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Getting to Know Southeast Asian Online Shoppers

Southeast Asia is emerging as a new hotspot for e-commerce. The rapid growth of internet users in the region, fueled by the availability of affordable smartphones and data plans, is turning consumers, especially newer generations, into online shoppers.


Analysts predict that Southeast Asia will have the next consumer powerhouse driven by the increasing purchasing power in the region and young population. A significant portion of that money will go toward online shopping.

In fact, according to reports, over 50 percent of consumers in the region are spending around US$30 a month on online shopping.

However, Southeast Asia is a difficult market to penetrate and win. The culture throughout the region is so diverse that it has to be approached with the knowledge of its people. That said, here are some things that you need to know about Southeast Asian consumers.

Their Purchasing Decisions Inspired by Social Media

Southeast Asians enjoy being connected to their peers and loved ones. So much so that the region has one of the highest social media penetration in the entire world.

Facebook reigns supreme in the region, with about two-thirds of each member country’s population logging on to the platform at least once a month in 2015. Indonesia, the most populous country, has the highest social media penetration rate, with around 67.7 million Indonesians, or 72.5 percent of internet users, using the social media platform founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2015. The Philippines has the second-highest number of Facebook users, with 37.2 million Filipinos, or 69.2 percent of the country’s population, on the website.

It will be important for brands who want to enter the market to establish a strong social media presence to drum up interest for your brand. Facebook and other social media platforms are an important factor that drives sales, especially online. One study found that 49 percent of Generation Z consumers look to social media to search for more information about a product or a brand before making a purchase.

However, it is best to partner with a local social media marketing agency to reach Southeast Asians. A carefully crafted campaign that considers the unique values, priorities, traditions, and preferences of each country’s population will more likely be effective than a generic ad for the entire region.

They Are Revving Up Adoption of Digital Payments

Many stores in Southeast Asia still do not accept digital payments, but consumers opt to pay using e-wallets whenever they can. According to reports, about 49 percent of urban consumers in the region are commercial bank customers and use e-wallets. By 2025, analysts predict that the number of e-wallet users will increase to 84 percent.

The pandemic, which continues to batter the region, will only accelerate the adoption of digital payment.

Moreover, while the portion of digital payment app use is stronger in urban areas, there is an interest among consumers everywhere to use e-wallets to pay for all purchases, not just in online food deliveries and ride-hailing services, but also in hawker stands, food courts, and grocery stores.

However, the big barricade is low acceptance among merchants, according to 54 percent of consumers. Meanwhile, 74 percent of merchants said they are willing to adopt the technology if the barriers are addressed, such as poor understanding of processes and high fees. In addition, more than one-third of consumers are also willing to shift banking activity to non-bank digital apps.

Opening up to digital payments can increase reach. FinTech can be used as an advertising tool by brands. For example, brands can tie discounts and gift checks to specific e-wallets to encourage customers to purchase. Consumers are also using their e-wallets as a platform to find great deals online.

They Want to Spend More Time Home

For Southeast Asians, online shopping is here to stay. They increased their purchase of essential goods e-commerce platforms in the past year. Across six markets, consumers decreased their offline purchases and increased online spending. Moreover, they plan to continue buying household items over the internet even after the pandemic.

In fact, in one survey, consumers from the region said they plan to spend more time at home after lockdown restrictions have been lifted. They want to work from home and not spend hours in traffic every day. Many of them, especially in urban areas, have been ordering food using delivery apps and see fewer reasons to go out.

The Southeast Asian market is on a digital transformation. As a result, consumers from the region are catching up to their counterparts in the West. Brands that want to take advantage of this growth should get to know the market and its consumers first.

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