Must-know SaaS trends for SEA’s business leaders in 2023

Accelerated digitalisation has redefined many aspects of social and economic life, and in particular, cloud-based software has been a driving force in Southeast Asia’s continued productivity and resilience.

According to IDC, there is greater focus on increasing revenue via digital products and services, forecasting that one in three Southeast Asian businesses will generate more than 15% of their revenue from digital products and services in 2023, compared to one in six in 2020.

However, while it may be easier than ever for companies to buy software, that doesn’t guarantee success for providers. Rather, driving businesses to more efficient and effective operating models hinges on keeping track of where their pain points lie. Here are six B2B SaaS trends to keep an eye out for, as organisations across the region strive to compete with global peers:

Demand for collaboration tools will persist as hybrid work takes off

In the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, the demand for collaboration tools is likely to persist as the hybrid work model gains popularity, with a Telstra study finding 85% of organisations surveyed are promoting hybrid work arrangements. Gartner predicts that the “hybrid-flexible” work model, which combines location flexibility with online collaboration tools, will be successful in the region if implemented and managed properly.

As companies in the region adapt to the post-COVID era, they will look for collaboration tools and collaboration inside existing tools that facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous communication, and allow employees to easily switch between different communication forms. Even companies that return to full on-site work are expected to continue using online productivity tools, having seen their benefits during the pandemic.

In addition to facilitating communication and cooperation, collaboration tools are also expected to play a key role in improving employee experience in APAC. As businesses in the region increasingly focus on improving the employee experience, they will look for collaboration tools that can help boost engagement, productivity, and overall satisfaction among their employees. As a result, the demand for collaboration tools is likely to continue to grow in the APAC region in the coming years.

Interoperability will gain over integration 

In the region, the next wave of consolidation in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) landscape is expected to be focused on interoperability rather than integration. Unified cloud platforms that enable businesses to easily choose and deploy the services they need will likely see increased traction. PaaS offerings that employ common data models will also be attractive to APAC companies looking to integrate AI programs into their digital operations and extract valuable business intelligence.

The APAC SaaS market is also expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. As more businesses in the region adopt SaaS solutions, the demand for these services is likely to increase, driving further consolidation in the market. Furthermore, the proliferation of low-code/no-code platforms is expected to make it easier for businesses to customise their SaaS solutions to meet their unique needs, further driving adoption. Overall, the SaaS landscape in the APAC region is likely to continue to evolve and consolidate in the coming years.

Deep-tech capabilities as cloud services will earn increased adoption

In APAC, companies looking to advance their digital transformation agendas are expected to experiment with new technologies such as AI and blockchain as cloud-based solutions. Offered over the cloud, these technologies will become more widely accessible and easily deployable, making it easier for businesses in the region to adopt and integrate them into their operations. A significant amount of research and development in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing is expected to improve the customer and employee experiences offered by modern SaaS applications.

These technologies are also expected to help APAC businesses equip their sales teams with powerful sales enablers, such as trend anomaly detection, productivity recommendations, and predictive analytics. As a result, the adoption of AI and blockchain in the cloud is likely to continue to grow in the region in the coming years. Overall, the increasing use of these technologies is expected to drive the development of more advanced and sophisticated SaaS solutions in APAC.

Extensive localisation as a means to win in diverse markets

New B2B markets for SaaS will continue to emerge as businesses across Southeast Asia tweak and fine-tune their cloud strategies. SaaS vendors will need to adapt their offerings to fit the diverse expectations of each market across Southeast Asia.

Product or service localisation, aside from regional language support, should also include adaptation in terms of product design and navigation, ease of use, GTM strategies, service delivery, after-sales training and implementation support, and more.

Data privacy and security

Every B2B SaaS vendor sits on two different but equally valuable data piles: one involving confidential information about its customer organisations, and another belonging to the customers of the customer organisations.

In Southeast Asia, legislation is coming into force in almost every country to protect both business and individual personal data. As such, SaaS vendors will need to invest more in an array of data security and privacy areas such as data centre security, regulatory compliance, DevOps security, internal communications, privileged access control, and privacy-enhancing technologies.

Additionally, vendors who can boldly make a public declaration that no customer data will ever be monetised to serve their own revenue needs will rise in brand value and trustworthiness in the eyes of the end user.

Whether it’s a small business or a multinational corporation, the competition to digitise is more intense than ever. Amid this, there is no space for unnecessary complexity, especially if it hinders rather than facilitates business.

While the B2B SaaS space continues to grow, vendors and providers have two options: deliver maximum value to users to increase retention rates and reduce churn, or fall by the wayside. Doing so will require the ability to meet customers where they are at, especially in a location like Southeast Asia, where robust competition is the name of the game.