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As the 11.11 shopping festival, formerly known as Singles' Day, marks its 10th anniversary this year, Lazada believes mobile penetration in Southeast Asia can move at a fast pace like China, as the region and the world’s most populous country share several similarities.

One such similarity is people in these two places are getting more fixated with their mobile phones because almost everything is carried out on mobile applications now. According to eMarketer, adults in China will spend 2 hours, 39 minutes a day on mobile devices in 2018, which will account for 41.6% of their daily media time.

It is therefore not surprising to enter any metro stations in any city in China and be greeted with announcements in English and Mandarin, urging commuters not to be fixated with looking at their phones while walking.

This fixation has been labelled the ‘lowered heads culture’ by the Alibaba-owned platform, as it attempts to increase the time mobile users spend on its platforms while trying to prevent shoppers’ fatigue.

According to Jing Yin, the group co-president at Lazada Group, in the last year, Lazada contributed about 470 million in terms of the size of users in the e-commerce space in China.

He notes that the trend in China has been interesting because the past years had been about the ‘superapp’ culture, a term used to describe apps like WeChat that allow people to do a lot of tasks, as well as communicate. In recent years, however, he observes the trend in China has become more fragmented because of the emergence of multiple apps.

“People are getting more involved with multiple and different apps,” he tells The Drum on the sidelines of Lazada’s 11.11 launch for 2018. “It went from solely shopping on Taobao alone to live streaming on Taobao, finding out the latest trends in fashion etc. It really serves a different purpose in terms of Lowered Heads Culture.”

“In addition to that, new forms of apps have popped up like live streaming with a lot of short films and videos. These are the newly introduced concepts that are quite popular with Internet-savvy youngsters.”

Shake and Slash

Jing believes that multiple apps, combined with social media, will help increase the rate of mobile penetration in SEA, where there is a population of over 600 million in the region, but only 50% Internet users.

That is why Lazada has introduced features on its app like ‘Slash It’, where consumers can invite their friends to help ‘slash’ prices and ‘Shake It’, where they can shake their mobile phones to win Lazada vouchers and discount codes.

Since its introduction in September this year for its 9.9 shopping festival, Lazada claims three million users have used ‘Slash it’. It says it has been used to the equivalent of 67m calories burned when consumers use ‘Shake it’, or 84 full marathons, while it has also shipped out enough parcels to be as tall as Mount Everest.

“The way of approaching this is through innovation. At Lazada, we feel e-commerce is not just transactional, but also about 'lowered heads culture', where people spend a lot more time on mobile apps than on computers,” says Jing, who is also vice president and technical advisor to Alibaba’s chief executive Daniel Zhang.

“That means people tend to get bored much faster when they are using apps than computers. So with the innovations we have, we also need anything that can improve the engagement of the consumers, we need to have the right content.”

“It is not only about gamification, but how you combine the gamification with the core competencies of our apps. It is about the assortments, the benefits, as well as the consumers and sellers' engagement.”

Lazada will bring back ‘Shake it’ and ‘Slash it’ for 11.11 this year, as well as introduce ‘Wonderland’, an interactive map that allows shoppers to discover 11.11 deals from various brands, as well as win special Lazada or store vouchers for their purchases. In addition, it says shoppers will get 50m deals from over 400,000 sellers and brands.

Jing is confident that the number of users for ‘Shake it’ and ‘Slash it’ will grow again because they are still new tools. He adds that Lazada has learned from insights gathered from 9.9 with the apps, which is why it has introduced ‘Wonderland’, as well as more choice. 

“How do we combine the fun part of gamification and the benefit of the right assortments for the consumers to get engaged? This a perpetual effort from us and this will not be the end,” he explains. “This will not be the last engagement theme that we are introducing to our consumers and there will be more to come.”

Future of 11.11

The theme of Lazada’s 11.11 this year is that the Southeast Asia region is just the beginning. Reiterating his point on the mobile penetration and the level of engagement that Lazada has in China and SEA, Jing says there is a lot more the platform can offer.

He does note that the trends seen the in growth in China a decade ago will not fit today's, Southeast Asia. Instead, Jing predicts the next decade will see new ideas coming from SEA leaders, leveraging on the brainpower and technology efforts in the region.

“We never want to do adopt a copy and paste strategy, but we want to empower the locals and introduce new ideas with the new tools that we have developed, which is tailor-made for communities in this region,” he explains, in reference to what Alibaba is doing in China.

“We will see more innovation and creative collaboration, whether online or offline, deeper penetration from cities to countries, cross-country collaboration and more enhanced technology experience for our consumers.”

With innovation at its core, regardless of 9.9, 10.10 or 11.11, Lazada will have no problems enticing consumers in SEA to adopt a 'lowered head culture'.