It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, but one thing is clear: e-commerce ended on a high note in the Philippines.
Filipinos took their shopping online when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. And now, at least half of Pinoy consumers expect to shop online more frequently once the outbreak is over.
But it’s not all sunshine for online sellers. Consumer behavior and market trends have shifted, and some of these changes might become part of the ‘new normal.’
That means you need to adapt to these changes if you want to win big in 2021. Oh, and note down these critical shopping event dates in the Philippines.
Shifts in Filipino buyer behavior
According to Global Web Index’s Coronavirus consumer behavior research, these behaviors saw the biggest increases among Filipino consumers as a result of the pandemic:
- Looking for cheaper versions of products from alternative brands
- Looking for flexible payment options (e.g. pay in installments, etc)
- Cutting back on daily purchases
- Delaying big purchases
- Reducing regular financial commitments (e.g. cancel subscriptions, memberships, etc)
- Waiting for products to be on promotion, discount, sale, etc
Filipinos said they delayed purchasing clothes, personal electronics, flights, and luxury items.
But when the time comes that they can afford to splurge once more, they plan to prioritize home appliances and personal electronics.
Aside from these shifts in consumers’ priorities, you should also consider other e-commerce trends in 2021, such as the types of products to sell, marketing trends, and online business models.
6 Types of Products to sell in the Philippines
With community quarantines and a huge question mark over when most of us could get a vaccine, you can expect consumers to continue clutching their wallets tight in 2021.
As Filipino shoppers scour the web for the most sulit buys, you can meet their needs by considering selling items in these 6 product categories.
1. Maternity and baby
When Covid-19 struck, the masses lost access to lots of things—including free contraceptives.
As a result, the Philippines is expecting a baby boom in 2021. Almost 2 million Filipinos will be born next year, compared to 1.7 million in 2018.
If you want to compete in this space, focus on essential baby and maternity products, such as items for feeding/breastfeeding and newborn care. That’s because parents-to-be probably aren’t in the mood to splurge on luxuries right now.
On Shopee, pajama sets, bibs, baby wipes, and reusable diapers are some of the best-selling items in the Babies & Kids category, with thousands of sales a month.
Baby cribs are among the most popular products on Lazada. Meanwhile, items related to breastfeeding—ice packs, storage bags, supplements like malunggay tea—are bestsellers on Babymama.ph.
Do you sell pre-loved items? Pre-loved big-ticket gear are popular as they’re cheaper but durable. Think cribs, car seats, and play yards.
You can list these items on platforms where people are open to buying second-hand goods. These include Carousell, Facebook Marketplace, and Facebook buy-and-sell groups for moms.
2. Accessories for sanitation
We’ll be wearing masks and carrying around bottles of 70% alcohol for a long time, so might as well make it convenient and stylish to do so.
Remember those jelly holders for hand sanitizers (or White Flower, if you’re the ultimate tita)?
We used to hang them on purses back when the world was normal and less scary.
These holders are back in, but for mini-bottles of alcohol. They come in stylish variants, such as leather and suede.
Cute mask cases are also popular purchases online. You can make your own designs to print on the case or let your customers send you their own designs.
Masks themselves can be fashion statements, too. If you sell clothing, ask your suppliers for cloth patterns that don’t overwhelm the facial features.
You could also resell stylish masks made of abaca fiber, which are biodegradable, locally made, and potentially medical-grade. This way, you’ll be supporting local artisans and native resources. You’ll also be encouraging consumers to make more environmentally-friendly purchases.
3. Beachwear & accessories
This could mean a modest rise in demand for travel accessories and clothes, especially for beach-goers. To sell these items, make sure you take Instagrammable photos of your products, and maybe even have a blog that rivals magazines.
4. Cooking and baking tools
Have you found a new suki for ube cheese pandesal and burnt Basque cheesecake to satisfy your lockdown cravings?
The explosion of new food sellers during the pandemic says it all—people are spending more time in their kitchens. And this newfound love for home cooking will stay.
Searches for “baking” and “cooking,” as well as related terms, have also soared on Google.
So it’s wise to look into selling cooking and baking tools, supplies, and equipment. Search Facebook buy-and-sell groups for cooks and bakers to find out what people are looking for. Check out the most popular food items on Facebook and Instagram and figure out what tools and supplies are needed to make them.
5. Fitness equipment
Demand for home fitness equipment has risen. Not surprising, as gyms around the country are either closed or open on a limited capacity.
And really, the thought of using a treadmill that a stranger has sweated on for the past 30 minutes is sickening now that virus is on everyone’s mind.
