerce transactions and there are currently 39 businesses with an e-money license in the country, including major players PayPal, Alipay, WeChat and Google Pay.

  • Government Initiatives

The positive growth of the ecommerce industry in Malaysia will also be driven by the government’s National E-commerce Strategic Roadmap initiatives that strive to increase internet accessibility to rural areas and improve e-wallets technologies. 

Ecommerce Trends & Consumer Behaviour in Malaysia 

The Malaysian ecommerce space shares a lot of similarities with other emerging markets in SEA like Singapore, Indonesia & Thailand. However, there are some interesting cultural and region-specific nuances to watch out for. 

  • Strong Cross-border Spending

Cross-border spending is high in Malaysia and accounts for 4 out of 10 of all e-commerce transactions in the country.The major motivators for Malaysians to choose international sellers brands are:  better prices (72%), and access to items not available in the country (49%). The top three countries for cross-border sales are China (first), Singapore (second) and Japan (third). However, it should be noted that the Malaysian government has plans to announce a digital tax for cross-border e-commerce from 2020, which could impact international sellers of digital products.

  • Mobile-First Audience

Consumers in Malaysia have been quick to adapt to mobile commerce and 80% of smartphone users now use their devices to shop online. Mobile e-commerce transactions in the region is expected to reach $5.6 billion by 2021.  Within the mobile category, apps are the most preferred ecommerce channel and used for 64 percent of transactions.

  • Key Motivators: Fast Shipping & Price

A report by Paypal found that Malaysians prefer online shopping primarily to save time and 90% of Malaysians expect their purchase to be delivered within a week. The second biggest factor that attracts consumers to shop online are cheaper prices. This could likely be driven by a rising middle class who faces comparatively high taxes and stagnating wages. This also explains why ecommerce events in Malaysia like 11.11 and 12.12 that offer higher discounts (as high as 90%) drive the highest sales in the Home & Living, Fashion, Health & Beauty, Accessories, and Mother & Baby categories.

  • Digital Payments are Most Preferred

Across Malaysia, bank transfer and digital wallets are the most preferred payment method. Interestingly, credit cards are the most preferred payment method in  Penang (28%), Perlis (40%), Selangor (25%) and WP Kuala Lumpur (34%). Digital wallets, known as dompet digital in Malaysia, are the fourth most-used payment option. However, their usage is expected to grow at a CAGR of 53% by 2021, at which point it will take a 16% share of the Malaysian payments market. On the other hand, it is still advisable to offer cash on delivery (COD) as a payment method since the 45-54-year-old age group still prefers COD when shopping online. 

  • Social Commerce is on the Rise

The rise in usage of smartphones has also led to a spike in social media commerce, especially through WhatsApp and Facebook. The country is said to be the world’s fourth-largest market for social commerce adopters and a recent survey found that 87 percent of survey respondents had bought something through apps like Facebook, Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp.

  • A Battle of Regional & International Players

The Malaysian branches of two online shopping platforms based in Singapore – Lazada and Shoppee are the leading websites in shopping traffic and both have close to 20 million visitors per month. Even as these two leaders expand their product offerings and services, other regional players, such as Indonesia’s Bukalapak and Chinese players such as Taobao and Ali Express are increasing their presence on the peninsula.

  • Important Shopping Events

Malaysians shop online in preparation for major holidays, especially Chinese New Year and Ramadan. They visit multiple ecommerce platforms weeks ahead of these celebrations to compare products and prices. Shoppers look for gifts to give to their family and friends on Chinese New Year, as well as beauty and fashion products that will help them refresh their look for the year ahead. During Ramadan, Malaysians typically shop for clothing to wear at the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration at the end of the season.

Top Ecommerce Sites in Malaysia

The ecommerce space in Malaysia is dominated by self-owned, branded e-commerce websites and big online marketplaces. Here are the top ones : 

  • Lazada

  • Shopee


  • PrestoMall


  • Hermo

  • Zalora

  • Carousell

  • Ezbuy

  • Ebay

  • Qoo100

Strategy to Leverage the Ecommerce Opportunity

Given its population size and increasingly affluent middle class, Malaysia is easily one of the most attractive markets for ecommerce in Southeast Asia. Here are some strategies that retailers and brands can use to leverage this opportunity.

Offer a diverse product range –  Concerns around product diversity have been a constant challenge for Malaysian consumers and online sellers have the opportunity to satisfy this unmet need. The key to getting the right mix of products is to use AI-powered ecommerce platforms to understand the top products and accessories for each customer segment and dynamically personalize product pages for specific segments.

