Malaysia may be the second smallest Southeast Asian nation but it doesn’t lack ambition to develop itself into a powerhouse. Prime Minister Najib Razak recently out-hustled neighbour Indonesia to appoint China’s ecommerce tycoon Jack Ma to advise the country’s government on its route to develop a strong digital economy.
These ambitions don’t come out of thin air. In 2015, Malaysia’s ecommerce market was estimated at $1 billion, which constitutes 1.1% of country’s total retail sales (though these numbers may be skewed). Malaysia’s ecommerce market is on a par with Singapore not only in market size, but also in terms of the well-developed infrastructure within the country compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. This might explain why Malaysia is the origin for some of the biggest tech companies in the region such as the taxi hailing app Grab and Catcha’s iProperty Group.
In the next ten years, Malaysia is predicted to increase the online shopping market size eight-fold to $8 billion, but where does the country’s ecommerce stand now? ecommerceIQ shares ECOMScape: Malaysia to provide a quick overview.
1. Surprise, surprise, Lazada emerges as the leading mainstream platform
Lazada, Southeast Asia’s clone of Amazon, has emerged as the leading business-to-consumer (B2C) marketplace in Malaysia with around 20 million visitors per month while closest rival 11street.my, a South Korean marketplace, grew to become the second biggest online marketplace with more than 7 million visitors per month only a year and a half after launching.
Locally-run Lelong.my, which started as an electronics auction site but now turning itself into a B2C marketplace, gets around 6 million visitors per month.
While these companies are still competitors to Lazada, none of them pose a real threat to Lazada’s leading position, especially after its acquisition by Alibaba earlier this year (deep pockets)
2. Service providers are early online adopters
Malaysia’s online space is filled with service providers who choose to sell services through ecommerce to happy users. A smart move considering 50% of Malaysians in a recent PwC Survey said they shopped online because of convenience.
These early adopters include:
- KFIT: started its fitness business in Malaysia offering a subscription model for unlimited access to various gyms, and has now expanded to other categories such as selling online spa and beauty procedures.
- GoCar: car rental by the hour or day through mobile app that offers an alternative to car rental and car ownership in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur.
- ServisHero: a mobile marketplace that allows search and booking of home service providers such as a plumber or repairman.
3. Mobile shopping platforms on the rise
66% of consumers surveyed in the PwC report have used their phones to make purchases. It implies that the majority of 50% of respondents who have started shopping online in Malaysia within the last three years are heading straight to mobile marketplaces.
Among Malaysia’s most popular shopping apps are companies such as local imSOLD, Singapore-based Shopee and Carousell, Japan’s Qoo10 and global players like Taobao and eBay.
As Malaysians on average spend 3 hours per day on social media, social commerce becomes quite popular – 31% of online shoppers in Malaysia have purchased directly via a social media channel. The most common being Facebook and Instagram, which is preferred by 41% and 22% of Malaysians, respectively.
4. Good banking system means one less problem for ecommerce
Malaysia has well-developed banking infrastructure and as a result, its residents are more accustomed to digital payments than most Southeast Asian nations. 37% of Malaysia’s population uses mobile banking, while nearly 20% made digital payments and used banking cards in 2014.
According to the global payments solution provider Adyen, the preferred payment method of 42% online shoppers is online banking where shoppers are redirected to their online banking environment to complete purchases.
As a result, there are plenty of payment gateway solution providers in Malaysia, yet few companies offer mobile wallet solutions as they would struggle to change Malaysian habits regarding using online banking.
5. Newcomers fight to grab a share of logistics
Successful ecommerce in Malaysia has contributed to increased competition among logistics service providers. The country does not have major infrastructure issues such as islands or bad roads like in the Philippines and Indonesia, posing less obstacles for startups to offer straightforward parcel delivery.
Traditional last mile delivery companies such as POSMalaysia, Nationwide Express and SkyNet have been somewhat lagging behind adopting new technology and are now being challenged by newcomers like Ninja Van, who proudly states it’s “powered by proprietary cloud-based technology”.
And it’s not only rookies in logistics fighting for their share. In Malaysia, the competition is quite tough among fulfillment service providers who focus on serving the needs of online merchants.
Companies such as DHL, SP Ecommerce, aCommerce, theLorry.com and others are battling for clients not only among themselves, but also with the biggest client – Lazada.
Lazada already pushed its own logistics service, Fulfillment by Lazada (FBL) in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. The online marketplace offers end-to-end fulfillment solution at a fixed cost per item delivered. As the biggest player in the market and scaled operations, Lazada’s price may be hard to beat.
“Increasingly, having an online shopping functionality is becoming the norm, rather than the exception and it is only going to be more widespread,” said Jon-Paul Best, Head of Financial Services for Nielsen Malaysia.
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