By solidifying consumer trust and confidence within communities and e-platforms, digital brands stand to expand their reach and boost financial inclusion.

Despite the pandemic control measures and movement restrictions in 2021, shoppers in South-east Asia had shown to be resilient—even during the Ramadan period.

According to one international media sharing social platform, a 25% spike occurred in the word-of-mouth recommendation of finance apps during that period last year in Indonesia. Considering the country’s large unbanked population, their government had backed LinkAja and JakOne Mobile to boost financial inclusion.

Karam Malhotra, Partner and Global Vice President, SHAREit Group, has noted that Ramadan is also a time for introspection and meeting loved ones. With digital technological empowerment, people can now leverage smart devices to apply for financial support, shop for festive bargains, and even share recommendations on smart apps for religious cultivation during that month.

Karam Malhotra, Partner and Global Vice President, SHAREit Group

In fact, information and chatter is shared daily over 10m apps on the SHAREit platform. Malhotra tells DigiconAsia more about this trend here.

DigiconAsia: How do people ‘share’ apps? Why are they doing so, in which parts of the world, and why has this become popular?

Karam Malhotra (KM): The practice of ‘sharing apps’ is quite popular in the emerging markets, and has led to the creation of an ecosystem consisting of high quality and engaged digital natives.

In South-east Asian markets like the Philippines and Indonesia, people are sending the largest apps to their peers or friends within seconds without the need for any phone data. Gaming is one of the most popular categories for file sharing, wherein users send gaming apps to their friends with no need to download the game cache file—along with the corresponding skin and game upgrade package.

The democratization of app distribution channels has encouraged users to source for apps out of conventional app stores. Around 2m app shares are taking place across Indonesia every day. The most popular app categories that people are sharing include games, utility tools, social, communications amongst others.

DigiconAsia: What are the three key app sharing trends that SHAREit expects to stick this year and beyond?

KM: Post-pandemic developments have shown that digital habits that were learned during the past two years will continue.

Some 82% of merchants expect the majority of their sales to come from online sources for the next five years. This shows that online products and services will continue to be relevant even as movement restrictions are eased.

Therefore, I expect the sharing of mobile applications that facilitate access to products and services such as e-commerce apps like Shopee and Lazada will stick around indefinitely as we incorporate certain pandemic norms such as hybrid-working and online shopping into our lives.

The next trend is in digital payments and banking, which is growing in tandem with the growth of e-commerce.

Finally, in view of the social constraints imposed by the global pandemic, gaming has become a social lifeline. As more gaming apps are shared, the gaming industry skyrocketed during the pandemic, so the app sharing trend will continue.

DigiconAsia: When apps are shared, the issue of trust arises: what are the dynamics driving consumers’ purchase decisions based people trusting each other’s app recommendations?

KM: The digital space has been widely known to be full of traps. People would not be likely to purchase a product from a digital brand they did not trust. A majority of online shoppers have also expressed concern when shopping on an unfamiliar page. INTERPOL’s ASEAN Cyber threat Assessment 2021 report has outlined how cybercrime is rising is set to increase exponentially. Understandably, developing trust is even more challenging.

Distrust has been associated directly with perceived risk—which can cause behavior such as cart abandonment. Consumer trust has a direct impact on purchasing decisions, and in the digital arena this is even magnified.

In the case of app recommendations and sharing on social networks, the level of interpersonal trust established within a digital community determines where users are more accepting of information and data they receive. Also, when people receive app shares from a trusted community, the trust level towards the application and the business behind it tends to be higher.

DigiconAsia: How should businesses look to target consumers in various APAC cities using this model of app sharing and trust building?

KM: With customer acquisition costs rising, businesses are looking for strategic customer targeting as retention has become a top priority.

The most important point for businesses to understand is that this is a very diverse region. Each country within the region has considerably different cultural habits, preferences, sentiments that culminate into different spending habits and consumer behavioral trends.

Businesses would do well to tailor their strategy accordingly to each country rather than apply a blanket plan for the entire SEA region. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool, particularly within the Asian culture, which can cut across geographical boundaries.

With the digital space being rife with risks, word of mouth recommendations can help to restore the reliability of files shared. By leveraging app sharing on social media or other platforms running on a trust-based ‘influencer model’ of recommendation, businesses can create richer and personalized experiences in order to humanize and retain customers. This also facilitates a higher conversion rate of users to make in-app purchases as compared to a blind ad network.

DigiconAsia thanks KM for sharing his industry insights here.