AI, business messaging, cross-border shopping, virtual and augmented reality, creators, online shopping, and short-form video. Meta's APAC VP looks at what should brands focus on this year.
I usually start the year by sharing what I know with businesses about the social media trends intersecting with business across our platforms. Social networks, creators/influencers, friends and family are crucial in helping people discover and evaluate products and services in today's connected world.
Awareness of social trends is also helpful because running a business today is vastly different from how we ran businesses just three years ago. Digitisation continues relentlessly, and competitors can come from anywhere worldwide. According to the latest eMarketer report, nearly 60% of worldwide social network users will be based in Asia-Pacific in 2023. Even with just 2.7% growth, the region will add more users this year (over 59 million) than the rest of the world combined. So the potential to shape a brand online to connect with customers where they are is huge.
Especially now, with an impending global economic slowdown, this connection needs to be durable and efficient and help companies grow. Recessions may be notoriously hard to predict, but what we know for sure is that they don’t last forever. We also know that businesses most likely to gain an edge during a downturn are the ones who effectively leverage technology, adapt to change and focus on performance.
So let’s dive into the most promising social trends that businesses should be aware of and could leverage in 2023.
Artificial intelligence: Generative AI had a breakthrough at the end of last year. AI is becoming more mainstream as the technology continues to advance and its capabilities expand. As a result, a more comprehensive range of products and services are now incorporating AI, such as smart home devices, self-driving cars, and virtual assistants. The use of AI to analyse, organise, access, and provide advisory services based on a range of unstructured information will only grow. IDC (International Data Corporation) spending on AI systems in the Asia Pacific region will rise from $17.6 billion in 2022 to $32 billion in 2025. Businesses are looking for automation to improve customer experience and save time; think of augmented customer service agents to resolve support issues and intelligent automation to streamline complex and repetitive business tasks to support faster decision-making.
Business messaging: We’re living in a messaging-first world. In APAC, business messaging is growing across Australia, Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. A recent study with BCG showed that 1 in 3 consumers across APAC chat with businesses at least once a week. While smaller businesses have been using business messaging for years, large businesses now recognise business messaging as a critical component of their business model, with 7 in 10 large businesses surveyed rated business messaging as very/extremely important to their overall business.
Cross-border shopping: The world is getting smaller as technology makes it easier to shop from anywhere. People are so comfortable purchasing from other countries that cross-border e-commerce growth is now outpacing domestic e-commerce growth by 5 points. By 2026, it's estimated that the global cross-border e-commerce market will be worth USD 2.2 trillion – a compound annual growth rate of 17% since 2019. Meta worked with YouGov to survey over 16,000 shoppers across eight countries. Over half of those surveyed said they had already bought a product sold by a business in a foreign country, and 82% said they're open to doing so – which highlights the future potential of cross-border opportunities. Social media plays a disproportionately important role in the discovery, with 58% of cross-border shoppers surveyed saying that they found products from foreign businesses this way.
Virtual and augmented reality: Businesses have embraced AR/VR to enhance the customer experience. Enterprises are building creative and immersive ways to experience their brand. According to the IDC, spending on AR/VR in APAC will grow with a CAGR of 42.4% and reach $16.6 billion by 2026. AR ads enable businesses to deepen their connection with their customers and improve the overall ad experience.
Creators: Creators are the future. Interestingly, 51% of cross-border shoppers surveyed cited creators as a top source of information to discover and evaluate products. This allows brands to collaborate with creators to co-create a brand narrative. At the end of last year, we launched ‘Creators of Tomorrow’ - a global campaign to spotlight creators who are innovating and building community across our apps - you can look at the diverse voices here. There’s never been a better time for brands to explore collaborations and co-creations with diverse creators or even complementary brands. They say that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.
Online Shopping: Consumers are returning to physical stores, but the digital shopping habits formed during the pandemic remain relevant. Mobile as a discovery channel for Gen X and Baby Boomers continues to grow. A Nielsen study showed that 85% of APAC shoppers would continue to make purchases online, with Southeast Asian shoppers showing the highest online shopping intent at over 60%. Social commerce is the fastest-growing sales channel, with 62% of online shoppers in APAC citing it as their preferred channel.
Short-form video: Video continues its blistering growth across the internet and on our platforms. In APAC, video is becoming the primary way people use our products and express themselves.
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. It will be essential to tell your brand story through video of all formats and lengths to achieve outcomes from brand building to discovery. The upside is that businesses now have lots of ways to connect with people and build their brand through a variety of social, online, immersive and conversational experiences - it’s an exciting space to explore.
These new ways of doing business and connecting with consumers will only grow.
Dan Neary is vice president of Meta APAC