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Apparel and tech gadgets are two things that are almost synonymous with online shopping. According to Statista, ecommerce sales in fashion and the electronics & media categories make up more than 50% of total online sales in Southeast Asia.

Statista estimates ecommerce sales in the electronics & media category will reach $5.26 billion this year across six Southeast Asian countries (find below), while the online fashion market will reach $4.464 billion.

websites where online shoppers buy fashion and mobile phones in SEA

Fashion online sales in the region are expected to double within the next five years and electronics & media are expected to increase 1.5 times. Where are customers going online to look for these products?

Google’s Consumer Barometer has some answers and based on the data, a couple of online channels in Southeast Asia stand out for buying clothing & footwear and mobile phones.

Where are shoppers buying clothing & footwear?

Consumers mostly buy apparel on general online marketplaces and e-shops that predominantly focus on selling fashion and footwear. Less people report buying on brand.com but until only recently did well known brands such as Adidas, Zara, Uniqlo, started to offer their products online in Southeast Asia.

Other popular online shopping destinations include social sites such as Instagram and Facebook and apps like Shopee and Carousell who are dominating C2C market sales in the region.

websites where online shoppers buy fashion and mobile phones in SEA

Where are shoppers buying mobile phones?

As for electronics, there is a larger variety of channels shoppers use to buy mobile phones. In Indonesia, classifieds sites and mobile phone brand stores are the most popular choice for shoppers.

In Vietnam, shoppers favor online shops of mobile retailers and big box retailers, while in Thailand people shop on general e-retailers. websites where online shoppers buy fashion and mobile phones in SEA


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As ecommerce is growing in Southeast Asia and the latest Digital in 2017 report shows more respondents in each country have made a product or service purchase online compared to a year ago, the window is opening also for cross-border online shopping.

According to the Consumer Barometer by Google, 19% of people on average in 2014/15 have made a purchase online in Southeast Asia. But how many of them have bought something online from a foreign country? Let’s find out.

Singaporeans are the most active users purchasing products online from overseas – two out of three people do it more than once a year. The absence of Goods and Services Tax on imported goods of S$400 or less is highly attractive to Singaporeans.

They are followed by Thais and Malaysians of which nearly every second person buys something online from foreign countries. It is not a coincidence as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are the richest of the six Southeast Asian nations.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Base: internet users who have purchased online, n=14174.

In all countries, the product categories that reap the most cross-border orders are clothing & accessories or footwear. People are also buying cosmetics, beauty or health products and books, CDs, DVDs or Video games from other countries.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Countries included: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Base: internet users who have ever purchased a product or service online from abroad, n=8750.

Better availability and quality of products are among the top reasons why people are looking to buy things online from abroad, followed by better conditions and broader range of products.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Base: internet users who have ever purchased a product or service online from abroad, n=8750.

Despite the perks of cross-border online shopping, there are also several hassles. Shoppers in Southeast Asia have experienced deliveries that take too long and lack of international shipping options. Their trust has also been diminished as they see online shopping websites as “insecure”.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Countries included Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Base: internet users who have ever purchased a product or service online from abroad, n=8750.

On the other hand, for those who have never bought products online from abroad, Indonesians (90%) and Vietnamese (51%) stand out. In comparison – only 13% of Singapore has not ever ordered online something across the border.

People do not order products online from abroad as they believe it is more expensive, delivery takes longer and returns will be difficult or costly.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Countries included: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Base: internet users who have never purchase a product from abroad, n=4827.

There are several takeaways for ecommerce businesses, both targeting consumers locally and also those willing to sell their produce outside their country’s borders.

Local online stores and marketplaces would benefit from studying the motivation of those who dabble in cross-border ecommerce to offer what consumers are lacking. For example, consumers in Indonesia and Vietnam are stocking up on quality clothing, accessories and footwear. In Singapore, consumers are ordering from abroad because of appealing offers so providing attractive deals on the website might be a good way to catch their attention.

For those looking to expand their customer reach and tap into the Southeast Asia’s population, offering more attractive delivery options might be key. While the level of infrastructure development (or lack of it) varies across Southeast Asian countries, there are number of established players such as DHL Ecommerce and Lazada Express as well as startups like LalaMove and NinjaVan that are looking to address the logistics challenges. Improving the security of the website and offering convenient payment methods would also help transition more people to try ecommerce.

By enhancing the shopping experience and tackling the above mentioned issues, hopefully the myths that surround the online shopping in the region will be dissolved but there is still much to do.

By: Aija Krutaine

Product research is an essential part of the consumer decision making journey. After the initial conception of the idea to buy something, consumers enter the phase of active evaluation gathering information and researching.

Consumer decision journey

Source: The consumer decision journey, McKinsey Quarterly, June 2009

While the ‘research phase’ is driven by consumers as they control where they look for the information, marketers can find ways to influence the process. To do that, however, it is important to know where consumers first find information about products.

Where do Southeast Asians come across new products or offers before making a purchase?

The Consumer Barometer from Google has some answers for that. It’s not a surprise that product discovery in Southeast Asia, similar as elsewhere around the globe, is driven by previous experience and word-of-mouth.

At the same time, pre-purchase research and advertising have influence over consumer decisions.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Countries included: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Base: internet users, n=38384

On average, stores and showrooms are still the most common place where 51% of consumers in Southeast Asia discover new products during product research. Online comes second with 39% of consumers while 4% are contacted through the phone via text or phone call.

The behaviors change when we look at each country within Southeast Asia:

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Base: internet users, n=6527

Singapore leads the digital product discovery journey as 60% of consumers use the internet to find out about new products or offers. Only 34% of the country’s consumers first source of information comes from a store.

In Malaysia, more consumers are first aware of products during the research phase online than in store.

In the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, stores are the first place where consumers begin product discovery but the number of customers that start online is close to the region’s average at 35 to 38%.

In Indonesia, however, the situation is quite different. 76% of consumers discover new products in stores and showrooms, while only 18% come across new finds online.

While in most Southeast Asian countries, the number of consumers being introduced to new products over phone via text messages or phone calls is small, marketers in Thailand have found the mobile phone a good channel to reach customers.

11% of consumers report phone as their first point source for finding new products.

To influence the product discovery journey for Southeast Asians, advertising online and on TV are two of the most effective channels to reach consumers but as expected, the situation differs across countries and verticals.

Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Average of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Base: internet users, n=5338

In Indonesia, advertising on TV is three times more effective than advertising online as 44% of consumers report learning about a product they purchased on TV compared to 15% learning through online advertising.

But for clothing and footwear, advertising online in Indonesia can reach more consumers than advertising on TV.

In Vietnam, online advertising has helped 43% consumers discover new products they purchased, almost two times more than 24% of consumers who became aware of new products through advertising on TV.


Source: The Consumer Barometer Survey 2014/15. Base: internet users, n=5338

Marketers in Southeast Asia have multiple channels to reach consumers and should keep an open mind when promoting for their respective brands.

A mix of online and TV advertising, running a content rich blog and betting on relevant keywords are as important as training sales staff in store to learn what customers want to recommend new products.

Happy basket building.