In the last 12 months, 144 million people went online for the first time in Southeast Asia — 45 million from Indonesia alone — to shop, to chat, to share news and to connect.

This brings the total internet population in the region to over 1.9 billion people.

While the internet penetration rate for the region (47%) is still below the world’s average (51%), the growth of internet users in the region (8%) outpaces the global rate by 1%.

And the catalyst for the rapid growth in the sector can be credited to…social media?

More than a platform to share selfies

Excluding Indonesia, the latest findings from Kepios show that social media penetration in Southeast Asia’s biggest markets (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam) is above 49% of the region’s population.

What has fuelled this social media frenzy?

In these markets, being connected has transformed the standard way of life. Anyone can become an “entrepreneur” with a Facebook/Instagram shop, customers order from a marketplace at any time of the day, businesses can sell direct to consumer and the world becomes an entirely accessible market.

In some markets, Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

And these platforms continue to improve their user experience with fresh content, new algorithms, and media formats to hook users into browsing for longer.

Instagram is one example of a social platform that continues to innovate. The Facebook-owned company recently launched a “shoppable post” that aims to let 2 million of its advertisers sell directly to the photo-sharing’s 800 million users.

Although the function is only available to businesses in the US at the moment, Southeast Asian companies should be active on social channels and take advantage of features that push the digital trend agenda forward.

It won’t be surprising to see more of this in the region.

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