The Cream of Asia’s Digital Marketers Gather in HK

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I really enjoyed moderating three tables of client-side marketers on the topic “eCommerce and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)” at eConsultancy’s Digital Cream 2013 which was last Thursday in HK for the first time.

Most marketers fail to see the importance of optimising their web, mobile and tablet assets. They would rather spend their budgets on driving traffic. As one marketer put it  – “improving website conversion is more complicated than spending more with Google…

The topic of CRO attracted an audience mostly made up of highly sophisticated modern Marketers who work for prominent eTailers, luxury, sports and socially active brands. These marketers were looking for latest insights and potential solutions but there a few marketers who were yet to focus on CRO and wanted to learn more – specifically about ways to track performance to streamline success across the various customer channels to maximize impact their online budgets.


Here are my notes from the three roundtable sessions:

Ecommerce in Hong Kong

  • “When will eCommerce take off in HK?” For many years HK marketers have used the term “ROPO” – research online, purchase offline. The HK shopping culture and convenience of physical stores be located nearby hindered purchases to be completed online. All three sessions reinforced the view that we are seeing significant changes in local HK purchase behavior favouring online purchases especially for repeat purchases. Nespresso, wine and baby products were highlighted as HK success stories.
  • Ecommerce in China/ Taiwan was seen as more mature – as these markets have injected investment in UX to design very easy-to-use web and mobile interfaces but also built state-of-the-art logistics and payment infrastructures to support eCommerce. In addition, these markets promote customer guarantees for purchases (goods are of high quality / no fakes) and specific delivery times – these factors together encourage ecommerce to be straightforward, simple and shopping with confidence.
  • Omni-channel marketing is a must: As consumers move from “online purchasing” to “online shopping” – online conversion rates have declined.  The challenge for marketers today is how to track across the various customer channels (both digital and offline). Some marketers have used QRcodes, eCoupons and promotional numbers to attribute online performance with in-store sales. People like to research and browse online and then visit physical stores for purchases. Some brands use incentives for their retail staff to complete online purchases so to overcome any channel conflicts and record the impact of their digital channels.
  • So why buy online? Provide better service, more personalisation, make limited editions available only online, price competitive but not create a price war, value through group buying…
  • Best practice: Amazon, in US,  seen as disrupting by offering consumers the simplicity of taking a picture of any product, anywhere, browsing reviews, ability to find the cheapest price, purchase it, and get it shipped to any address – with a few clicks and minutes
  • Online shopping platforms vs owned eCommerce sites: Some marketers use TMall  (Alibaba’s popular China virtual shopping mall on Taobao)- While TMall is a good platform for mass-selling,  the limited control on the customer experience and access to in-depth customer data means its not suitable for luxury sales. Luxury marketers prefer to set up their own estores and use social media to create buzz and traffic them.

Smartphones & Tablets: The catalyst for behaviour change

  • Smartphones have changed the world and behavior. Asia is no different. These devices are always on and with your customers – the challenge is how to enable commerce and exchange data.
  • Most companies are creating specific apps and designed websites from tablets.
  • Some brands are developing rich content for tablets that will be offered to customers at cost.
  • Tablet fitting room experiences are enabling consumers to browse for content and fashion but drives these more informed, ready-to-buy customers into stores for final trial and purchase. eCommerce was argued for simple item purchases and perfect for repurchases.

CRO Defined

  • Conversion Rate Optimisation was described as “ the process of increasing website leads and sales without spending money on attracting more visitors by monitoring which headlines, images and content help one convert more visitors into customers”.
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) wasn’t only seen as important for Ecommerce and transactional sites. One marketer stated that “Every site should have clear conversion paths to marketing outcomes which contribute to the business.”

Conversion Methods

  • Most marketers are using A/B testing to improve conversion but few marketers are yet to invest in better segmentation, multivariate testing and usability testing.
  • Multivariate testing was seen as very difficult to do in Asia. With the diverse languages and cultures in Asia – there are too many variables to test.

Challenges for Optimisation

  • There needs to be a business case for optimisation.
  • Whilst it is ideal to have one segmentation model across on and off line but very hard to execute. All agreed that if a customer shops with you on and offline – they are more loyal and profitable customers.
  • Online purchase behaviour does differ in and across Asia. You can’t simply implement what has worked when optimizing  with western audiences. One marketer even holds “east/west breakfasts” with internal stakeholders (regional and global people) to share their Asian customer insights and numbers. One insight of the differences – Western optimization success highlights the value of single page designs for purchase but in China, people prefer multiple steps and don’t trust a simple page for checkout.
  • Less than 10% had a structured approach to CRO with someone directly responsible for CRO. CRO needs to become
  • Challenge for getting POS data. Some use eCoupons but need a unique promo code for download and incentive for frontline staff to input this code for matching purposes. QR codes still require education of the general HK public for mass adoption.
  • Costs for multivariate testing was also seen as an issue – creatives costs were seen as expensive, but you also require many versions as local media sites are yet to adopt any IAB ad standards across the region so marketers require many formats and sizes for a single campaign.

