By Ming Fai Chak, Solutions Consulting Manager, Adobe Southeast Asia

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Southeast Asia are looking to invest in digital technologies within the next three years as the key enabler to drive new business propositions, user experiences and deliver on significantly enhanced offerings. In Malaysia, current technologies (81%) are a top investment priority among SMEs, followed by fixed assets (75%) and transformative technologies (73%).

According to a joint report by Google and Temasek, South-East Asia’s internet economy has been growing at an average annual rate of 27% and is on track to exceed US$200bil by 2025. The region’s internet economy accounted for 2% of GDP in 2017, up from 1.3% in 2015 and is projected to reach 6% by 2025.

Experience-driven commerce changes how we shop. In simple terms, this refers to a commerce model that is built around the consumer, rather than starting from products or processes.

While an experience-led model uses the same assets – images, text, videos, screens, design, fonts, and words – to tell the story of a product or a brand, it is far more transformative. An experience-driven model can transcend boundaries and create new ways to connect.

What are the first steps to providing the best commerce experience possible?

Get to know your audience

In experience-based commerce, your customers are no longer just people who happen upon your store, but a specific subset of like-minded consumers who are served up products that appeal to their shopping needs. Products are directed to groups defined not by arbitrary demographics, but by more detailed characteristics shoppers share. These characteristics predict the group’s affinities, preferences, and behaviors. When done correctly, these shoppers will identify with the stories you curate and take similar actions in the customer journey.

Audiences exist naturally, but it’s up to you to identify them and figure out what their needs and preferences are. A customer experience management (CXM) platform, such as Adobe Experience Platform, not only provides a unified real-time customer profile, but also analyzes each profile to create powerful, usable segments in real time, grouping together customers who behave in similar ways.

Once you define an audience, you can craft an experience that speaks to its members in effective and personal ways. You can also use that segment to find and reach new consumers with look-alike modeling strategies, which allow you to build larger audiences—who all look like your very best customers.

Map experiences to your customer’s journey

Once you define an audience, you can create engaging content that appeals to the specific wants and needs of its members. You can reach out to them as a group with targeted campaigns through email, social media, direct mail, or any other channel. You can also learn from each interaction how to improve their experience over time.

Your content will extend beyond simple strategies like presenting parents with products for children, or issuing special offers based on age or geography. You can craft an entire customer journey for each audience based on combinations of traditional attributes, yes, but also much deeper demographics like preferred leisure activities, income levels, and brand affinities. The journey you create can then be tested, modified, optimized, and monitored for anomalies.

When the audience is large enough, with enough numbers to test and get valid results, advanced analysis can then show you how this audience uses each channel on their collective paths, so you can see where a certain group is struggling on your website and where they’re finding success.

Every round of testing is an opportunity to drive conversions and deepen relationships.

Find new customers who fit the audience profile

Knowing your audiences, how they relate to the brand, and what makes them likely to complete a purchase, gives you powerful information that can help you reach untapped markets. Over time, you’ll build a data-driven understanding of the messaging and media that will reach your most profitable customers.

Not only will this make your marketing more effective, but you’ll also be able to more easily use third-party resources to purchase preexisting audiences that fit your successful profiles. Applying what you’ve learned through analytics to external marketing will maximize the impact of every dollar you spend.

Making the case for a personalised customer journey

Now that you’ve optimized audience segmentation, the next step to a successful experience-driven commerce strategy is taking that valuable audience and customer information and acting on it.

Marketers have been using online personalisation tactics since the early days of the web, from customisable Yahoo pages in the 1990s to Amazon’s recommendation engine over the last decade.

Now, as customer expectations evolve alongside digital capabilities and channels, personalisation is less about special offers and more about creating the right experience. A study from Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific revealed that by 2021, Artificial intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation to almost double (x1.8) and increase employee productivity improvements by 60% in Malaysia. Brands adopting the technology and strategies to deliver personalized experiences will gain a sustainable advantage over brands that don’t.

Consumers expect better personalized experiences too. Because as we all know, when we give a brand our valuable personal preferences, we expect them to create a more personal experience for us. However, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) revealed that 50% of Malaysians are concerned about security and privacy when shopping online. Concerns regarding security have emerged in terms of credit card fraud, fake online retailers, banking details theft, identity theft, and trust issues. In terms of privacy, 82.7% of shoppers indicated that they are very concerned about the exposure of their personal details while 70% are worried about their personal data being misused for marketing purposes.

This isn’t particularly surprising, considering the degree of automation that’s required to create individual experiences across multiple channels for each customer. The volume of content is simply too vast to be done manually but attempts that fall short can do more harm than good.

Bring personalisation to scale with automation

In order to speak to the consumer not as a group but as an individual customer, you must automate the process of getting acquainted. That real-time customer profile we spoke to above is going to be key to personalisation at scale.

According to the Adobe Experience Index, more than two thirds (68%) of people in Southeast Asia agreed that if done well, they would most likely to be delighted to have complete automated interactions with a company.

With the Adobe Commerce Cloud offering SMEs have Adobe Target at their fingertips. Target can help them reach across all marketing touchpoints to serve the right experience, at the right time. SMEs can then give customers relevant recommendations and personalized journeys that lead to the commerce experiences that they.

Adobe Experience Manager, when integrated with Commerce Cloud, dynamically adapts content based on customer context. And commerce dashboards help you make assessments to improve marketing, merchandising, and experience delivery. Integrated artificial intelligence monitors business health and can predict and optimize experiences, process efficiencies, and business outcomes.

Moving forward

To successfully out-perform the competition, your business will need to put the consumer at the center. An experience-driven commerce model will require a full understanding of your consumers, and their wants and needs. To do this, you’ll need to develop content that extends beyond simple strategies and really speak to customer audiences on a personalized level. Make it easier for your business to automate at scale. Use a solution that helps you launch campaigns quickly to a targeted audience. And one that integrates with backend systems more seamlessly.

Omnichannel expansion will be necessary too. Customers are constantly moving among screens, channels, and devices. One customer might use four different devices, which may be tracked as four distinct users. Multiple users might use the same device, further disrupting your ability to get a single view of each customer.

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