Top sales on Shopee and Lazada include yoga mats and jump ropes. But don’t be afraid to sell large equipment and weights, too. Gym equipment brands like Play Hard Fitness started offering delivery services of their multi-station home gyms during the quarantine, and have even joined major online sales like 12.12!
You can also focus on verticals, especially if they spark your interest. For example, if you’re aiming to help people become triathletes, sell apparel, gear, and supplements that facilitate their goals.
You can also capitalize on people’s need to be outdoors and escape the city after long months of community quarantine. Case in point: Google searches for “biking” and “cycling” have risen in the past year.
Google Trends data also show related queries, such as specific bike shops. Check out the websites and social media pages of these bike shops, see what they sell, and take a cue from their inventory.
6. Work-from-home equipment and fashion
Be honest—have you flexed your #WFH setup on social media during the pandemic?
Have you ever humble-bragged about your #OfficeOfTheDay view, or your pambahay chic #OutfitOfTheDay?
Even before Covid-19 broke out, many Pinoys were already working from home. The Philippines is the world’s fastest-growing gig-economy market, and these freelancers tend to work for overseas clients.
But you’ll be forgiven for forgetting that the country had actually signed a Telecommuting Act into law to help reduce the notoriously hellish traffic in major cities—a problem that now feels like eons ago.
Still, WFH is here to stay. So think of items that make it easier. Find the best-value monitors, wireless keyboards, ergonomic chairs, standing desks, lamps, and more.
And as the surging popularity of pambahay chic and the stellar performance of makeup brands during 11.11 imply, people want to look presentable and Zoom-ready while working from home.
8 Noteworthy Marketing Trends
It’s crucial to meet your buyers where they are. So even if you have your own e-commerce website, you need to be present in the platforms where your buyers are most comfortable browsing, asking questions, and making purchase decisions. You also need to stay up-to-date on the most relevant marketing trends for the year ahead.
1. Conversational commerce (C-commerce)
With more consumer-to-consumer transactions and social selling taking place, messaging apps are now an important tool in any e-commerce seller’s arsenal.
A 2019 study commissioned by Facebook showed that 66% of Filipinos who made purchases through messaging platforms planned to spend more on c-commerce shopping in the future.
Even big brands like Jollibee have jumped on the conversational commerce bandwagon, signaling its importance and effectiveness in reaching Filipino consumers.
But you don’t need the stats to tell you that. You’ve probably observed that your buyers like to ask you questions on Messenger or Viber. And you’re probably aware of these 6 Dos and Don’ts in customer service.
Would it be useful to add a pop-up chat window for these platforms on your site? But more importantly, do you have a system in place for responding to queries? Is your staff trained to be informative, polite, cheerful, and (when needed) persuasive on chat?
#NinjaTip: Don’t be afraid to sound perkier than you do in real life! With the lack of non-verbal cues on instant messaging, friendly words and well-placed emojis can go a long way. 🎯
2. Sales, promos, flexible payment
As the coronavirus consumer behavior study showed, Filipinos are now looking for more flexible options and discounted prices.
To meet this demand, you can hold sales more frequently or at a larger scale.
Try creative ways to put your products on sale or offer freebies without suffering a loss. Examples include product bundles, tiered pricing, and free shipping for a minimum purchase. You can also try these five promotion strategies that can help you boost sales.
#NinjaTip: Partner with payment service providers to find out how you can offer flexible payment options, such as installment plans and buy-now-pay-later deals.
3. Tapping online communities
Raise your hand if you’re now part of an online barter group or have joined an online community for plantitas or other hobbyists.
If groups like these allow sales posts, it’s worth pouring marketing time and effort here, as there’s a high potential for group members to be interested in your products.
Or if you’re looking at something you can manage in the long term, consider setting up your own interest group.
#NinjaTip: Always read an online community’s rules before posting. Many groups won’t approve your post without complete details, such as mentioning the preferred mode of payment and mode of delivery.
4. Working with nano- and micro-influencers
If you’re a seller on a small budget, try working with nano- and micro-influencers for marketing campaigns. The upside is that these types of influencers often focus on a niche. That means a small but dedicated and highly-engaged following.
See, for example, the engagement rate of different kinds of Filipino influencers:
- Nano-influencers (1k-10k followers): 4% to 10%
- Micro-influencers (10k-100k followers): 0.5% to 9%
- Macro-influencers (100k-1m followers): 0.3% to 4%
It’s easier to find the right influencer to work with if you’re in a specific niche. If you’re selling accessories for cats, it’s a no-brainer to try tapping Panther.
You could also run a poll among your customers to find out which influencers they follow.
#NinjaTip: Never ask the influencer to change their storytelling format or style just to accommodate your marketing message. Remember that their audiences enjoy their style and expect consistency from them. Weave your story into theirs, not the other way around.
