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Holiday Season 2021 for App Marketers in Southeast Asia: Trends, Dos and Don’ts, and Actionable Strategies

Rajarshi Choudhuri, Guest Author
Rajarshi Choudhuri, Guest Author
3 min read
Posted on December 14, 2021
Holiday Season 2021 for App Marketers in Southeast Asia: Trends, Dos and Don’ts, and Actionable Strategies

This is a guest post brought to you by InMobi in collaboration with MoEngage

Ever since the pandemic hit in 2020, it significantly affected various industries across the globe. The in-app ecosystem however has seen a growth surge like no other, particularly in India and Southeast Asia. In fact, at the start of 2021, India accounted for 14% of the global app installs, only second to China. While categories like travel and hospitality and micro-mobility suffered, banking and finance, as well as E-commerce and gaming, saw an unprecedented surge in usage. 

With easy access to smartphones, apps are now a pervasive phenomenon, with a massive number of users driving in-sector trends. In India, the government increasingly encouraged digital payments during the pandemic and introduced online vaccine bookings and health monitoring apps. This change drastically increased the number of consumers using different apps for their everyday work. 

App usage trends in rural and urban areas differ vastly at present. Shopping apps are very popular among customers in rural and semi-urban markets, with significant growth in the number of downloads. On the other hand, urban customers displayed a preference towards the fintech and entertainment categories. This trend is expected to continue, at least in the recent future.

One industry that saw a massive transformation during the pandemic was the shopping sector. Large-scale disruption in supply chains dealt a major blow to retail shopping, building an online shopping audience that is here to stay. 

Now, as the holiday season begins, app marketers need to perfect their customer engagement strategies and drive sales. However, it is essential to understand consumer patterns, buying trends, and map out actionable plans based on these insights.

Let’s first look at the usage trends of apps and the corresponding categories which can expect significant growth in installs:

App Usage Trends and Categories Expecting Higher Installs During Festive Season  

In Southeast Asia, millions of consumers use smartphones every day for various purposes, including work, entertainment, recreation, utility tools, and more. Let’s This

  • Increase in popularity of casual, hyper-casual, and real money gaming apps: Gaming, which was once thought as exclusively a young man’s domain has now grown in popularity among all age groups. As new demographics i.e. homemakers and first-time app users join the fray, the usage trends for casual/hyper-casual and real money gaming have shot up through the roof. And these gamers are here to stay. In fact, a survey states that almost 80% of consumers who play such games are committed and will continue to play for the foreseeable future. It means that customers are spending a dedicated period of their day on these gaming apps, be it for monetary gain or for entertainment.
  • The continued rise of entertainment, short-form video, and OTT platforms: The rise of OTT  platforms has pulled viewers away from conventional television soaps, as consumers now prefer to watch programs according to their convenience. The Work-From-Home culture has further fueled the popularity of OTT platforms, helping them garner a loyal viewer base. Based on an assessment of recent market trends, the number of users gravitating towards OTT apps and platforms is expected to increase during the holidays, with festival-focused content soon being available on these platforms.
  • An even bigger online shopping boom: Retail and E-commerce apps, like Amazon and Flipkart, have seen more traffic every year during the festive season. While such platforms previously focused on special occasions and festivals, promoting mega sales using special discounts and offers, however, to keep up with increasing consumer demands, these apps have started hosting sales on almost a monthly basis.

    Similarly, in Indonesia, there is the Harbolnas sale season which is growing bigger every year. In Australia, Black Friday sales are coming up on every E-commerce platform. With pent-up demand caused by a muted holiday season 2020, retailers both online and offline can expect a significant shopping season. In addition, food delivery, m-commerce apps, groceries, and real money gaming apps are expected to continue to perform well throughout the festive season. 

Before we dive any deeper if you would like to understand the holiday season trends for apps in Southeast Asia in detail along with use cases and examples from top brands in the region, check out this episode on #GROWTH Maestros feat. Rajesh Pantina, Director, Marketing, Asia Pacific, InMobi.

Now, the natural question for app marketers is, how to convert this increased spending power of customers into sales. Here are a few strategies:

Actionable Strategies for App Marketers in Southeast Asia

  • Engaging new users by focusing on localization: With the pandemic, multiple rounds of lockdowns, and social distancing mandates, customers have grown accustomed to staying indoors, and hence prefer transacting and shopping online. Owing to these limitations, a sizable chunk of the population, mostly from tier-II and tier-III cities, came online for the first time. These customers have started using apps to order food, groceries, and medicines.

    The key to appealing to audiences from tier-II and tier-III cities is by going hyper-local. Companies and brands can diversify their market reach by servicing tier-II and tier-III markets and encouraging these users to opt for their apps for better convenience.

    One of the leading loan providers in India, Indiabulls Loans targeted customers from the tier-II markets by making the loan application hassle-free. The company increased user convenience by implementing a 3-step process and also focused on including multiple regional languages to be inclusive and appeal to this segment of customers.
  • Creating a multi-channel experience based on the region for the festive season: The Southeast Asian market is pretty high in the mobility index, i.e. usage of mobile phones and internet usage. The mobility index for Southeast Asia is 70%, meaning 7 in 10 consumers own a smartphone and use it. Out of these, 90% use their smartphones to access the internet actively.

