Telum Talks To… Vanessa Seow, EVP and Head of Lazada Group Communications

Telum Talks To… Vanessa Seow, EVP and Head of Lazada Group Communications

Telum caught up with the Regional Communications Team at Lazada Singapore following their recent communications team restructure. Vanessa Seow, shares with us more on the restructure, their strategies going in and out of the pandemic and their recent achievements in the past year on behalf of the team.

What role does the Communications Team play in Lazada's overall strategy? Why the need for an expansion in scope now?
The role of communication has always been critical and central to Lazada, especially one operating in the ever-evolving, fast-paced environment of eCommerce. The role a communications team play today has far exceeded what it used to be in the traditional “PR” sense. It plays a highly strategic value by working directly with senior leaders within the company to shape the company’s future, having a seat at the discussion table, influencing business decisions and aligning communication strategies with organizational goals. Coupled with the fast-changing communications landscape, it is paramount that Lazada stays nimble and relevant when communicating to our stakeholders.

To this end, what used to be separate teams within the Regional Office in Lazada have now been incorporated into a more integrated communications outfit to ensure greater consistency in our messaging across different stakeholder groups - internally and externally. The integration also facilitates a more effective use of resources since we can now tap into shared assets and expanded skill sets that spans content production, livestreaming, social media engagement, employer branding to issues management. Having an integrated communications approach also allows for better coordination across all the PESO channels that the Communications team target. The team has not forgotten its entrepreneurial roots and constantly experiments with new approaches to engage the next generation of stakeholders – employees, consumers, online sellers, brand partners and government agencies. 

Lazada operates in many countries across Southeast Asia. Does the team adopt a different comms strategy or approach in each country?
Lazada currently operates in six countries in Southeast Asia namely Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. The regional Communications team and each of the countries’ communications teams work very closely in aligning our communication ethos and approaches. That said, in Lazada, we also recognise that no one-size fits all with certain populations more inclined towards particular communication approaches, platforms and channels. As such, while working closely with the regional team, each country is also given the autonomy to customise their communications strategies to align effectively with their specific customers’ needs and preferences.

What are some barriers to communication for e-commerce, especially with adapting to the pandemic?
The pandemic has hit many businesses amongst which are the vulnerable Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are compelled to rethink their existing business models - in an unprecedented environment of changing consumer behaviours and structural shifts in the retail landscape. One of the challenges we faced was to look for ways to reach out to and encourage our sellers to diversify their operations online. Lack of knowledge, uncertainties and easy access to financing were among some of the barriers preventing many SMEs from pivoting to the online space. To this end, Lazada came up with a three-pronged approach that included
  1. Provision of stimulus packages that reached out to hundreds of thousands SMEs across Southeast Asia, with subsidies and resources to enable these businesses to start online stores in Lazada;
  2. Supporting SMEs to optimise their cash flows; and
  3. Delivering initiatives in collaboration with local governments to support sellers.

To ensure we successfully communicated with the SMEs across the region, we adopted a localised approach that specifically identified the unique challenges and opportunities that Lazada could help solve. We reached out to SMEs to help them visualise how the initiatives were benefitting and helping them weather the immediate economic conditions and build long-term competitive advantage. Regional announcements were made in tandem with country-specific initiatives announcements in an integrated approach covering various mediums to drive awareness, promote greater acceptance and adoption of online retail platforms.

We are happy to report that Lazada’s regional initiatives and local activations saw a mass online migration of sellers to its platform. Between April and June 2020, Lazada Singapore alone saw a four times increase in monthly new seller sign-ups. Lazada Philippines also onboarded double the number of sellers in 2020 as compared to the year before. About 10% of the sellers Lazada Malaysia onboarded from June to August 2020 saw sales grow approximately 10 times their daily average (non-campaign period) during the 8.8 campaign.

What has been the greatest achievement from the team so far?
The digital commerce industry is a fast-paced and exciting one. Amid handling business-as-usual year-round campaigns and projects, the team had to be nimble in adjusting to the challenging pandemic situation when it struck in 2020. Seeing how we are a part of the pivotal role that Lazada has played in helping and supporting our SMEs during such unprecedented times marks a high point in our career. We are happy for the success of the company and grateful for the recognition of our efforts with the recent Marketing Interactive’s Gold for PR Team of the Year (Brand) and Silver for Best Regional PR 2021.

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