However, before marketers dive in, they need to understand the dynamics of fielding and managing partnerships in this amazingly diverse region.

Here are seven must-knows that you should take into consideration before taking the plunge. 

1. The South East Asia e-commerce market is booming

To best understand the SEA market, it’s important to understand its remarkable growth dynamics. According to a study from Google and Temasek, e-commerce sales in the region are expected to grow from $10.9 billion in 2017 to $88.1 billion in 2025 an annual growth rate of 33%.

Separate from this, the size of the ride-hailing economy is expected to grow from $5.1 billion in 2017 to $20.1 billion in 2025, a 23% annual growth rate. In total, 330 million people have access to the web, growing at 13% a year. More than 90 percent of that internet access is via mobile devices. 

2. The region is heterogeneous

The six leading economies in the region — Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — are remarkably diverse. For example, household incomes in Singapore are 13 times higher than those in Vietnam. But like in many regions of Asia, the distribution of wealth is more important than the averages.

Each of the largest SEA economies contains millions of shoppers. Traditionally, many of the countries in the region have had protectionist economic policies, but that is slowly changing.

Finally, cash-on-delivery purchases remain common in some countries, so you need a plan to address the mix of payment methods that are preferred in each market.

3. Large players dominate e-commerce

Some of the names you’ll know, and some you may not. But one salient characteristic of the SEA e-commerce market is that it is dominated by a relatively small number of “unicorn” players.

Amazon and Alibaba are there in a big way, but so too are Go-Jek, Grab, Lazada, 11Street, Bukalapak, Shopee, Traveloka and Tokopedia. These companies have been backed with billions in U.S., Chinese and SEA investment, and they tend to dominate across many countries, although the strongest players vary by country. 

4. SEA customers are price conscious

The numbers of wealthy and middle-class people are growing rapidly in the region. But while some nations in the region are quite prosperous, getting the best value possible matters to most consumers there regardless of their incomes.

Basket sizes versus those in Western economies really run the gamut. Price comparison sites and apps are extremely popular. Even for luxury goods, there’s a strong market impulse to get a great deal. Additionally, in many countries, people are quickly picking up the coupon habit.

That said, this a value-oriented region. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need the rock-bottom category price to succeed, but you do need to give the consumer pricing and offers that deliver them a sense of great value. 

5. The “Rules” of partnership are changing fast

As in many markets, the first movers in this region needed to accept unpleasantness like non-transparent networks. But that is changing fast. Today, partner and affiliate marketers should expect the same level of transparency and data granularity as in other regions. The key is to identify the right technologies to enable these elements and demand better from partners that don’t yet deliver on these critical dimensions. 

6. Think through your partner payments plan

Partners want to get paid on time. When you make them wait beyond the contractual terms, you can quickly sour what could have been very profitable collaborations. Banking across international lines can be complicated, so you need to ensure that you have a way to pay partners and a great fulfilment system.

Some countries require in-country financial entities, and different partners will want payments in different currencies. As you make plans to capitalize on this set of markets, make sure your payment mechanisms can handle the rules and preferences in each country. 

7. There’s a partner marketing talent premium

As partner and affiliate marketing become more popular in the region, the demand for experts in the field has mushroomed. Experts agree that the demand has grown far faster than the supply. And yet, having “boots on the ground” to set strategies is important in a region where laws and banking rules differ. A client recently told me, “You have to hustle to get the great people, and then create roles and career paths to keep their talent inside your firm.” 

SEA is an incredibly exciting business opportunity, and partnerships are a great component of any strategy to capture business there. To make the most of these opportunities, just make sure you know the rules of the road.