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Chatbots critical for beauty brands in South East Asia’s ‘social commerce’ environment

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Chatbots critical for beauty brands in South East Asia’s ‘social commerce’ environment
Chatbots inside messenger apps have been described as the ‘must have’ innovation for brands wanting to drive sales within South East Asia’s burgeoning ‘social commerce’ economy.

Chatbots, powered by artificial intelligence, are able to give consumers information, recommendations and answer queries in any language, said Prantik Mazumdar from Happy Marketer.

Speaking at In-Cosmetics Asia in Bangkok, he said it was vital beauty brands kept up with the changing technology tastes of consumers across the region.

Evolution in region

“Thailand and South East Asia have gone through massive change in recent years,”​ he said. “Bangkok is now Facebook's largest city and there are over 27m active users in Thailand."

“The region has 60% smartphone penetration, while there are already 150 million people searching for products online out of the 450 million total population.”

Of that 150 million, 100 million are already thought to be making purchases online. “Digital is not just a place where we hang-out, It’s where we make purchases. And it’s primarily through mobile,”​ he said.

“Much of South East Asia did not have the luxury of having desktops for decades, especially outside of the capitals. They went straight to mobile.”

Social media development

He said chatbots were best deployed through social messaging apps such as Facebook messenger, Line, WeChat and WhatsApp.

“In South East Asia credit card use is still low, and many people engage in social commerce. They speak with people online and then make a purchase offline."

“Chatbots give beauty brands the chance to be part of these conversations,”​ he said.

According to data from Facebook, 79% of beauty buyers in the region look at user reviews before buying a brand; 73% looking at pricing; 55% search for more detailed product information and 54% seek to assess if a particular product is right for their skin type.

“This shows it is a very knowledgeable market,”​ said Mazumdar. “You cannot just assume this market is only about pricing and affordability.”

Need to knows

He said he was increasingly advising brands not to develop their own apps, but expand their offerings, including chatbots, through messaging apps.

He said more than 50% of people had not downloaded a new app for two years, and for those who did, 77% were deleted or lay dormant after just a couple of months.

“Yet with messaging apps, everything can happen, including transactions,”​ he said. “In China, most brands don’t even have a website. Everything occurs inside Wechat.”

Global monthly active users for the top for messaging apps – facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Line and WeChat - is now higher than the total number of monthly active users for the top four social
media platforms, namely Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

“And average messenger open rates are 80%, compared to 20% for emails. So chatbots on these have massive reach and engagement power, and can help solve the customer experience challenge.”

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