TikTok took the bored, quarantined world by storm in 2020, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
The Philippines’ top TikTok influencer, Nina Guerrero, has more than 10.2 million followers (up from 2.3 million in 2019) and an engagement rate of 17%—a figure Facebook advertisers can only dream of.
Of course, make sure that your target customers are on TikTok. It’s going to take a lot of time and creativity to get your brand noticed on the platform, so ensure that there is a clear potential return on investment here.
But can TikTok actually influence buying decisions? According to this list of “TikTok-Approved Products You Never Knew You Needed In Your Life”, yes, it can.
#NinjaTip: When using TikTok for marketing, focus on storytelling more than on your products.
6. Weird (experimental, if you like) ads
Could 2021 be the year Filipino businesses dare to make surreal, quirky ads like those viral videos from Japan and Thailand? RC Cola’s ad may have left you scratching your head, but admit it—it got people talking.
And based on social media buzz, it looks like after surviving the weird year that was 2020, people are ready for more of these kinds of bizarre marketing campaigns.
#NinjaTip: Before releasing a video designed to get buzz, make sure you’ve planned your marketing funnel. Where do people go after seeing your video? Provide links to relevant website pages, blog posts, or product listings to increase conversion.
7. Woke ad messaging
Millennial customers, in particular, expect brands to speak out. But Gen Z takes it a step further and expects brands and their employees to walk their talk by supporting and contributing to social causes.
So be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot. Don’t be woke for the sake of being woke—choose an issue that you truly care about and that you’re capable of supporting.
#NinjaTip: If you’re not sure how to be satirical, don’t try. Just talk about the issue in a straightforward manner. We don’t all have the wit of Angkas or the snark of Ligo Sardines. And that’s okay.
8. Video marketing
On Facebook, videos have higher engagement among Filipinos compared to other types of posts. But this is probably old news to you—you already know we Pinoys love watching and sharing videos online.
This pastime is increasing as Filipinos reported spending more time on YouTube during the pandemic. If you don’t have a YouTube channel yet, you might consider starting one, if your audience is there.
But if you’re planning to hit many social networks—TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook—make sure you don’t get overwhelmed.
You can plan out your videos so that every shoot covers material that can be shown on each platform.
You could have one video on YouTube, and cut it into different segments and lengths for posting on other platforms. That way, you can hit many birds with one stone.
#NinjaTip: Video production can be expensive. Try out automated/AI-driven video makers online, or consider slideshow videos as a cheaper alternative.
3 Business models to consider
2020 challenged many businesses to rethink the way they should conduct their business, especially those in the retail sector.
If you’re still refining your ecommerce strategy or would like to try new ways to capture a bigger chunk of the market, check out these online business models below.
1. Consumer-to-consumer (C2C)
With selling platforms and social media marketplaces, ordinary consumers can now become sellers, too. And when the pandemic hit, even more people started selling online.
C2C sellers often start with smaller volumes and less frequent deliveries. That’s why they need to find logistics partners who can accommodate both on-demand and scheduled shipping, who don’t require a minimum volume of shipments, and who provide affordable rates and convenient booking.
Ninja Van, for example, offers prepaid packaging and flat-rate shipping fees for social media sellers. And when the seller is ready to become a small business, Ninja Van offers services for the increased scale, too—all the way to enterprise-level demands.
2. White label
This is a popular option for people who don’t create their own products. A white label seller buys items from a manufacturer and places their own branding and logo on them.
Keep in mind that in an arrangement like this, you can’t dictate things like dimensions, materials, and design.
So as a white-label player, you’ll need to differentiate yourself from sellers of the same products through distinctive branding and marketing campaigns.
Make sure you offer original pictures, more detailed product descriptions, and better customer service than other sellers who carry the same items.
Dropshipping suffered due to factory lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions during Covid-19. But with China appearing to have gotten Covid-19 under control, there’s hope for dropshipping to bounce back in 2021.
It’s a good idea to source from other countries, too. Southeast Asian nations have Free Trade Agreements that make it more convenient and affordable to import certain products. You could also look at countries that are famous for specific goods—for example, you can find dropshipping suppliers of cosmetics in Korea.
Services like Ninja Direct can help you get started with dropshipping by providing you access to brands from various countries through one platform. This service buys the products on your behalf and delivers them straight to your customers’ doorsteps.
Gear up for better months ahead
The quiet end to a turbulent year could be exactly what you need to reflect on the past months, make strategic plans for the future, and recharge so you can win big in 2021.
Even though 2021 will be full of uncertainties, there are factors you, as an online seller, can control: your product strategy, marketing campaigns, and business model.