    Internet usage is now focused more on apps. While the urban population has been familiar with apps for quite some time, tier-II and tier-III cities in Southeast Asia are now contributing more towards adoption.

    However, in Australia, mobile E-commerce is still limited and seeing a steady way forward. Consumers from the region are more inclined towards shopping from physical retail stores. As the pandemic has nudged consumers towards using digital applications, the upcoming holiday season will dictate the popularity of apps in the global market.
  • Importance of Shoppable Ads: To engage customers better, shopping apps must leverage different methods. During the last year, retailers were trying to get their supply chains working again. The unanimous conclusion was that online platforms are a thriving marketplace with different categories for various services, and anyone with a good service could carve their niche. The offline-online connected experience has been adopted by numerous brands to ensure maximum engagement.

    Consumers in Southeast Asia are still exploring the online arena on their own. Brands that can accurately inform consumers about their sales and offers, give them enough options to explore, and also persuade them to buy products can gain maximum customers.

    This is possible through shoppable ads where there is an option to buy products directly from the ad. Since consumers can view ads, browse products and purchase them seamlessly, shoppable ads can be an effective tool for brands during the festive season.

    Mondelez leveraged this functionality of shoppable ads to market their new product ahead of the festival season. The brand introduced Cadbury Chocobakes, a new product in the choco-bakery segment. Mondelez launched an interactive campaign online, through a video ad showcasing the making of the said product. Interested viewers could view the product, the video, and ultimately purchase the product within the same ad unit.

    From a technical standpoint, shoppable ads are an easy technological integration that enables consumers to shop from within the ad. Brands can use this tool to appeal to the customers' senses and give them a closer look at the product.
  • Competition within apps and impact on ad spending during the festive season: During the initial stages of the pandemic, global spending saw drastic drops in a majority of markets and products as consumers were struggling and unsure of their financial holdings. However, eventually, as things fell under control, consumers tried to navigate their way through this situation.

    In India, only the digital sector saw strong growth during the pandemic as it became the second biggest channel in terms of overall ad spending. Southeast Asia accounted for around 70% of all digital ad spending on mobile. As digital platforms were the only avenue for consumers and brands to advertise, they quickly gained popularity.

    Brands created unconventional ads to appeal to customers even though the product prices were relatively low. However, in the early months of 2021, there was a steady rise in prices going back to their pre-pandemic levels.

    As new users were rapidly being added to the Southeast Asia market, it influenced the rates of products. Simultaneously, newly developed apps quickly became popular among consumers, like short-form video apps in tier-II cities in India. The entire programmatic ecosystem with its diversity and scale was able to ensure that the competition among apps did not severely impact the cost for advertisers.

    Today, the demand for apps and products has become very diverse. Apps have started branding themselves in addition to focusing on sales. They are also targeting tier-II and tier-II city markets to increase awareness about apps and their functionality.

    The focus of apps also has shifted in terms of their vastly different audiences. So far, there has been a balance between all various apps in a growing market like Southeast Asia. In the future too, there will be competition. But the market will continue to hold the prices in place.
  • Using data to personalize customer engagement: Almost all apps use location to give more personalized service to their customers. Brands are increasingly using location and dynamic creatives for engaging location-specific ad deliveries to enhance customer experience.

    Even though using data delivers personalized engagement to the customer, it is essential to ensure complete privacy. There must be a context to why an app is asking for location. If access to the location can increase convenience for the customer, then it can be a good tool to use.

    Consumers loathe ads that are irrelevant and fail to resonate with them. Using location to show location-specific ads that provide updates on major events in the surroundings, might be preferred more by users. Brands can also use this data to make engaging ads and specially curated content for their users specifically for the festive season.
  • Importance of consumer intelligence: In Southeast Asia, some brands still choose a traditional method of operation, and other brands have adopted the digital approach. These brands are available online in a user-friendly manner. Their apps have heaps of consumer data, and they can derive insights from it to optimize their performance.

    However, once a customer exits a specific app, brands can't analyze what the customer does outside the app. Many consumers use multiple similar retail apps simultaneously. Therefore, there is a need to analyze real-time consumer intelligence.

    By analyzing factors, such as consumer insights, brand perception, and consumer preferences, brands can build comprehensive strategies to drive app downloads and product sales. 

Recommendations for Apps to Better Drive Engagement During the Festive Season

The digital marketplace requires meticulous planning. Every year around the festive season, consumers look towards online platforms as a reliable place for offers and discounts on goods and services they want to buy. 

However, holiday shopping largely remains an unplanned activity. consumers don’t particularly decide what to buy. They prefer practical things that have good deals on them. This gives brands a tremendous scope to influence consumers to keep shopping. 

The primary reason behind online holiday shopping is the increased access to mobile and internet, and growing comfort with online channels and modes of payment.

Therefore, brands need to focus on capturing the customers’ attention through interactive smartphones as consumers are becoming more aware of the functionality of their devices. Brands should tap into the exact demands of consumers. 

This requires planning, as well as agility. Brands must focus on becoming adaptable and focus on their operational aspects due to the uncertainty of an impending pandemic wave. The strategies that brands are planning to implement should be mindful of the current global situation and avoid being tone-deaf with communication.

To get all the detailed insights, download our latest 2021 Festive Season Guide for App Marketers today.

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