Localize for Southeast Asia

by | Jun 25, 2020

The region of Southeast Asia has become very attractive for ecommerce businesses because it has the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world. These markets include an increasingly tech-savvy population with a vibrant shopping culture. So, if you want to expand your ecommerce business to one or more of these countries, you must localize for Southeast Asia. 

Localize for Southeast Asia 1

The Southeast Asian Internet economy crossed a significant inflection point in 2018, hitting yet another milestone: the $100 billion mark in gross merchandise value (GMV). This is an estimated leap of nearly 40% from the prior year. This figure is projected to reach $300 billion by 2025. 

Southeast Asia consists of eleven countries of great diversity with respect to their histories, cultures, and religions. They are listed here by the size of their GDP

Indonesia * Thailand * Philippines * Malaysia *Singapore
Vietnam * Myanmar * Cambodia * Laos * Brunei * Timor-Leste

Here are some important considerations to help you succeed when you localize for Southeast Asia.

Responsive Design

Failing to engage with mobile shoppers in Southeast Asia is a major marketing mistake. This region has some of the highest rates of smartphone penetration globally, which means that your website must be responsive, i.e., optimized for mobile.

Some 150 million Southeast Asians will reach the age of fifteen during the next fifteen years. This equates to 10 million people joining the “mobile age” every year. These youngsters will enter adulthood having grown up with a device that allows them to communicate with their friends and family and entertain themselves with the latest videos, music, and games. And, as these waves of young, mobile, and digitally savvy users move into their working lives, they will naturally become part of the internet consumer economy.

  • It is estimated that over 90% of Southeast Asia’s internet accessors are using a smartphone as their primary device
  • Indonesia and Malaysia have an entire generation of mobile-first consumers. 

You must ensure that your responsive website can convert into the different languages spoken in Southeast Asian countries. Making it easy for consumers to easily navigate your site and understand your products or services is crucial. 

Localize for Southeast Asia – Your Products or Services

You should resist the tendency to consider the region as one giant single market. Each market is unique and diverse, and, as a result, has different needs when it comes to online shopping. Take time to learn about your customers, how they shop, and what they buy. Examine your own data to find out from which country people are already buying your products or services. In other words, design finely-tuned marketing strategies created specifically for the regions that your ecommerce business wants to capture.

  • Don’t Overlook the Importance of Localized SEO. Focus on generating unique and keyword-rich descriptions of your products or services and optimizing your images

Social Media and Online Communities

When you localize for Southeast Asia, keep in mind that over 60% of the population participates in social media, a number that has been consistently increasing over the years. Social media and online communities are massive selling tools throughout the region. A large percent of ecommerce sales occurs through these platforms. Remember, people value the opinions of their peers and are most intrigued by something if a friend shares or references a link.

  • Popular Southeast Asia Social Media Platforms – Facebook is extremely popularallowing brands to reach millions of users on a regular basis. Facebook and Instagram should be the first platforms to use as a way to market your brand in Southeast Asia digitally. However, social networks emanating from China, such as WeChat and Sina Weibo, should not be overlooked. 
  • WeChat is the most popular social media network in China, serving more than one billion active monthly users. 
  • Sina Weibo is like a Chinese Twitter, enabling users to share short messages, comment on posts, tag people, use hashtags, and even conduct polls.

Localize for Southeast Asia – Developing a Regional Rollout Plan

Regional launches should be carried out using a repeatable approach, but one that can also easily adapt to each unique market. Your country marketing plan will need to be consistent with your domestic efforts, but it will also need to be customized based on your knowledge of the targeted region. Here’s a five-step approach.

  1. Identify Your Goals – Your plan should start with the identification of your objectives – Why do you want to expand into this region? What are you trying to accomplish? How will you measure your success? 
  1. Do Your Market Research – You need to identify the market characteristics and consumer preferences for each region. What is appropriate in one place may not work in another. This will go a long way to ensure that you get the most traction from your new audience. 
  1. Think “Glocal” – It’s essential to understand the language and cultural barriers with respect to getting your message across effectively. And, it’s crucial to understand all cultural references, including local holidays and significant events. 
  1. Form Local Partnerships – When you launch in a new country, you’re taking your business into unchartered territory. A great local partner will be invaluable because they will know the market and how to navigate it successfully. If possible, search for a partner whose company culture and strategy are similar to your own. 
  1. Test Your Plan – Test your comprehensive plan designed to bring about a local sales presence, then make it unique to each region targeted for expansion and test again in those regions. 

Learn Everyday

Never stop learning. Trends, customer tastes, and technology are ever-changing. Although expanding a business is challenging, knowing what your customers and prospects in a particular location want when things change will ensure that your business thrives.

We Can Help You Localize for Southeast Asia

Expanding your marketing efforts to the countries of Southeast Asia is an opportunity worth seizing. However, when targeting any new audience, there are unique issues that must be addressed if your content is to engage and resonate. Book a call with Localize to learn how our advanced translation management software can help your start translating your content for Southeast Asia.