1. Let’s talk cross-border shipping

One of the common misconceptions, when brands look to enter the APAC region, is that they need to have multi-currency/multi-language/global shopping from day one. Brands worry about the cost involved in building this so perhaps put any plans or ideas on the shelf because of it. The reality though is very different.  

If you are a brand or e-commerce business already operating in Europe or the USA there is a good chance that you’ve already got sales coming from APAC without even trying. The reason I know this is because it happened to us after launching in the USA; we saw more and more traffic coming from China and quite a few countries around the world and we learnt that customers from these regions want to buy western goods and do a lot of research around finding the best prices, this is especially prevalent in fashion, beauty and nutrition products. 

At the time we hadn’t even considered or thought about cross-border shipping but we saw this as a great opportunity and it’s grown so much that we now have a fully fledged. CN site and a growing international team that send out offers not only to our China business but other territories where we’re seeing this kind of behaviour.  

So let’s look specifically at the challenges you might be worried about:

  • Delivery – you don’t need to deliver to APAC regions.  Sure, it helps – but there are a growing number of sites such as Borderlinx, MyUS and others that provide a USA shipping address. often this is prefered by customers as it lets them order from multiple stores and get their delivery in one go, rather than having to pay lots of different fees.
  • Multi-currency – cross-border shipping customers are not concerned about paying in dollars, pounds and Euros. Most will have a credit/debit card that allows them to purchase from international stores. The only thing I would consider is how stringent your rules are around the delivery address and registered card address is the same – you obviously don’t want to make it relaxed to the point where you will get fraudulent sales but being over-cautious is an area that might stop you from being able to benefit from this market.
  • Multi-language – again this isn’t really needed for cross-border shoppers as they are already used to shopping via English language stores.  

So overall my advice would be to look at see if you’re already getting traffic and sales from APAC and if you are, start working with some publishers with sites in this region without making big changes to your business and if you start to see the sales grow then this will help perhaps prioritise changes that can be made further down the line.

2. Consider your reseller approach

One thing we do see a lot more in the APAC region is reseller activity which is often customers buying very large value bulk orders.  There are two main reasons why you might see this:

  • There are large buying groups where people club together to save on costs. In China, for example, you see WeChat groups dedicated to it. These are legitimate customers and sales and should be encouraged.
  • Often products purchased from the USA or Europe are not available in some of the APAC regions so it’s not uncommon to see products purchased and then sold on some of the 3rd party marketplaces like T-Mall, eBay, Amazon, etc.

It’s important to have an awareness that bulk-buying or reseller activity does occur and often this can go via publishers so you should think about the right approach.  From my perspective as long as you’re not making a loss on these products a sale is still a sale so whilst some advertisers have put some restrictions in place around these, we’d typically advise against it as if the product is available from other stores then the resellers or bulk-buyers will just go elsewhere.  Just make sure that your policy on it is very clear to customers and publishers – be transparent and honest and don’t just cancel sales without having a policy in place.  

3. Know that every market in APAC is very different

It’s important to know that the markets in APAC are very different – let’s look at social media to give the clearest example of this:

In its recent earnings report, Facebook identified their user numbers across APAC which produce some interesting results when you compare these against the internet users in those countries:


Source:  E-consultancy 

If we ignore the fact that the results above are slightly wrong (can’t see how 132% of internet users use Facebook in Indonesia) it does highlight that some markets have very different platforms which you need to consider. If you’re entering China then you really need to think about WeChat, if you’re looking at Japan you should be thinking about LINE to use two examples…and even then it’s not always easy to get access; only recently WeChat allowed foreign entities to setup WeChat accounts and this is very much on their terms as you have to go via an agency and there is every chance that it will get rejected.

Outside of social media, you should also consider the dominance of Marketplaces in APAC.  85% of all e-commerce sales in the first half of 2018 in China were via a marketplace like T-Mall.  In Japan, the biggest marketplace in Japan, with 98.7m active users according to Marketplace Pulse.

4. The affiliate networks

The race is now well and truly on in APAC to become the next big network!   It’s going to be a fascinating journey.  So who are the main players?

Awin – Awin is dominant in Europe but doesn’t really have a presence in Asia yet. They did, however, sign a strategic partnership with Commission Factory – a well-established affiliate network based in Australia who has also recently opened a Singapore office.  Surely it’s only a matter of time before that partnership turns into Awin buying them out and launching their brand out there.

Optimise – Optimise (formally OMG) saw the potential in Asia a long time ago and have a presence across Indonesia, Australia, Hong Kong, India and Singapore. They have a lot of campaigns and have been working.

Webgains – If you follow CEO Richard Dennys on Instagram you’ll see he’s been flying all over Asia and the company are going big out there, although to date the big wins seem to be getting some of the APAC brands into Europe and as of yet (as far as I am aware) they don’t have an office in the region yet. 

Rakuten Marketing – Rakuten Marketing is already well established in Asia.  They have offices all over the place (the office in Singapore is lovely from what I hear) and I believe are the biggest network in Australia and perhaps all of APAC right now.  Whilst they are one of the biggest networks in the USA and have some good UK wins recently it will be interesting to see with other players entering the market if they can continue to be the market leader. 

Other than those listed above, the SaaS platforms (who don’t like to be called networks), Impact and Partnerize are also well established out there and you’ve also got the dark horses like admitad (who I admit to knowing very little about) who seem to be going for it. Can’t wait to see what the market is looking like in a few years time.

5. Mobile first is important

If there is one market where you need to have a mobile first approach then it’s the APAC region.  Whilst adaption and coverage is different per country e-commerce sales across mobile are growing at a steady rate as the chart below shows:

I was on a panel recently with Shopback (an Asia cashback site) and their founder was saying that the vast majority of their sales are coming via a mobile device.   

One area of affiliate marketing that has never really been cracked is tracking sales all the way through to mobile apps – Button has emerged as an option for retailers, Google seems to be finding ways of doing it too and a bunch of networks and SaaS platforms have SDKs, but it’s still such a small portion of the market. I would bet that in APAC, this will start to change as more users interact with mobile apps than in other parts of the world;  Button has also been expanding in this region so it wouldn’t surprise me if they become a big player out there.  

The other important thing to think about for retailers is in-store sales and how to track these.  Become of the heat and humidity in areas of Asia, Malls are a big thing as they offer great aircon and a level of comfort for locals. In Singapore for example, a relatively small country, there are 103 Malls, that’s one mall for every 53,000 people! There are already a number of players offering in-store tracking for publishers so if you are going to launch a store out there it’s something to put on the list of considerations.

And that’s a wrap – would love to read some comments from readers about their experience and challenges