Mapping Southeast Asia’s Dynamic But Fragmented Ecommerce Market
In order to ‘win a market’, some online publications will say: ‘define your brand’, define your competitive advantage, ensure product-market fit, create a customer database, and/or market to the world. And while your business should encompass all these strategies, the very first step any company, old or new, should take is to identify the key players already in the field.
Southeast Asia has become a hotspot for saturation thanks to booming growth – the online sector is expected to reach more than $87 billion by 2025 and many global players such as Alibaba and Amazon are scrambling to get their own slice of ecommerce pie.
However, what new entrants often overlook or find out too late when entering the region is its fragmented nature. Every country brings with it a different set of strengths and challenges.
For any player looking to grab Southeast Asia market share, the key to unlocking its potential is knowledge. Different players exist in several market segments, and some dominate certain niche segments all hoping to solve problems or capture an untapped opportunity but the ecommerce bottlenecks vary across borders.
The ECOMScape Series by ecommerceIQ aims to bring you a complete picture of the ecommerce ecosystem in individual Southeast Asian countries from the businesses selling, to the specialists providing their online solutions, all the way to the end customer. We hope it will help you navigate the competitive space. Let’s start first with the region’s biggest and most promising market, Indonesia.
Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape: 6 Key Takeaways from Current Market Conditions
The country is on track to become one of the biggest markets in Asia with the potential to comprise 52% of Southeast Asia’s entire ecommerce value by 2025.
Despite the country’s attractive $46 billion ecommerce valuation that keeps foreign investors and companies pouring in, local players are not intimidated by the influx of global ones. What else can we tell from the bird’s eye view of Indonesia’s ecommerce ecosystem?
1. Local players are dominating the market, especially in niche sectors
Indonesian run companies are seen selling in every sector of ecommerce in Indonesia, especially C2C, Lifestyle & Travel and smaller niches that fall under the ‘Other’ category. These include marketplaces like Cipika, Qlapa, and KuKa that sell local and handcrafted products and Limakilo, a marketplace targeted at farmers.
Some locally owned companies such as Shoot Your Dream and AkuLaku also better understand the country’s payment pain points and allow customers to buy products via installments through their website without a credit card.
Targeting a smaller consumer segment for local players is one way to empower local SMEs to go online. It also means less competition as foreign and big players usually try to compete over a more ‘mainstream’ audience such as Lazada, Elevenia and MatahariMall.
A reason for the success of Indonesian owned companies is due to familiarity of local trends and behavior. These companies, such as Bukalapak, customize marketing campaigns to match cultural preferences and identify better with the customer.
Among the top 20 websites in the archipelago under SimilarWeb’s ‘Shopping’ category, more than half are native Indonesian run companies.
Even OLX and iProperty, who have the advantage of vast resources to be at the top of their respective niches as seen in the ‘Classifieds’ section, were once local companies acquired by regional players.
2. Brand.com and the rise of omni-channel
Indonesia’s most popular ecommerce model is presently the marketplace like Tokopedia and Lazada. Even in the vertical sectors like Fashion & Apparel, Electronics & Gadgets and Local & Handcrafted products, the dominant choice is still a marketplace.
This model is popular to accommodate the growing interest of SMEs and brands that want to bring their business online but lack the capital or are unwilling to take a risk jumping online with both feet.
However, as the industry matures and brands realize the importance of having an online channel, more adopt a brand.com strategy to directly reach customers.
HP and Kiehl’s are some of the big brand names in their field that recognize the potential of going online. And it isn’t restricted only to brands because offline retailers are also joining the ecommerce bandwagon.
MatahariMall and MAPEmall are just two examples of retailers with deep pockets that recently joined the online space and it’s paying off. MAP, the parent company of MAPEmall, has stated 78% year on year profit growth in August and credit their online venture as one of the main drivers.
As more customers demand convenience to shop anywhere and at anytime, it is vital that retailers complement their offline networks with an online strategy to create an omni-channel experience.
3. B2B sector is slowly gaining momentum
B2C is not the only sector that has seen an increase in online adoption. The country’s biggest industrial retailer, Kawan Lama, is among the early players making the jump to ecommerce in this sector.
The company launched a shoppable website to cater to both a B2B and B2C audience after seeing steady traffic from consumers browsing its catalogs, indicating a change in customer behavior. Another big offline retailer that followed suit is Electronic City.
However, despite the push for B2B ecommerce in Indonesia with the establishment of Indonetwork, an online directory and marketplace for SMEs catering to B2B and B2C alike, the sector is still very scarce. Bizzy and Lippo-backed Mbiz are the only significant B2B marketplaces that launched in the past year.
4. Market research is urgently needed
Due to the infancy of the industry in Southeast Asia, there is only a handful of resources that exist to help businesses make informed decisions. Even established research firms like Nielsen are having difficulty obtaining enough market data to create a comprehensive report.
The lack of knowledge and insight affects the growth of ecommerce as executives are forced to make strategic decisions based on gut thus the reservation of conservative brands going online.
5. More payment options to tap into the unbanked
With more than half of the population in Indonesia still unbanked and credit card penetration at only 1.4%, payment has become one of the biggest bottlenecks to ecommerce growth in the country.
Telco companies in Indonesia are one of the key contributors that help build the ecommerce ecosystem by launching their own versions of mobile wallets, a popular payments method. And it’s not surprising, considering that each telco company has their own ecommerce website.
Other popular payments gateway include Adyen, a payments unicorn used by both Uber and most recently, Grab and aCommerce. The payment gateway offers both online and familiar offline options that locals trust, such as ATM transfers.
6. Diversifying delivery services
Infrastructure is often acknowledged as one of the top barriers for ecommerce in the region, especially Indonesia where lack of public transportation, tricky island geography and under-developed roads pose serious problems.
Ride-hailing apps are expanding their offerings to include courier services to cater to growing demands. Gojek, for example, a traditional transportation startup has become the preferred delivery method for C2C merchants and buyers as it offers same-day delivery services and a built-in tracking system at an affordable price.
The third party logistics (3PL) category is also very saturated in Indonesia. Brands are provided with so many options that it becomes a time-consuming task to find one that suits the needs of their business and consumers. Multi-shipping tech from aCommerce or Alibaba’s Cainiao aim to save time by aggregating the best options based on the price and destination.
The potential of ecommerce in Indonesia has already tempted many players, both foreign and local, to enter the market. However, it’s still a long time before a clear winner emerges from the battlefield.