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As consumer preferences shift to online shopping and cashless transactions, businesses are adopting advanced payment solutions and sophisticated marketing strategies to stay competitive. Integrating secure, efficient payment systems with targeted, interactive marketing has become more essential for brands to thrive in the digital marketplace.

As part of the E-Commerce Marketing Interview series, MARKETECH APAC sat down with Dheeraj Raina, vice president and head of integrated marketing and communications for Southeast Asia at Mastercard. In this insightful discussion, Raina shares his insights on evolving consumer behaviours, emerging marketing trends, and key developments in the payments industry and e-commerce marketing in Southeast Asia.

Emerging marketing trends for the payments industry at SEA

Southeast Asia is a dynamic and diverse region, with commonalities as well as market nuances. For Raina, this means that marketing and consumer trends might be at different stages of evolution in each market.

Raina believes that one of the most significant trends in Southeast Asia is the rise of social commerce. 

“With consumers spending a significant amount of time on social media platforms, social commerce is not just a new shopping experience but a paradigm shift in how consumers interact with brands. This trend reflects a broader change in consumer behaviour, where social media becomes a primary channel for product discovery, brand engagement, and purchasing decisions,” he explained. 

At the same time, he noted how voice commerce is also gaining traction, driven by the increasing use of audio and voice technologies. 

“Although the penetration of these technologies varies across markets, early signs, particularly in Thailand, indicate a growing acceptance and usage of audio in commerce,” Raina added. 

Navigating fragmented markets and consumer trust issues

The SEA is a dynamic and burgeoning region. However, it also presents the e-commerce payments sector with a myriad of challenges to confront, including its evolving regulatory frameworks, diverse consumer behaviours, escalating cybersecurity threats, and the imperative to foster financial inclusion.

According to Raina, SEA is a highly fragmented region, with countries having different regulations for e-commerce and digital payments. 

“Different markets also have varying levels of trust in the security of digital payments. This can make it challenging for businesses to operate and expand in the region, as they need to adapt to all these market differences,” he further explained.

Raina also pointed out that a significant portion of the SEA population remains unbanked or underbanked. Therefore, providing e-commerce payment solutions that cater to this demographic can be challenging.

Lastly, he believes that as the usage and adoption of digital payments increase, so does the risk of cyber threats. And while fighting cybersecurity threats can be costly, he strongly advises businesses to invest in robust security measures to protect customer data and prevent fraud.

Opportunities for the e-commerce payments sector 

While marketers in SEA face certain challenges, they also have opportunities to thrive thanks to technological advancements. 

As Raina mentioned before, the rise of social commerce resulted in social media becoming the main channel for new product discovery. However, Raina stated that this is not the only opportunity in the payments industry this year. 

“We operate in a very dynamic industry and marketing landscape where agility and innovation will always be the keys. SEA is experiencing a rapid increase in internet and smartphone penetration, driving the growth of the digital economy. This means that we are in a region where we could go in with a truly digital-first approach to our marketing,” he said. 

Among the promising opportunities Raina identified to be present this year in the e-commerce payments sector is the growing internet penetration and smartphone usage in SEA, which provides an excellent platform for mobile-based e-commerce payments solutions, with mobile wallets and payment apps able to reach a large number of customers.

Many SEA governments are also pushing for digitalisation and encouraging digital payments; together, Raina believes these initiatives can provide a boost to businesses in the e-commerce payments sector.

Furthermore, the growing middle class in SEA countries is another opportunity that should be taken note of. According to him, companies in the e-commerce and payments sectors should know how to capture this segment of the population that is more likely to shop online and use digital payment methods. 

Raina further emphasises that the emergence of AI, and particularly generative AI, has the potential to significantly transform marketing. 

“AI-powered chatbots can analyse data in a privacy-safe environment and help businesses identify customer trends and preferences. This enables businesses in e-commerce to provide more impactful personalised recommendations and targeted ads,” he stated. 

The role of AI in e-commerce payments

For Raina, emerging technologies, including AI, are expected to significantly influence the trajectory of e-commerce payments in several ways. To stay competitive, he advises businesses to invest in AI technology and integrate it into their e-commerce platforms.