Keep a track of popular offline items – Retailers with an established brick and mortar store presence can use in store analytics software like VisitorSense to understand shopping behaviour and customer preferences and use the data to promote those items online at a better price.

Provide a wide range of payment options – While bank transfers are the most preferred payment option, retailers should also include e-wallets, credit cards, and COD to serve the wider audience.

Offer superior fulfilment experience –   Allow customers to track deliveries in real-time, so they don’t have to guess the delivery dates. The key to offering a great shipping experience is to have a centralized inventory across your stores, warehouses and other fulfilment centres.

Tap into social commerce – The COVID crisis will accelerate Facebook and WhatsApp commerce in the region and brands should use WhatsApp commerce solutions like Store2Door to engage customers in real-time and serve customers right at their doorsteps.

Understand local nuances – There are certain cultural nuances that are specific to Malaysia. It’s important to know what Malaysians like to buy, and when. Understand the customs, traditions, and holidays that influence their shopping behaviour.

Covid-19 Forcing Change in Retail Ordering Behaviour

Covid-19 Forcing Change in Retail Ordering Behaviour

In a sense, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, shop and communicate with people  more than any other technology in the recent past. As more people start working from home, they are sticking to basics, stepping outside only to buy essentials and are constantly worried about the risks of getting infected in crowded places like malls and supermarkets.

Being associated with Capillary Technologies, which works with the majority of retail brands across India, South East Asia, Middle East and China, I was able to witness these shifts in  consumer behaviour and retail trends from close quarters.  

Covid-19 Epidemic is Creating a Paradigm Shift in Consumer Behaviour

Spurred on by a trifecta of smartphone penetration, cheaper 4G networks and increasing consumer wealth, the Indian ecommerce market was expected to grow to US$ 200 billion by 2026. 

That projection was based on customer and market research in a pre-Covid 19 world. But in the last 2 months, both the market landscape and consumer behaviour has altered beyond recognition and there is clear indication that the industry will hit the US$ 200 billion mark much sooner.

Some of the key consumer behaviour changes,  according to a survey by NRF 

  • 9 in 10 consumers have changed their traditional shopping habits.
  • More than 50% of consumers have ordered products  online that they would normally purchase at the store
  • Nearly 6 in 10 consumers say they are worried about going to the store due to fear of being infected

While some of these changes are no doubt temporary, others will be permanent. As the community moves beyond the ‘survival’ mode, the digital-adoption momentum is likely to carry forward and become permanent. This inflection point will be primarily shaped by two major shifts in customer behaviour – the reluctance to mingle in crowded public places and higher propensity for digital adoption.

As the recent Mckinsey study in China suggests, consumers are likely to opt for online shopping  even after the outbreak ends, especially for categories such as groceries and personal care. This trend is likely to continue long after the lockdowns are called off as people would still be apprehensive to visit crowded areas like malls or supermarkets.

A survey by eMarketer revealed that nearly 60%-85% of internet users across China and South-east Asia have avoided crowded public places to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus.

In short, the Covid-19 outbreak and 2020 will mark a tipping point for the adoption of ecommerce and mobile commerce platforms.

The Emergence of a New World Order in Retail

We believe retail is at an inflection point – and this is the start of a  “A New World Order” in terms of how consumers shop and the way the retail industry operates. Retailers will need to be agile in adapting to this zeitgeist, since the prognosis for brands that miss inflection points is not great —cases in point, Kodak and Nokia.

Under this New World Order, retailers across diverse categories cannot rely entirely on their offline presence even after the lockdowns are called off. They will have to inevitably adjust to the new norms of online buying. This will become even more relevant for categories like groceries and personal care where previously the propensity to buy online was low. 

  • The Leaders, Survivors & Laggards in this Retail New World Orde

This “New World Order” as we envision it, could force every retailer to embrace omnichannel ecosystem and converge the operations of their online and offline stores. Not doing so, will mean suffering huge loss in revenues. So who will be the leaders, survivors and laggards in this New World Order?

The leaders would be agile retailers, who upgrade to an omnichannel ecosystem and constantly introduce innovative shopping experiences by analyzing the new buying behaviour. They would be closely followed by the survivors –  pure-play digital platforms who have their own e-store and are sell on major online marketplace platforms. 

The laggards in this race would be the pure-play offline retailers who are still waiting it out with the hopes that old buying habits and the demand will be restored post the lockdown period.

  • What Retailers will Need to Rethink in this New Scenario

Prior to the Covid-19 epidemic, traditional enterprise retailers were focused on driving growth, and acquiring market share with physical stores as their epicentre. Increasing traffic to their online store was not a major focus and took a backseat compared to driving footfalls to their physical stores. Brands had made peace with the volume of online orders and the reduced margins from online aggregators as long as the orders kept flowing in.

