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Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

‘Others’ category under B2C sector is filled with niche players.

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

Bukalapak’s viral video campaign for Online Shopping Day 12-12 last year, starred their CEO creating a small-budget, home-made marketing initiative while ‘apologizing’ to the executives everywhere for distracting and decreasing their employees’ productivity with big discounts offered.

Among the top 20 websites in the archipelago under SimilarWeb’s ‘Shopping’ category, more than half are native Indonesian run companies.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

ecommerceIQ aims to bridge the gap of knowledge in Southeast Asia by providing market research to executives in the form of summits, reports, insights and data.

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.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

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.

Click here to download the full, high-resolution version of ECOMScape: Indonesia and join the ecommerceIQ network for the next ECOMScape in our series.

***Are we missing an important player? Let us know! Reach us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

Want to know what you missed over the weekend and today? We got you covered.

1. Indonesia’s Buzzfeed, IDN Media has raised an undisclosed series A round

The new funds will go into developing video content, strengthening the branded content team, and building an automated ad platform that lets brands use the IDN Media sites as marketing channels. Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Singapore’s crowdfunding firm, CoAssets lists in Australia

Singaporean crowdfunding platform CoAssets has listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the company announced today. It raised $5 million under its public offering at a price of $0.30 per share. Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Wal-Mart and Amazon will crush, but won’t kill the neighborhood store

Ever since Kmart and Wal-Mart made their appearance in the retail space, traditional stores couldn’t match these retail giants in scale, scope, logistics, advertising budgets, and ability to raise funds among investors anxious to capitalize on the trend. Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. Restaurant discovery and booking app Offpeak raised undisclosed funding round led by Yahoo Japan

Offpeak plans to double down on its current markets in Southeast Asia. Planned enhancements include better search, an updated user interface, intelligent restaurant recommendation features, seamless country selection, and more. Read the rest of the story here.

 

5. Rakuten acquires Japanese C2C fashion marketplace FRIL

The combined monthly GMS of the two companies’ services already exceed several billion yen. The addition of Fril will further accelerate Rakuten’s dominance of the C2C market in Japan. Read the rest of the story here.

Why We’re Heading Towards a Bloodbath and 4 Strategies to Avoid it

Being the new kid on the block means that ecommerce ventures in Southeast Asia have the luxury to learn from the mistakes of others from mature ecommerce markets like the US and China. It has been over 20 years since Amazon (1994) and eBay (1995) were founded, Jack Ma started Alibaba in his Hangzhou apartment in 1999, right before the Internet 1.0 bubble burst.

A lot has happened in global ecommerce since then, including the slow but steady march of Amazon, the quick rise and fall of daily deals and flash sale sites, and Alibaba’s blockbuster IPO in 2015. What’s next? This historical review creates the two frameworks, the Ecommerce Lifecycle and Ecommerce 1.0/2.0, to help predict the future opportunity of ecommerce in Southeast Asia.

1. The Ecommerce Lifecycle – How Ecommerce Models Evolve Over Time

There is a distinct pattern that has emerged from the more mature ecommerce markets’ evolution that offers a degree of prescience for ecommerce in Southeast Asia. This follows the trajectory of Classifieds and C2C to B2C to eventually Brand.com. The US went from Craigslist, eBay and Amazon to brand sites like Nike, J.Crew and Gap. China went from Taobao, Tmall and JD to the many standalone and marketplace brand sites, like Estée Lauder, Burberry and Coach.

Today’s Southeast Asia is following a similar pattern but at a much faster pace due to “1 to n,” horizontal progress and the resulting leapfrogging behavior. In our region, we have Classifieds (OLX), C2C (Tarad, Tokopedia, Shopee), B2C (Lazada, Zalora, MatahariMall) and Brand.com (L’Oreal, Estée Lauder, Adidas) all happening at once within a very short time frame.

The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

Figure 1: Ecommerce Lifecycle Model

LIMITATIONS TO THE MODEL

Local nuances give rise to unique ecommerce business models

eBay could only have been invented in the US because of its auction-driven model in a consumerist culture characterized by excess goods and plenty of hobbyists (think baseball cards and Pez dispensers). eBay didn’t work in China for many reasons, one being the auction model was not appealing to Chinese users who preferred to buy first-hand goods and to negotiate person-to-person via chat.

Tmall’s B2B2C model originated in China because of the bazaar-like, hustle and bustle shopping environments that many Chinese were used to in their offline world.

HOW SOUTHEAST ASIA ECOMMERCE IS DIFFERENT

Southeast Asia is a hybrid between the US and China

Lazada, the dominant ecommerce platform in Southeast Asia, is both an Amazon and a Tmall. Founded in 2011 by Rocket Internet as the “Amazon of Southeast Asia”, Lazada today gets 70% of its GMV from third-party, marketplace transactions, with the remaining 30% generated through “traditional” Amazon-style direct retail. Post-Alibaba acquisition, it’s likely that Lazada will follow the Tmall model and move towards a 100% marketplace with all the model’s inherent scaling benefits.

