It is no longer a surprise that B2C e-commerce is growing across Asia. Driven in part by the pandemic and restrictions on movement, browsing for products and making purchases online has increased in accessibility, usage, and ‘stickiness’.
At the same time, businesses were forced to rapidly adapt business models to cater to this rapid influx of digital consumers, with many expected to provide digital services almost overnight to cater to their customers’ evolved needs.
How does this draw parallels with social media influencers though?
We’re starting to see a rising number of social media influencers in Asia creating, launching and growing their own brands and products, going direct-to-consumer (or direct-to-follower in this case). These influencers are leveraging on their personal brands and follower affinity to create products that their follower base would be receptive to. Although taking an unconventional route to entrepreneurship, there are certain insights that can be gleaned by entrepreneurs and founders.
All aspects cater to a digital customer base
Although there is a common sentiment that influencers are “born” from the digital age, this is something that business owners should take note of: influencer brands are built with the digital customer in mind. From having an online portal where customers can visualize products, obtain product information and transact, to engaging with target customers through online means be it social media or online advertising channels.
Influencers know their most effective digital customer touchpoints and can build a brand presence that is complementary to this - be it shoppable content on social media, creating their own online shop, or placing their products on an e-commerce marketplace.
In fact, an influencer’s brand identity, product design, and customer touchpoints are all created based on what their followers (and in this case, potential customers) like and are expecting to see. If an influencer creates a brand that is in contrast to their target customers’ expectations, there will be confusion and in the worst-case scenario, they might lose followers.
For startups and businesses, it is common to build this from the opposite direction - creating brand identity, product design, and customer touchpoints based on the perceived reception from projected customer demographics. This is why it’s important to consistently reevaluate all this at the first 100, 1,000, and 10,000 customers, and yearly after that. This is to ensure that your business is constantly evolving and positioning itself for the customer.
Their business infrastructure is digital
Influencers do not have the abundance of resources compared to a business (similar to early-stage startups) - there are no specific teams for procurement, marketing, business development, sales, or manufacturing. Instead, they are tapping on cloud platforms and online software that can provide them with the infrastructure to run a borderless business across “departments”, online and offline channels, and even customer segments.
Finding a healthy balance between human resources and technology is critical, especially when it comes to scaling up the business. I believe that technology should be used to replace repetitive or mundane tasks, freeing up time for humans to innovate. That is why building a strong business infrastructure of technology and platforms, that can scale as the business grows, is critical from the early stage of a business and founders can then focus on acquiring the right human resources as the company grows.
Content and storytelling that resonates
From the get-go, influencers implement storytelling into their business. For example, an influencer who creates fitness content will not suddenly launch automotive products - instead, they are more likely to launch fitness products. This is a continuation of the story and personal brand that they have built, and they can then create content that incorporates their own products but still resonates with their audience.
It’s not too different to many founders of startups. They notice a gap that can be filled whilst working for a company, and build a startup to fill that gap. That is why it’s common to see someone working in the finance industry launching a fintech startup, or someone working as a software developer launching a startup for other developers. That is your story to tell, build on it.
Keeping an eye on what influencers are doing
Influencers may well become a new breed of entrepreneurs, and they are very familiar with connecting to and building for a customer (and follower) base that is mainly digital. There are many other lessons that can be learned from influencers creating, launching, and growing their own brands - and there may be even more lessons as this space matures. This is something for all of us to keep an eye on.
By Kosuke Sogo, CEO and co-founder of AnyMind Group
About AnyMind Group
Founded in April 2016, AnyMind Group is a brand enablement platform that provides individuals and businesses with solutions for brand building, manufacturing, e-commerce and marketing. To date, AnyMind Group has raised funding of US$62.3 million, from investors including (but not limited to) LINE, Mirai Creation Fund, VGI, Japan Post Capital and JAFCO Asia. AnyMind Group has over 800 staff across 17 offices in 13 markets, including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, Japan, India and the United Arab Emirates.