How can a brand stand out during Asia's crowded sales days?

The festive season has kicked off in Asia Pacific as Shopee’s 9.9 sale kicks off the annual discount period, with the likes of 10.10 and the original shopping festival 11.11 not far behind

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen customer demand evolve and for brands to remain connected with customers and capture their attention, it is important they pay attention to these sales events.

As platforms like Shopee and Lazada pull out all the stops to work with brands through tools like live streaming, gamification and vouchers, there are endless choices for consumers to add to their carts.

To understand this phenomenon, The Drum asks the industry: “How can a brand stand out during Asia's crowded sales days?”

Zhou Junjie, chief commercial officer, Shopee

In recent years, we observed that people want to do more than shop online - they’re expecting an even greater level of personalization, engagement, and social interactivity.

With more businesses growing their e-commerce presence, we believe it is important for brands and retailers to adopt innovative approaches to stay engaged with customers. We have improved our in-app engagement features for brands to tap into, while our strong partnership with affiliate partners helps brands drive traffic into their official Shopee stores.

We are also committed to supporting local businesses through our ongoing seller support initiatives such as Big Brand Discounts, Shopee Mall, and Super Brand Day, all of which are geared towards helping brands reach new customers and unlock growth opportunities.

Aniket Basu, senior director, technology and e-commerce at Essence

Creating presale hype is essential to engaging customers early on. While customers can feel inundated with offers, they love exclusivity. Providing limited-time offers, impactful creative assets, and timely calls-to-action can benefit brands by incentivizing customers to add products to their cart before the sale day.

Shopping festivals are cluttered with brand advertisements. As a result, media inventory prices inflate, and cost per acquisition spikes right before the sale day. I would recommend brands and agencies also prioritize enlarging the basket size to offset these high costs and aim for a higher return on advertising spend.

Finally, e-commerce platforms are more than just a sales channel - they empower brands to provide full-funnel marketing opportunities. Shoppertainment is largely growing in this region, and the use of innovative formats, such as live streaming hosted by key opinion leaders paired with chatbots, can engage, inspire and influence higher purchases through exclusive deals and offers.

Poran Malani, director, S4 Capital India

This is always the catch-22 of marketing, the big sales periods account for a hugely disproportionate amount of sales for many companies. In the West, ‘Black Friday’ is named as it is the short period of sales that traditionally got companies out of the red and into the black. And yet it is the hardest and most expensive time to market, causing brands to often overthink and overcomplicate. It is amazing how the simple is often forgotten in times of stress.

Here is a quick checklist for brands:

  • Brands should remember to play to their existing strength. If the sales period is about a custom or culture, then everyone will be playing into it. A large part of Diwali, for instance, is about gifting, and for Cadbury (Mondelez) that makes for a natural fit as gifting is in their DNA. For other brands trying the same, it won't be as easy or successful.

  • Brands would do well to find their unique take on the festival and amplify their role around it.

  • If it is about offers and discounts it’s best to be direct and simple, big bold, repetitive, it might be old-fashioned, but it works.

  • If you don't have a big budget use data and go for a smaller audience and make your presence seem bigger to them.

  • Co-market as so many platforms are looking for exclusives this is a good time to piggyback with strategic partners.

Sunder Madakshira, head of marketing, Adobe India

This year, the festival season sales across Asia will present a unique opportunity to brands to recover some of the sales they lost because of the pandemic. We foresee more brands taking the D2C route and e-commerce to engage and serve their customers. To stand out in the marketplace, brands will need to derive fresh insights on consumer needs and segments as many hypotheses after March 2020 would need to be tested through analytics.

The brands that provide delightful end-to-end digital experiences will stand out in this season. Brands that drive campaigns that engage customers across channels and very importantly fulfil their demands will stand to gain big.

Tiam Siang Lee, managing director at Archetype Malaysia

Consumers often would have known what they want to buy before a sale event and the discount matters. Instead of hitting the audience during a seasonal peak, there is always an opportunity for brands to build their business ahead of it.

Smart brands stand out – as they always do – by showing consumers why they should be buying from them and how their products are relevant to their needs regardless of the season.

Potential buyers and returning customers are cultivated ahead of time – and when this is done, a sale would just sweeten the deal.

Martyn U’ren, head of research for APAC and global export at Twitter

While shoppers used to eagerly await a handful of exclusive sales during Black Friday or Boxing Day, double-digit days have since doubled up as mega shopping days leaving consumers bombarded with endless ads and promos every month.

The retail fatigue is real, so unless brands have taken the time to build genuine connections with their audiences, they’ll inevitably struggle to capture consumer hearts and wallets.

Brands should listen to their audience’s conversations to start discovering what matters to them and ensure their cultural relevance. Consistent and authentic engagement is key - brands need to go beyond sales days, and show that they’re listening, and doing their utmost to respond appropriately.

Amid all the clutter, the discerning consumer can always sense sincerity.

With additional reporting from Charlotte McEleny and Amit Bapna