Compare this to Amazon, which traditionally used to be 100% direct retail but has been moving towards a marketplace model. Today, Amazon gets 59% of its GMV from B2B2C.

B2C, B2B2C and Brand.com all happening at the same time

In China, brands progressed from selling via Tmall as a stepping stone towards operating their own brand.com site. A case in point is Uniqlo, which started selling through a Tmall flagship store and then later added their own brand.com webstore.

In Southeast Asia, we see brands doing both at the same time, selling via Lazada as well as their brand.com stores, in addition through distributing through e-tailors like Central Online and MAP. This is driven by technology making it much easier to sell through different channels but also necessitated by the high degree of fragmentation in the ecommerce market. Consolidation is expected to happen soon.

Southeast Asia is mobile-first, C2C ecommerce is jumping straight into mobile marketplaces

Whereas in mature ecommerce markets desktop C2C still plays a pivotal role, in Southeast Asia the leapfrogging towards mobile is disrupting traditional, desktop-first marketplaces. Mobile-only C2C marketplaces like Carousell and Garena-backed Shopee are making aggressive moves against their older desktop counterparts like Tarad in Thailand and Tokopedia in Indonesia. With an estimated 85% and 79% of online shopping outside of the major metro areas in Thailand and Indonesia happening on mobile, it’s not surprising that companies like Facebook are also betting on mobile C2C. The ad giant recently launching mobile payments in Thailand where an estimated 50% of C2C transactions are happening on social networks.

2. Ecommerce 1.0 to Ecommerce 2.0: 4 Strategies to Avoid the Imminent Ecommerce Bloodbath in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is the next ecommerce gold rush. For this very reason, it’s also quickly becoming the next ecommerce bloodbath. We’ve already seen many casualties, especially in the B2C space of selling third-party brands. As we previously predicted, Rocket Internet’s Zalora had to sell their Thailand and Vietnam businesses for chump change to local retailer Central Group. This same year, Cdiscount Thailand, part of French retail conglomerate Groupe Casino, was sold for $31.5 million (28 million EUR) to TCC, a local Thai company that also owns the popular Chang beer brand. 

Ecommerce 1.0: Selling other people’s stuff to the masses at low margins

Ecommerce guru Andy Dunn adopted a strategy that allowed his business to stand a fighting chance in the Amazon bloodbath of the US.

“If you’re selling other people’s brands, you are competing not via a local group of competitors but with everyone. In this type of market, you might imagine having one large national winner. You might imagine that winner is ruthless about scale and cost, and is run by a visionary leader who with an extreme long-term focus. Such a company might not make real money for a long time — but when it does — it will be incredibly powerful.”

With Alibaba coming into the region through the $1 billion Lazada acquisition, it increasingly looks like ‘Alizada’ is becoming the big threat for other retailers in the market, both in the pure-play and omni-channel space. Expect the bloodbath to intensify and more consolidation to happen over the next few years.

Today, none of the B2C / Ecommerce 1.0 players in ASEAN have dominant market share yet.

Granted, Lazada has a headstart with an alleged 20% market share (2014) but this number pales in comparison with Amazon’s 60% in the US, Tmall’s 50.6%, and JD’s 51.9% (direct retail B2C market) in China.

ecommerce 1.0, The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

The Ecommerce 1.0 Goliaths

Over the next 5-6 years, Southeast Asia B2C will go through further consolidation to end up in a 1-2 player game

There is no better way to visualize the ongoing consolidation in Ecommerce 1.0 than with ‘search interest’ data from Google Trends. The graph for Thailand shows the rise and fall of desktop C2C and daily deals, the fragmentation in B2C, and the rapid ascension of Lazada.

google trends, The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

Figure 3: Google Search Interest Showing Ongoing Consolidation in Ecommerce 1.0

This is where things start to get interesting. Whereas Ecommerce 1.0 is a game of brute force and strength, Ecommerce 2.0 exploits 1.0 loopholes in many creative ways in order to avoid the zero-sum game against the likes of ‘Alizada’.

“This next generation of ecommerce companies is as much about what you exclude as what you include. It is a paradox that excluding some things takes more time than including everything. The new models are fundamentally — whether the merchandise is proprietary or not — about merchandising.” — Andy Dunn on Ecommerce 2.0

The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

Figure 4: Ecommerce 2.0 – Four Strategies for Avoiding the Bloodbath

Gilt, the posterchild of Ecommerce 2.0, rose from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis with a unique business model that offered high-end luxury goods at a fraction of their original price through time-sensitive flash sales. One of New York City’s first unicorns at a point in time, Gilt later struggled as the economy recovered and brands no longer needed a distribution channel for clearance stock.