“AI offers enhanced security. It can detect fraudulent transactions, reduce the risk of data breaches, and enhance the security of e-commerce payments by analysing spending patterns and user behaviour. This also helps reduce false declines, thereby improving the overall customer experience,” Raina explained. 

He goes on to discuss how AI can create more personalised experiences powered by real-time data processing.

“E-commerce businesses can harness AI to not only process and analyse large volumes of data, such as customer behaviour and purchase history, in real-time but also predict customer preferences and market trends. This enables them to make informed and strategic decisions about pricing, discounts, and sales, as well as provide more personalised and efficient shopping experiences, which will boost customer satisfaction and loyalty,” Raina stated. 

AI can also automate various payment processes, which Raina believes is crucial for streamlining operations and enhancing productivity.

“AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide 24/7 customer service, handling inquiries and issues related to payments, thereby enabling a seamless shopping and payment experience for consumers. Moreover, AI can help reduce errors in the payment process by automating data entry and other manual processes,” he added. 

Additionally, businesses can also leverage AI to enhance their e-commerce payment systems and stay at the forefront of the industry’s evolution. 

With the field of AI evolving rapidly, Raina suggests that businesses start investing in AI technology and integrating it into their e-commerce platforms. Employees must also be trained on how to use AI tools and technologies responsibly to improve efficiency and the customer experience.

While implementing AI, he also encourages e-commerce businesses to focus on improving the customer experience. 

Expounding more, Raina said, “By utilising AI-powered tools such as chatbots and biometric payments, e-commerce businesses can develop payment solutions that provide a more personalised, efficient, and seamless shopping experience for their customers. This helps drive repeat business, customer loyalty, and sales.”

Lastly, amid rising data privacy concerns, he believes implementing strong data security measures and adhering to data protection regulations are essential to gaining customer trust as AI technologies rapidly evolve. 

Raina explained, “A recent study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services with Mastercard found that 80% of Asia-based consumers saw information security and privacy as important. This suggests that businesses need to carefully consider data governance and management when looking to use data to improve the customer experience with AI-powered tools.” 

He added, “When AI is ethical, transparent, reliable, and beneficial, people trust it. At Mastercard, we know the only AI is responsible AI. Businesses that prioritise the protection of personal information will enhance their reputation as reliable guardians of customer data. As AI continues to be a key ingredient of the technology that we are using across marketing platforms, our own awareness and responsibility towards the use of AI will be paramount.”

Navigating the next chapter in payments and e-commerce marketing 

As Raina noted, there is a rising prominence of AI-powered marketing. AI empowers payment providers to gain a deeper understanding of customer engagement, enabling more personalised interactions that result in enhanced customer experience and long-term loyalty. Furthermore, AI streamlines consumer behaviour analysis and automates interactions between marketing and other departments to allow us marketers to make better decisions in real-time. 

He recommends that companies in the payment industry must learn how to leverage AI’s capabilities to their advantage. 

“Mastercard is leveraging AI to analyse the landscape, gauge consumer sentiment, and explore new product opportunities. This not only enhances the efficiency of successful products but also expedites time to market,” Raina stated. 

He added, “It is crucial for payment providers to move beyond ‘set it and forget it’ automation strategies and adopt a more collaborative approach between humans and AI to strengthen connections with consumers.” 

Furthermore, Raina emphasised that the expanding cross-border e-commerce landscape in SEA presents exciting new avenues for companies to market and sell their products and services internationally. This trend opens up a wealth of possibilities for businesses to reach new customers and expand their footprint across the region.

“The payments landscape in Southeast Asia is evolving rapidly, driven by digitalisation, consumer preferences, and regulatory changes. Marketers need to stay agile, understand local nuances, and create compelling narratives to capture this dynamic market,” Raina concluded. 

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شركة النمر هي شركة متخصصة في تصميم وادارة المواقع الالكترونية والارشفة وكتابة المحتوى والتسويق الالكتروني وتقدم العديد من خدمات حلول المواقع الالكترونية والتطبيقات وهي شركة رسمية ومسجلة منذ عام 2015.

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