The benefits of automation for e-commerce operations in South East Asia

Data-driven smart technology is enhancing the online shopping experience as consumer demand patterns continue to evolve across the region.

Automation has not always been top of mind when planning a business expansion in emerging South East Asian markets, such as Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam. That is usually because labor costs are comparatively low compared to the investment costs associated with technology and infrastructure.

However, the rapid expansion of e-commerce is transforming investor mindsets. Automation is more than a cost-saving lever, it is a key enabler of speed and precision, and helps deliver the customized online shopping experiences that consumers now expect.

Leveraging Online Sales Festivals

The benefits of automation are especially evident during a “peak operations” scenario, such as Singles’ Day, Asia’s biggest e-commerce sales promotion. Driven by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, this yearly November 11 (or 11/11) event is now a major online shopping celebration across South East Asia.

Regional marketplaces have also followed the direction from Alibaba and are creating their own year-end promotional events. For example, Lazada has introduced the December 12 (or 12/12) online sales festival. During such high-profile events, e-commerce orders can surge by up to 10 times the average daily volume. 

Online shopping festivals are the ultimate e-commerce operations stress test – whereby seamless data integration and intelligent process automation can deliver critical advantage. Optimizing the following six capabilities along the e-commerce value chain has proven to be highly effective:

Use online browsing and purchasing history to provide personalized digital content that targets and re-targets shoppers throughout the online shopping journey. By leveraging re-targeting enabled channels such as social media, display media, messaging apps and e-mail, sellers can automate and tailor content to individual shopper needs.

The business benefit: Encourage consumer behaviors and shopping journey participation carefully tailored to the brand experience.

No matter how many marketplaces or e-retailers are being served, the entire process is managed in one place. Inventory is dynamically allocated based on fluctuating demand and price, and promotions and merchandising can be automatically adjusted to adapt to changing scenarios.

The business benefit: Provide a consistent brand experience, maximize sales based on real-time demand – and minimize the administrative workload.

Once a consumer places an order on a marketplace front-end through to issuing a consignment note and invoice on the delivery back-end, all processes are seamlessly managed in sequence, as the key information is transferred along the value chain.   

The business benefit: This can be a service differentiator for ensuring same- or next-day delivery, in addition to making significant resource savings.

Online shoppers create a sizeable data footprint when visiting an e-commerce store. Combining historic shopper data with predictive patterns will ensure targeted products are available for each consumer at all times.

The business benefit: Maximize product availability, while keeping inventory costs at a minimum.

Pre-calculated optimal workflows for employees, slot allocations for products and automated document handling – plus robotic handling equipment – significantly increase process efficiencies. Similarly, automatic allocation to the most suitable last-mile carrier optimizes time and cost. This is highly relevant in the complex logistics ecosystems across and within South East Asian markets.

The business benefit: Optimize service and delivery, especially in locations where challenging logistics comprise a significant proportion of the costs.

Customer care can make the crucial difference in the shopping experience, particularly in a complex last-mile ecosystem. Smart automation instantly creates relevant solutions, while always being up-to-date on the latest interaction point. Adding extra value, automated customer care solutions, such as chat-bots, respond immediately in real time to shopper requests.

The business benefit: Increase sales conversion and improve customer satisfaction.

In order to achieve an integrated level of automation, brands should develop a partnership eco-system, and collaborate closely with each partner to create new data standards and information sharing policies.

In this way specialized merchants, sellers, technology and logistics providers and end-to-end service providers can integrate with marketplaces to deliver the seamless online shopping experience that ensures consumers will return… again and again.