While Gilt played the pricing angle, others like Birchbox and Rent the Runway innovated on the product side by offering a unique shopping experience. Birchbox started the monthly beauty subscription commerce craze and inspired countless “Birchbox for X” clones. Rent the Runway is basically fashion on-demand by providing users rental access to high-end, designer fashion.

Ecommerce 2.0 in Southeast Asia: A glimpse of hope for aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs?

With the Ecommerce 1.0 bloodbath in Southeast Asia still ongoing as we speak, a few entrepreneurs have realized that it’s futile to compete against the Lazada’s and MatahariMall’s of the region without deep pockets or any other strategic moat. Instead, they are focusing on emerging opportunities in Ecommerce 2.0 by positioning themselves in a unique way.

Proprietary Merchandise

Pomelo Fashion

Founded by the ex-Thailand Lazada founding team, Pomelo Fashion is one of the first Ecommerce 2.0 companies in Southeast Asia. Rather than selling other brands’ products with low margins, Pomelo Fashion has taken a M2C/D2C (Manufacture / Direct-to-Consumer) approach, focusing on building its own fashion brand and vertically integrating its supply chain, going as far as manufacturing its own clothing and apparel.

The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

Glazziq and Franc Nobel

Inspired by Warby Parker’s success in the US, Glazziq and Franc Nobel are applying the proprietary merchandise model in the eyewear space in Thailand and Indonesia, respectively. Glazziq adds a local spin by positioning itself as prescription eyewear for Asians.

The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

Sale Stock

In Indonesia, another startup has taken a cue from the Facebook and Instagram seller playbook, and scaled it 10x. Sale Stock, a fast-fashion startup based in Jakarta has taken a similar path to Pomelo Fashion, with vertical integration of design, manufacturing, and supply chain.

Proprietary Selection

Motif Official

Motif Official is a fashion retailer based in Bangkok focusing on proprietary merchandise and selection. Their ‘Motif Official’ label is designed and manufactured in-house. For their ‘Motif Select’ range, they select and curate minimalist brands from across the world. Motif’s ecommerce strategy eerily resembles that of Nasty Gal in the US, where founder Sophia Amoruso started the business in 2006 by curating vintage clothing sourced from second hand stores.

The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

“We are an online concept store specializing in women’s apparels and accessories; from our own in-house label ‘Motif Official’ to our ‘Motif Select’ range, where we curate the best pieces from brands all around the world to your everyday wardrobe. We believe in the concept of minimalism, with attention to details, shapes and silhouettes.”

Motif proves that you can still compete with the big retailers by focusing on a niche and dominating a category through curation. Many of the premium brands on Motif would never sell on Lazada, let alone Zalora.

Following pure play ecommerce companies in the US like Warby Parker and Birchbox who went offline to augment their brand, Motif also operates physical stores in Central World and Siam Discovery in the heart of Bangkok.

 

The Evolution of Ecommerce Business Models in Southeast Asia

Figure 5: Ecommerce 2.0, Global vs SEA Comparison and Opportunities

The Future of Ecommerce in Southeast Asia

Applying either the Ecommerce Lifecycle or Ecommerce 1.0/2.0 framework makes it easy to see where ecommerce in Southeast Asia is headed.

The B2C war will continue to wage for the next 4-5 years until some run out of money and throw in the towel. In China, this process took almost a decade with Tmall going from 0% to 50.6% market share from 2008-2014. In the direct retail B2C space, JD went from 15% to 51.9%. In the same period, previous leaders like Dangdang (16.2%) and Amazon China (15.4%) faded into irrelevance with 4% and 3.5% market share remaining as of 2014.

During this time, we will also see more startups and venture capital going into the Ecommerce 2.0 space. Ecommerce 2.0 isn’t new to Southeast Asia— many have tried to bring the Birchbox model into the region but failed due to the immature market. However, the next few years may be a fertile time as evidenced from the traction that companies like Pomelo Fashion, Sale Stock, and Motif are getting.

Does this mean we can go ahead and copy something like Gilt into Southeast Asia? It really depends. A model like Gilt needs access to old inventory of premium brands which in markets like Thailand and Indonesia are controlled by 1-2 distributors such as Central and MAP. This is the same issue that caused the downfall of Zalora in the same markets. Any Ecommerce 2.0 model launched in Southeast Asia will need to be customized for the local market.

Ecommerce in Southeast Asia is still relatively young, with only 1% of total retail GMV being generated online compared to 7.1% and 15.9% in the US and China. However, the region is already widely being touted as the next frontier of ecommerce opportunity, or the next ecommerce gold rush and recent research predicting the market to grow 32% year-on-year to reach $88 billion by 2025 (6.4% penetration), up from today’s $5.5 billion (0.8% penetration). As shown in our analysis, there are plenty of opportunities in ecommerce for those with deep pockets as well as those who adopt unique and local strategies.

“Don’t always go through the tiny little door that everyone is trying to rush through… maybe go around the corner and go through the vast gate that no one’s taking.” — Peter Thiel

By Sheji Ho

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