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2021 Predictions for Tech
Community group buys & rise of the passion economy
Disclaimer: I am not experienced at identifying tech trends. I wanted to do this as a fun little exercise based on my own observations of consumer behaviour and what I’ve been seeing happening within the tech/startup ecosystem. My observations may or may not be accurate, but I’m super excited to review how much things have progressed at the end of 2021 - so I’ll be treating my own observations just as conversational starters. And of course, I’d be skipping certain topics that I have little knowledge in, for instance, gaming or education. But happy to learn if you have thoughts to share!
No doubt with COVID, it has accelerated the growth of certain changes in consumer behaviour that would arrive sooner or later.
1. Community Buying / Group Buy in APAC
My earliest encounter with the Group Buy concept was with Groupon. The value that group buying brings are mainly cost savings and convenience (and a little social element to it).
Pin Duo Duo in China is one of the most successful group buy platforms in recent years (Check; the founder recently became the second richest man in China).
Purchase cycle plays a part here too, as we see group buys in China starting out with inventory that has a higher frequency of purchase, such as groceries. It caters directly to the behaviour of their target segment too, which are housewives (and lower tier cities), who tend to value discounts and deals. Pin Duo Duo has launched a vertical called Duo Duo MaiCai, Meituan launched Meituan Youxuan, Didi with Chengxin Youxuan. Even Alibaba has a stake in community group buy, co-leading a $196 million round in Shi Hui Tuan.
We then see a slew of startups in APAC trying to replicate the community group buy model, including WeBuy (founded by EZBUY founder), Chilibeli based in Indonesia ($10m USD Series A), combine.sg, and a whole lot of others just in Singapore.
As of previous months, community group buying took off in Singapore because there was an increase in the number of people working from home, and group buying allowed for goods to be bulk purchased by people living near each other. Estate group chats sprung up, each with their own group buy host.
From my own research, estate group buys were happening way before COVID, as I spoke to a group buy host who had been doing it for over 2 years now mainly for side income.
It’ll be interesting to see which platform grabs the most market share in the coming months. And if group buys work at all in APAC today, or it was a fad fuelled by COVID.
To note, there are nuances between the group buy models; for example, Pin Duo Duo’s model is to acquire discounts in bulk for consumers. Shi Hui Tuan’s model is to mainly reduce logistics costs for consumers, and if there’s any inventory discount, it is a bonus.
(Might write a dedicated post to community group buying because I’m quite interested in the topic!)
2. Supply Chain - to support direct to consumer (D2C) models
During lockdown situations, many manufacturers and suppliers had their sales affected when dine-in establishments had to close down temporarily. Suppliers had to tweak their operations to re-package their inventory that were in bigger quantities into smaller quantities to sell direct to consumers. They also sold direct to consumers via group buy channels.
While retail still plays an important part in the consumer’s buying experience, more suppliers will cut out the middleman and reduce the need to pay for expensive shelves spaces, utilising social media channels for visibility instead. Customer service and branding will differentiate brands from one another. This also means manufacturers and suppliers have to review their existing processes - from warehousing to inventory management to fulfillment to delivery - to support D2C.
B2B SaaS companies can provide value in this area by digitising the space and replacing clunky traditional software like Microsoft Dynamics.
3. Social Commerce
Social commerce is not new. Poshmark in US, Xiao Hong Shu (Little Red Book) in China and a number of e-commerce players have been investing in making commerce much more social through user reviews, influencer marketing and connecting consumers of similar interests. Afterall, shopping is usually not a solo activity as consumers seek the opinions of the online community on the product, if not their friends and family.
However, the shift would come in type of content that promotes social commerce. As mobile data and higher-end mobile phones get more affordable, while consumer attention span gets shorter, platforms would start to promote more live streaming and short-form video content as a way to connect consumers and brands. Live video shopping already powers majority of online shopping experiences in China, with Alibaba’s Taobao Live scoring US$7.5 billion in first 30 minutes of presales(!) during last year’s Singles’ Day. Personally I have discovered Li Jiaqi and Viya late last year. Who would’ve thought live streaming would become a full time gig?
4. Alternative food sources
Alternatives to animal-farmed food products will grow, partly due to the fact that Gen Z consumers care more about environmental sustainability, and of course, the need to discover sustainable food sources due to Earth’s limited resources. Plant based milks and lab-grown protein sources will continue to increase, with about $1.4 billion raised by about 20 “fake” meat startups in just the first few months of 2020. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the more well-known ones, besides newer entrants like Shiok Meats and THIS.
This will also come with the need to educate consumers about alternative foods sources, and the challenge in making alternative food sources taste as good as the real ones.
5. Remote work
Remote work is here to stay, and perhaps for good for some companies like Dropbox. It is not a novel way of working, however, with companies shown to have thrived despite a full remote team way before COVID, such as BaseCamp and Buffer. Organizational structures may change, where talent pool can be more globalized (since everyone doesn’t have to live in the same city), changes in work processes will be supported by team collaboration tools that take remote work into consideration, such as combating remote work fatigue and improving remote work productivity.
6. The rise of the Passion economy
On a generic scale, millennials and Gen Z value more than just the money they make when looking for a job, as compared to the older generations. This is also because today’s generation are much more cushioned and have lesser reason to worry about basic needs as compared to the older generations.
30% of kids in US (and other parts of the world) aspire to become YouTubers. With platforms like YouTube and TikTok lowering barriers of entry to becoming content creators, more youth would rather earn less while doing what they love than be stuck in a job they hate. And the challenge is on the platforms to help content creators make more money.
Content creators are not the only ‘up and coming’ type of jobs that are shaping what the next 1 billion jobs could potentially look like, more people are supplementing their primary source of income with side hustles. Further, content publishing platforms like Substack and Revue allow people to earn an income publishing content in specific niches, such as literature, tech, crypto. Some of the top writers on Substack are even earning an average of more than $160,000.
Topics I’m unsure of (but at the back of my mind)
The future of Podcasts
While I understand podcasts and its growth and funding have been on the rise, and I am personally doing a podcast right now, I’m not sure how widely adopted it would become. I have a personal preference to read rather than to listen to podcasts, as I feel it allows me to consume content much quicker. While I could find growth numbers for the US market, I wasn’t able to find the same for APAC.
Tech Ethics; and is what you see real?
If I were to mention a certain source that raised awareness from the mass consumer regarding tech ethics, it’d be the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma. Basically, the data that tech companies have on users, in some way or another, allows them to ‘manipulate’ certain user behaviours by applying learnings of user psychology.
How do we make the user visit the app more frequently, how do we get this user to spend money on items they may not need… these questions that tech companies have always been thinking of optimising for are now worth a re-look into how they are bringing value. Is the value brought to the people, or just for the company itself?
I’m currently also taking this CS50x course on EdX, and they also added in a new topic on Ethics in 2021. Which goes to show that it will be a topic brought up for awareness.
Trust and safety issues will be much more prevalent as technology and AI makes it much easier for fakes to assimilate themselves within authentic content. How will we stay savvy to differentiate the fakes and the real?
Lil Miquela, an online influencer who isn’t “real”, but has close to 3 million real followers.
Happy to discuss if you have any thoughts about the above!