Seasoned entrepreneurs from multiple ecommerce companies at Echelon Thailand 2017 discussed how ecommerce in Southeast Asia has developed so far and where it is heading.

On the panel: Orami Group CEO Jeremy Fichet, Box24 CEO & founder Nithipont Bond Thaiyanurak, honestbee Thailand country manager Bounthay Khammanyvong and Pomelo co-founder & CFO Casey Liang revealed some of the trends that they expect will influence the region’s ecommerce businesses in the next few years.

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Customers are getting more demanding and sophisticated

The tide is slowly turning from a few years ago when customers were more accepting if their order was late or inaccurate as ecommerce was so new.

“As we’ve honed our skills and elements of ecommerce, customers are now freaking out if anything is slightly off or wrong. Customers are becoming more and more demanding,” says Bounthay.

Customers are also getting more sophisticated with technology as other channels such as social media has improved product discovery. Companies can choose to ship to anywhere in the world to reach a global market.

“People are finding our products a lot faster and they’re willing to purchase from anywhere in the world,” says Casey.

2. Ecommerce players are gaining strength

The line between online and offline players has been blurred in the past few years as brick-and-mortar retailers are exploring digital channels and pure ecommerce players are looking to build an offline presence.

“Pure online players have more flexibility to expand their growth offline through different partnerships. If we look at the top 10 retailers in the US, Amazon is likely #2 or #3. In China, #1 and #2 will be Alibaba and JD.com,” says Jeremy.

“I’m pretty sure that in Southeast Asia, half the top 10 retailers will be ecommerce pure players in 5-10 years,” he continues.

3. Reaching for an optimal omni-channel mix

Pomelo’s Casey noted that a channel strategy comes down to selling a product and the shopping experience customers go through to reach that point. Sometimes, online doesn’t always work.

“Purchasing media is pretty much online, purchasing travel also makes sense online but when you look at physical products like fashion that is very tangible, people want to try it on and feel it.”

“There are benefits being online that you don’t get shopping offline. If you want to find a silver dress with pleats, you can go to the mall and spend hours looking around for it or you can lay in bed and easily find exactly what you’re looking for on your phone. Obviously, when you want to try it on and see how it fits, then offline comes in. We [Pomelo] are still trying to figure out what is the optimal hybrid strategy, ” says Casey.

The company recently opened its first pop shop to allow its customers to ‘experience’ its fashion pieces offline in Singapore.

4. Convenience ecommerce – the next big thing?

“I believe convenience ecommerce will be the next big wave. What we see in the market is businesses asking how can we add value to people’s lives? And one of the key things how to do it is by helping them save time – helping them focus on the important things like family, rather than running errands,” says Bounthay.

Read more #EchelonTH2017 coverage by eIQ with Dr. Alex Lin from SGInnovate here.

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