E-commerce trends in Southeast Asia

When asked about current e-commerce trends and strategies to approach them in Southeast Asia (SEA), Facebook’s Head of Retail & eCommerce in the region, Deepesh Trivedi, boiled it down into three trends: building omni-channel presence, understanding cross-device behaviour and measurements, and mobility.

He shared this observations, with audiences of the 5th Asia e-Commerce Conference in KL just last week.

“Mobility in SEA; most markets here classify themselves as mobile-first, especially here because most people’s first experience with online here, will be on the mobile,” he said adding mobile usage here is going to be so sophisticated that it would leapfrog desktops.

No surprise there.  Analysts and tech companies foresaw this happening a few years ago.

Marcelo Wesseler, the CEO of an integrated e-commerce solutions provider, SP eCommerce, also added, “We see that online penetration of e-commerce through mobile, rises significantly higher in remote places, compared to other places.”

In fact, SP eCommerce observed that almost all Web traffic in Southeast Asia is mobile traffic.

Omni-channel it is
But, consumers in SEA would still demand an omni-channel experience – being able to begin an engagement with a brand on one device or channel, and continuing that engagement across other devices or channels.

For example, consumers would call up or chat with a customer service agent first, before the final purchase action. “The chat and call volume is higher than in say, Australia, and this (behaviour) is very prevalent in Asia,” said Deepesh.

According to him “Two years ago, speaking with retailers, they felt it was important to build their presence on the Web.

“The omni-channel term has involved since then. Now it’s about discovery everywhere – discovering more products and services online, and buying everywhere.”

And that means having to ensure a consistent look and feel across devices.

“Customers expect a seamless shopping experience, across all these,” he said. “Companies should invest in mobile apps and the mobile Web, because that’s where consumers are.”

Mobile challenges
It was statistics-galore when Deepesh shared more findings like how 75-percent of e-commerce shoppers use mobile at least once, during their purchase journey.

“In countries like Thailand and Indonesia, 25-percent of them use only mobile,” he said.

This is encouraging news for mobile commerce, but lack of cookies usage on mobile devices, means customisation on that device is limited.

Cross device behaviour poses huge difficulties as well. “This is a very challenging topic to understand because it’s hard to measure – a consumer sees a product on mobile, but how much engagement with it can lead to a buy decision on another device like a tablet?” Deepesh said.

With all these challenges to measurements, it becomes difficult for businesses to justify spending on an ecommerce platform. Wesseler added this is especially so for big organisations that have to go through costly security audits, for example.

For Malaysia specifically, e-commerce is doing pretty well, and in fact transaction volumes have doubled in a year.

Wesseler concluded, “The guys that were in the market last year, are doing very, very well this year.”

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