Lazada CMO Michelle Yip on eCommerce with a splash of CRM

 Fairly new in her role as chief marketing officer, Michelle Yip (pictured) is no stranger to the eCommerce space. Prior to taking on a top role in the Alibaba-owned company, she was the executive vice president, platform governance and seller engagement with Lazada. She was then responsible for increasing seller quality and building seller communities and support ecosystems.

Yip has been with the Lazada since May 2015, first joining as regional category director - home category. She was the direct category lead for home appliances and home living category across Southeast Asia, and scaled her way up to senior vice president of customer experience a year later. Yip also forged partnerships with brands such as Tefal and 3M and brought the brands onboard the Lazada platform.

Speaking to Marketing exclusively previously, Yip said as the economy and consumers’ behaviours continue to evolve at breakneck speed, marketers need to constantly adapt and upskill to better cater to these changing dynamics. According to Yip, it has become essential for marketers to have a digital mindset and be able to understand and use data effectively to achieve the "best" marketing ROI for the business, while at the same time understanding what exactly can they bring to the table. 

In Marketing's The Futurist edition, Yip shares the challenges that lie ahead for eCommerce companies and an overhyped area of marketing.

Marketing: What role does marketing play in a tech-led company?

Yip: Consumer insights drive marketing plans, and in turn, a product road map. The marketing and technology teams have to work closely together now more than ever to ensure we develop product solutions that meet customer needs better. For instance, how can we provide a better user experience through a product that reduces path-of-discovery friction? How can we ensure less drop-out at the checkout by providing the relevant payment methods? How can we ensure the return process is seamless and easy? In the same vein, marketing works with the technology team at Lazada to build “shoppertainment” modules such as livestreaming and LazGames. With technology and data science capabilities, we can target consumers more accurately, reducing irrelevant messaging, and thus, reducing wastage.

The consumer, when targeted more accurately, is more likely to find value in the communication sent to them and respond favourably.

 

Marketing: Potential challenges eCommerce companies will face in the future

Yip: Rather than challenges, we should see the unserved or underserved areas as opportunities. Other than the customer lifecycle management and technology, logistics, payment and partner support are also areas which are noteworthy. Cash payments to e-wallets will be one of the pillars of eCommerce growth in the region. There is low penetration of online payments currently and an “underbanked” population (91% of people in SEA do not own a credit card). Meanwhile, 83% of first-time eCommerce buyers use cash on delivery as their payment method. With the increasing adoption of e-wallets, it will help to support eCommerce growth.

Additionally, eCommerce companies will see themselves helping brands and sellers scale to meet the rising demand by providing feasible solutions to drive traffic, underpinned by data intelligence. They will also help establish a robust IP protection; and providing seamless logistics solutions also remains a key area for eCommerce companies. Change is the only constant and it is the reason for advancement. Marketers have to be ready to adapt their strategies to meet these changes, while not losing sight of staying relevant to consumers. The eCommerce market size for Southeast Asia is set to be worth US$153 billion in 2025, 30 times of what it was in 2015. As international trade moves towards “parcelisation”, having a strong and robust logistics network will be key to serving consumers better. Today, Lazada handles the sorting of 75% of all parcels and 70% of last-mile coverage and is looking to increase that further.

Marketing: What do you think is an overhyped area of marketing?

Yip: The over reliance of data to guide actions. We are careful not to fall into the trap of using data without consideration of consumer insights, predictive consumer trends, and alignment with company priorities. That said, data plays a very important role in decision-making and must never be excluded, but should not be the only consideration. With data, it enables marketing automation which is great for simple, repetitive communication such as order-related communications and even some basic CRM routines. However, such automation should be implemented carefully, and with constant monitoring, to avoid coming across as impersonal and insincere.  

The article first appeared in the January-February edition of The Futurist edition.