Dan Neary, Vice President of Meta, Asia Pacific shared the insights along with the conversations with businesses and creators in the region to see how these forces are shaping the social trends and helping businesses deepen the connection with their customers and communities.
At the start of 2021, we had just begun to register the seismic shifts set in motion by the first global pandemic of the digital age. At its end, we are all much more entrenched in a home-centric lifestyle, alternating with trips out into the real world when conditions permit us to do so.
This shift goes to show in our way of working as well. When it was possible to go into the office, many of us experimented with the much-discussed hybrid work model of combining remote work with a sprinkling of face time with colleagues in an actual office.
It has been a profound time of change for businesses of all sizes. They have had to draw up new ways of working and growing while staying connected with their customers. They’re seeking to enrich the experience of customers online by meeting them where they are and trying new formats and channels of communication.
Following our recently-launched content series “Ideas That Matter” where we talk to businesses from across the region to hear what’s working for them, we see the new opportunities that are created when social trends intersect with business. While many of these trends will take years to reach their full potential, it is clear that at least five of these trends will only grow in popularity in the near term:
1. Virtual and Augmented Reality: We recently announced that we have changed our company name to Meta, and shared our vision for the metaverse. This is because we are really starting to see a behavioral shift in consumers and the technology that supports it. While many aspects of the metaverse will take shape over many years, we are seeing applications for AR/VR becoming mainstream, everything from trying clothes and shoes virtually before you buy them to working remotely in a virtual space. According to Facebook IQ: New dimensions of connection report (June 4, 2021), globally, 78% of people said AR is a fun way to interact with brands, and 74% believe AR can bridge the gap between online and offline. Eugene Soh, an augmented reality Singapore-based artist who is the founder of Dude Studios created an Instagram AR filter based on the Red Light, Green Light game from Squid Game. “It went viral and hit 1 billion impressions in two weeks. Those are just numbers but the reality is that people were messaging me from all over the world asking me questions about the filter in so many different languages. It’s when I realized this filter has really gone international.
The takeaway is that businesses are becoming aware of the immense potential of AR/VR to enhance the customer experience.
2. Social Commerce: We’ve said this before but it bears repeating. Business is turning out to be more social than we thought. People discover products they love through their friend’s feeds. A corollary of this discovery is the expectation that they can message a business just as they would a friend. Being a message-able business can mean the difference between growth and stagnation. Take the story of Bouapha Shop – a well-known local cosmetic store in Laos. Since the outbreaks of Covid-19 in the country, it hit the businesses hard including her physical store. Over 50% of her customers have dropped in a few months, this forced her to temporarily close down her physical store due to the Vientiane lockdown in 2020. Mrs. Bouapha adapted her strategy to focus more on online business, particularly through her Facebook business page. She started to post her products, promotions and hold FB Live on the page more often to engage the customers. Eventually, she found that it is worth doing since it boosted her sales and business growth, as well as her page, becoming more popular among communities day by day, shown by the increasing number of followers and engagements when holding FB Live.
3. Mega Sale Days: Increasingly, these events are fusing entertainment and shopping – and continuing to grow in our region. I spoke with Sapna Nemani, Chief Product and Solutions Officer, APAC, Publicis Groupe who identified three key takeaways for this trend. One is that Mega Sale Days are becoming the point of entry for a lot of first-time online shoppers. Two, it’s not just about discounts anymore, people are choosing brands for the equity and what they stand for in people’s minds and lastly, the entire consumer journey is becoming a lot more social and experiential in nature. So her advice to clients is to plan ahead for the entire period and not just the sales day. And because it’s not just about discounts, it’s important to establish brand equity. This can only happen by thinking carefully about the relevant touchpoints to fuel social discovery.
4. Creators: As the pandemic raged, people had to stay home and find ways to entertain themselves over long periods of time. Naturally, home-based content surged across a range of topics and formats: cooking tutorials, family entertainment fitness hacks, and yes, even business and finance creators. According to AnyMind research, the numbers of macro-influencers (100,000 to 1 million followers) across the region grew by 66 percent over 2021 – particularly in Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. According to CB Insights, the global creator economy has seen a record $1.3 billion in funding in 2021 alone, nearly three times what it received in 2020. Creators are a new and more diverse form of media. They are becoming brands in their own right and are driving engagement levels that make them powerful retail channels too. So in 2022, we’re definitely going to see more brands co-creating products or sub-brands with creators.
5. Video: Digital video viewers in Asia Pacific will exceed 2 billion by 2022, a year earlier than previously projected, according to eMarketer. On our platforms, video is becoming the primary way that people use our products and express themselves. When you look at all forms of video, short-form video like Reels is growing especially quickly and is a primary driver of engagement growth on Instagram. So how should businesses respond? Figure out objectives – whether it is to build a brand or drive more immersive shopping experiences and go from there. From product tags that allow you to buy directly from video to trying on products before buying them using augmented reality – mobile video can allow for immersive experiences. Businesses now have lots of ways to reach people with video across Meta – from ads in Messenger, in-stream ads, and Instant Experiences – it’s an exciting space to explore.
Even as technology doesn’t stand still, one thing remains constant – people prefer interacting with businesses in ways that are human, personal, and seamless. This is why social trends will always have relevance for business.