Tips for Better Conversion

  • Use customer personas to get internal stakeholders and sales forces to become customer focused. A simple and effective approach but few marketers had implemented.
  • Invest in Usability testing and UX – it’s a real opportunity to improve the ease of use and simplicity of HK web and digital interfaces
  • Get the “buy buttons” as close to customer as possible – use Search keywords to present relevant landing pages.
  • Use Facebook as eCommerce partner.
  • Develop category lifestyle content to create brand presence on related customer searches
  • A/B test subject lines for email and ad copy
  • Email is still very effective for regular contact and conversation – we miss you and abandon cart emails.
  • Some brand have online only products – so no conflict with retail outlets
  • Bring frontline staff into social media – empower them to have a voice and have conversations with your customers
  • Include incentives when applicable – “discount eCoupons do improve conversions and allow customer tracking across channels”
  • Live chat is effective to close deals and especially at checkout – helps to overcome obstacles and provide confidence to purchase.
  • Adobe social – new social platform that allows for better targeting and personalization of content.
  • Copy and translation services is critical for online as brands need to create personality and conversations with their customers. Hard to translate brands across cultures and languages. Make sure you get the right tone of your customer communications.
  • Leverage the rich customer data available with digital and social media. WeChat provides marketers with great information on users.
  • Too much data – social tracking of campaigns, multiple customer databases. Some marketers allow for social login to get more rich data from the specific network
  • Amplify your business with Social – a celebrity wearing of an accessory or clothing item can make great immediate impact on sales – make sure your brand is retweets or publishes pictures on your website via instagram and pintrerest.


Useful Digital Marketing Resources

Keep up to date with latest trends and best practice.  Some marketers said a good way to stay ahead is to take out their agencies for some drinks to extract trends and ideas shaping digital commerce. Just remember to invite me to come along! Here’s my list as promised. Welcome your ideas of what sites provide great information.

Best websites on Digital Marketing – and well worth the subscription fees!

  • Econsultancy – enough said – a wealth of information and resources to dowload.
  • Smartinsights  – a UK site which is a great resource for digital marketers with plenty of cases and tools to use.

Best websites on Ecommerce and Digital Behaviour

  • Internet Retailer – A  great US site for online merchants
  • Digital Life – The largest global study into people’s attitudes and behaviours online. Great insights from TNS
  • Mobile Life – Mobile Life is an annual investigation from TNS designed to provide a deep understanding of today’s global mobile device consumers and the future impact of mobile. 34,000* interviews with mobile users across over 43 countries
  • Internet Retailing – UK portal and monthly magazine

 Best websites on Conversion optimisation

 Asian Best Practice 

  • Ecommerce: Taoboa, Amazon
  • Simple purchases: Nespresso – repeat purchases with next day delivery.
  • Asians love deals: Cathay’s fanfares and AMEX 40% off Tuesdays at specific restaurants
  • Integrated store experience: Starbuck’s intelligently use mobile data and integrate payment

Solutions/partners for optimisation

  • HeathwallaceUX Strategy  &  Digital Design. A HK based agency that delivers engaging digital experiences for global brands, creating user-centred solutions which align with strategic objectives & produce tangible results.
  • Click 2 Customers – Paid Search Optimisation – A paid search specialist agency that specialises in strategic paid search campaigns optimising traffic and specific site journeys to improve site sales.   C2C can conduct a FREE audit of your paid search.
  • Hybris – the top-rated E-Commerce software and multi-channel solution to help enterprises across the globe innovate faster and sell more. Easy to personalise content and experience fro specific segments. Integrates with most social media networks. Proves rich data for marketing and optimisation efforts.
  • SaleCycle – enables businesses to track and recover abandoned carts, by automatically retargeting customers who drop out part way through the checkout process.
  • Gigya and Janrain – tools that allow your business to create authentic, lasting relationships  by letting your customers tell
you who they are and how they want to engage – products for social login and sharing, social profile data, registration and single sign-on. social logic, rating/ reviews, and personalisation.

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