Historically for omnichannel retailers with both online, offline and marketplace orders (who serviced orders across a physical store, their own e-store and the marketplace) the average orders and the % margin distribution for online orders looked something like this.

*These numbers are based on our research data from our top 10 retail customers across China, South-east Asia, India and Middle east. We have assumed a common 30% commission for marketplace orders and the common margins observed by retailers.

Approximate Online-Offline Split in Buying Trends for Traditional Brands before the Covid-19 Slowdown

Type of e-orders Volume of Orders  Margin/order
Offline orders  90% 70-80%
Online orders mainly serviced by aggregators  10% 40-50%

As the consumer behavior changes, retailers will witness  an increasing dependency on the online orders. Projecting on some of the behavior and channel mix we are witnessing in markets like China, the volume mix will look something like as depicted in the table below. As dependency on the marketplaces increase (and hence their clout), so will the possible margins being charged by them.

Expected Online-Offline Split in Order Volume and Margins in the New World Order 

Type of e-orders Volume of orders Margins/order
Offline Orders 60% 70%
Online + Marketplace orders 40% 50-60%

Retailers will have two options. They can continue to fulfil orders via online aggregators and hence lose a higher chunk towards margin, and affecting bottomline. Or they can set up their own in order to restrict the revenue bleed (not to mention also reaping other long lasting benefits viz. fostering brand loyalty etc.). Nike pulling back from selling on Amazon to focus more on its direct-to-consumer business being a case in point.

  • Will this spell the end of Offline Retail?

As much as I claim that the New World Order will be ruled by online buying patterns, we also realize being innovative with different store formats can become a differentiator for brands competing in similar categories.

For instance, an omnichannel retailer can  differentiate itself from online aggregators by transforming few of the stores into experience zones to offer an experiential buying experience. We will see more of such strategies being deployed by brands on the lines of omnichannel furniture retailers like Urban Ladder and Pepperfry, but in more diverse sectors 

In these times of crisis, retailers are increasingly using physical stores as fulfillment centers to turn inventory over quickly and cut losses. Omnichannel retailers, who innovatively utilize their physical store space will inevitably be the winners of this new world order.

How Retailers can Quickly Adapt to this New World Order

With continued uncertainty, I predict that brands that are currently the most receptive and agile in adopting these new norms of customer behaviour will prevail than those who wait it out. So, what can retailers do to cope with these constantly changing buying patterns and quickly cope with the new world order. 

  • Digitization should become a priority

Based on data from our clients in China, the Covid-19 crisis has clearly favoured omnichannel retailers when it comes to minimization of the negative impacts. Therefore, offline retailers must approach the lockdown period as an opportunity to build a strong online presence. 

Retailers with an online presence, must capitalize on the recovery trends by introducing innovative ways of fulfilling orders – be it establishing an Online-to-Offline(O2O) platform or building sophisticated digital logistics and payment reconciliation capabilities to be in the lead in this race to recovery.

  • Focus on improving the visibility of own e-commerce website 

The only way retailers can combat the increasing order volumes and diminishing margins from their online aggregator counterparts would be to focus on improving the visibility of their e-store. 

 As part of these efforts to improve online visibility at a reduced cost, brands should also capitalize on their existing customer data to drive traffic to their own online website.  This involves using robust retail CRM and marketing automation systems to take control of existing customer data.

  • Become innovative with personalized engagement 

Brands will need to improvise and capitalize on online personalization efforts to differentiate themselves from their competitors and online aggregators. Personalized engagement will play an important role especially in selling essential category items (groceries, medicines and personal care/wellness items) as consumers seek increased communication and trust about the quality of these products. 

Brands can deploy personalized engagement beyond discounts or offers by keeping their consumers posted about their internal developments – be it about the store operations in their nearest neighbourhoods or even to just convey words of empathy and care about the current situation. For instance, restaurants can actively communicate about the hygiene steps they’ve taken to increase confidence amongst customers.  Personalized engagement platforms can enable brands to also communicate about shifting their operations online and reallocate some of the store credits that can be redeemed online.

To sum it up, we all knew the world was turning digital. A new order was being established. But for all we know, the pace has suddenly increased exponentially. It is at our doors, knocking down the traditional walls right now, as opposed to by 2030 as we all were expecting. This New Order will require a paradigm shift in strategy from brands. Only the agile ones will survive. Only the ‘Truly Omnichannel’ ones will prosper.