Despite its authoritarian government, investors in Vietnam have the option of side-stepping the country’s state owned companies to focus on smaller, private businesses that are poised for growth. Low valuations and a rising foreign cash flow mean there is a lot of potential to drive economic progress forwards but many companies still have doubt.
A lot of marketers, retailers and manufacturers are not sure about what to think of ecommerce: is it another buzz word or the future of modern trade in Vietnam? – Kantar World Panel
The current online landscape and its future
Vietnam is home to a handful of ecommerce marketplaces, notably Tiki, Sendo and The Gioi di dong, where site visits are comparable to the likes of Lazada, the biggest e-player that currently claims 30% of Vietnam’s online retail market.
Vietnam has also seen its fair share of newcomers and exits in ecommerce but C2C and B2C models are the most popular in the country. Garena’s Shopee has been steadily gaining traction after almost two years in the country and the Shopee app has been downloaded two million times and processes 10,000 orders per day.
2017 will be a year of intense competition for Vietnam’s ecommerce players especially as traditional retailers pursue an online presence. An example would be Korean cosmetics giant, Lotte.vn, that has an online and offline presence in the country. In January alone, Lotte gained 1.7 million visits on its website. Another threat to online players would be retail chain Aeon Shop that opened its online store AeonEshop.
Vietnamese consumers shop FMCG
According to Kantar World Panel research, the internet and online commerce is becoming more accessible to shoppers in Vietnam thanks to mobile phone usage at 80% penetration in the country’s four key urban cities. These are the other findings:
- 69% of Vietnam’s households have working women who welcome convenience
- Nearly 6% of urban households have shopped online for (fast moving consumer goods) FMCG at least once in 2016 and when they do, spend 3-4 X more than they would on an average shopping trip to avoid carrying bulky products on their motorbikes
- The value share of FMCG ecommerce is 0.2% in Vietnam meaning there are plenty of opportunities for consumer good players to serve the demand and rack up sizable market share
Help from the government
The Vietnamese government is set on implementing measures to improve the business and investment landscape to boost economic growth in the country. These include supporting SMEs and in particular, Resolution 35, which aims to create one million private enterprises in 2020 from 515,000 at present, and increasing the private sector share of national GDP from 43% to 49%.
The country was classified a “lower-middle income” country in 2009 – causes of the middle-income trap can include a lack of basic and advanced infrastructure, adequate financing, skilled human capital and innovative enterprise.
“Vietnam’s vision is to reach the upper-middle income category and be well on its way to a high-income economy by 2035” – Daryn Govender, opinion article on Interest.co.nz
Roadblocks to Vietnam’s growth
Analysts have said that many companies in Vietnam are looking to increase exports this year, hoping to leverage upcoming free trade agreements going into effect this year.
According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Vietnam will have to implement all commitments under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement with China and other ASEAN member countries, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), World Trade Organisation (WTO) to create highly favorable conditions for the country’s economic development.
There are other challenges from overseas and domestic markets that may hinder the growth potential of many Vietnamese enterprises, especially for exports.
- Macroeconomic instability
- Lack of adequate development infrastructure
- Growth quality of the Vietnamese economy
- President Donald Trump’s “protectionism” rhetoric could potentially stunt export growth for Vietnam
- When official, the consequences of Brexit could also impact as Vietnam was emerging as one of the EU’s most active trading partners
The major economies’ shift from trade liberalisation to protectionism could very well change the structure of global commodity supply and demand and directly impact the global trade market. To analysts, this means that Vietnamese companies should focus on building in its domestic market to contribute to economic growth and development.
For those poised to enter Vietnam, does your business differentiate from what’s already available, more FMCG offerings perhaps? Are you able to benefit from government initiatives such as Resolution 35? For investors, are you willing to take a gamble on a still very much developing country such as Vietnam?
With all this in mind, we look forward to witnessing Vietnam’s growth.