Most Important South and Southeast Asian eCommerce Market Developments – Pt.1

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Booming, full of promise and worth billions of dollars. There is no shortage of superlatives when talking about the South and Southeast Asian eCommerce market. Most of the region’s countries are racking up double-digit eCommerce growth rates and its population is digitally savvy and quickly becoming very accepting of eCommerce.

We already gave a first overview of the Southeast Asian eCommerce market last year, mentioning some of its biggest trends. This time, we are delving in a bit further into the actual eCommerce volume and market potential of 6 South and Southeast Asian countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Overview of Country Characteristics

We start off by looking at a few general aspects of these countries to put the numbers into perspective. Specifically, this includes the population, GDP per Capita, eCommerce and total retail sales. These aspects also give an idea of these countries’ eCommerce potential and future growth trajectory.

GDP per Capita

Among all countries, we see that Singapore easily leads in GDP per capita. Malaysia and Thailand follow, although with a huge gap. On the lower end of the spectrum are Indonesia, Vietnam and India. Especially India and Vietnam struggle with poverty alleviation. The large wealth gap in these countries inevitably limits the overall consumption.

Population

This one is also an easy win, for India and Indonesia this time. As respectively the world’s second and fourth most populated countries, both have an absolute advantage in this respect. A large population of course creates a huge market and business volume.

From large to small, the other 4 countries rank as follows: Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Although Vietnam’s population is the fifteenth-largest worldwide, they still have an underdeveloped economy. Furthermore, considering its space and resources, Singapore’s population size already reached its limits.

South and Southeast Asian eCommerce Volume and Trends

Ranking the 6 countries by volume the order is: India, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

India and Indonesia clearly have the largest populations. India also has a bright eCommerce future. Currently valued at 18.026 million USD, this will grow to 39.460 million USD in 2021(e). At the same time, their CAGR will be at 21,6%, making India a market too big to ignore.

However, both India and Indonesia still need to further develop economically. On the other hand, a country like Singapore with a small population presents other advantages. Their well-developed economy and high consumer spending makes it an attractive market as well.

The situation in Thailand and Malaysia is quite similar, although Malaysia’s economy scores a bit better. Lastly there is Vietnam with a limited population and a weak economic foundation. Their economy is dynamic and FDI increased a lot in recent years. At the same time, they still lag behind the other countries and a big stumbling block is Vietnamese consumers’ high distrust of eCommerce.

eCommerce and Total Retail Sales

Currently, all countries have a limited share of eCommerce volume in total retail sales. This shows that there are many opportunities to uncover for online sales since consumers still prefer to shop offline at this moment.

Comparatively, India, Indonesia and Singapore already have higher levels of eCommerce volume, which shows stronger willingness to shop online in these countries.

India and Indonesia both have large populations and geographically scattered consumers. This further fuels the popularity of eCommerce since consumers have more choice online and it is a convenient way to purchase products that only have limited availability offline or none at all.

Singapore’s consumers are digitally savvy and affluent. Furthermore, the country’s internet and logistics network are quite complete. However, the country is small and there is a large shopping mall on practically every corner of the street. This makes it often easier and more convenient for Singaporeans to shop offline, which is why eCommerce is still not that popular.

eCommerce Growth Rate

Chinese giants such as Alibaba and Tencent also look to take advantage of the region’s growth and heavily invest in several projects and companies. This caused almost all of the 6 countries’ markets to quickly become saturated and growth rates to already is gradually slow down. But overall, they can maintain a compound growth rate (CAGR) of at least 16% in the next 5 years, which is still considerable. Among them, India will have a growth rate over 20% and Singapore even at 27.4%.

Most Popular eCommerce Platforms

Like Taobao and JD.com are the most popular in China, each country has its own eCommerce platforms. The photo below lists the top 3 platforms for all 6 countries.

We can see that Lazada and Shopee are very popular in most Southeast Asian countries. However, they do not have a number-1 spot in most countries and face intense competition from local platforms.

Therefore, in each countries we see that there are at least 1, if not multiple, local eCommerce platforms active. Per country, these include Indonesia’s Tokopedia, Bukapalapak; Vietnam’s Tiki; Thailand’s JD Central (joint venture between JD.com and the Thai Central Group); Singapore’s Qoo10 (originally from Korea); and Malaysia’s 11street (originally from Korea).

Furthermore, we see that India’s platforms differ completely from the Southeast Asian countries’. Amazon India, Flipkart and Snapdeal make up the top 3 in India.

South and Southeast Asia eCommerce

Do you want to know more about the developments and trends in South and Southeast Asian eCommerce? Then check out our complete 6-part series providing an overview, as well as details about all aspects of eCommerce in this booming region.

You also might be interested in our eCommerce Market Localization Guides, which include in-depth guides to some of Southeast Asia’s most exciting markets.

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