Historically, many Asian markets have been regarded as being ‘behind’ Western ones when it comes to internet and technology adoption. In 2017, only 55.8% of the Chinese population had used the internet, whereas 89% of UK adults had used the internet recently at the beginning of 2017.
Similarly, smartphone usage has historically been low in China compared to the UK (63.3% in 2017 for China compared to 85% in 2017 for the UK), despite the fact that the majority of smartphones are manufactured in Asia.
However, the number of Chinese internet users is rising dramatically. And China and the rest of Asia aren’t just making leaps forward when it comes to adoption – they’re setting new standards when it comes to integrated customer experiences.
Here are 3 lessons we can learn from developments in Asia and the Pacific region (APAC).
Lesson 1: Look for ways to integrate the customer experience
Chinese consumers now use the internet, specifically the app WeChat, to do pretty much everything in one place. In addition to the standard messaging, voice, and video calls that most social apps offer, WeChat is used to do everything from reading the news to giving gifts to applying for visas.
This fully integrated way of using the internet is in stark contrast to the West’s fragmented digital landscape. In fact, people who use WeChat are often surprised to see how ‘patchwork’ the West’s online experience is.
The reason China is racing ahead when it comes to integrated technology is simple: there’s a lack of competition, leading to higher user adoption of market leaders. While new apps and social networks and platforms emerge frequently in the West, competition is limited in China. And when it comes to digital payment methods – which make many of the features of WeChat possible – there are only 2 real options: Alipay and WeChat Pay, who own 93% of the market between them. These 2 payment systems are connected to numerous points of sale in China, both online and offline, meaning that many Chinese consumers now enjoy cashless purchasing for almost everything.
Lesson 2: Automate the customer experience in a focused way
Technology in APAC goes far beyond integration and digital payment. The region is also at the forefront of automation, particularly when it comes to chatbots.
WeChat has had a chatbot since 2013, long before Facebook Messenger bots or Slack tutorial bots. In Japan, chatbots are frequently used for customer loyalty programmes, while people in Taiwan mostly use chatbots for banking and financial services.
Now, they haven’t always gotten it right. Air New Zealand’s chatbot, Oscar, for example, was unable to answer basic questions about its loyalty programme and flights – so once the novelty wore off, customers soon disregarded the chatbot as a point of interaction. (Similarly, Facebook reports that its chatbots fail 70% of the time, proving that it’s not just APAC that’s struggling.)
This hasn’t stopped chatbot adoption, however. For example, Singapore’s OCBC Bank has been improving its chatbot Emma, and by limiting the scope to just dealing with customer queries on home and renovation loans, Emma has successfully converted around 10% of its 20,000 interactions into loan applications.
Lesson 3: Prioritise the customer experience
From integrated platforms to customer-centric chatbots, it’s clear that customer experience is at the heart of APAC business planning.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, 72% of APAC organisations view customer experience as an important priority, according to Fred Giron, speaking at Forrester’s 2017 CX Forum in Singapore. Citing research that polled 311 marketing decision-makers in the region, he said that 51% of organisations had adopted customer journey mapping.
APAC is now racing ahead – will you follow in their wake?
Based on APAC trends, it’s clear that 2 things are needed for successful user adoption of new customer experience technologies: integration (multiple features in one place) and focused goals (for example, limiting chatbots to maximise results).
As technology continues to progress, in the West and beyond, we must keep an eye on global trends and learn from all experiences if we wish to foster seamless, meaningful customer interactions.