Indonesians are the world's top online shoppers

Shopee Buyer in Vietnam receiving an order.jpg
A Shopee customer in Vietnam receives an order from a courier. Shopee is an e-commerce platform by Singapore-based, New York-listed digital media company Sea Group, which has a focus on South-east Asian markets.
FEBRUARY 01, 2019 - 4:18 PM

SOUTH-EAST Asia is a hotbed of online shopping, despite the relatively low digital take-up rate.

That’s according to an annual report from Hootsuite and creative agency We Are Social, which noted that such a trend could point to strong growth potential in the region.

Countries in South-east Asia have not been laggards: Indonesia even managed to beat out China for pole position in both e-commerce and mobile commerce, with 86 per cent of Internet users having made a recent purchase on a Web device - most of them on mobile platforms.

The global online shopping average was 75 per cent for overall e-tail and 55 per cent for mobile phones specifically, while the value of the consumer goods e-commerce market hit US$1.79 trillion in annual sales worldwide last year. Fashion and beauty, electronics and physical media, and hobbies and lifestyle items were where the cash registers rang the loudest.

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Market voices on:

“It’s tough to do research on mobile, which is why social videos can close the gap between discovery and purchase. Beyond product tutorials, look for ways to make shopping social. For example, a live broadcast on Instagram can recreate the energy and urgency of real-life shopping experiences,” said Hootsuite in the report.

“Remember that what distinguishes social commerce from other channels is the social aspect. Look for inspiration from brands like Gucci, Glossier, and Sephora. These brands have mastered the art of blending commerce, content, and customer communities.”

We Are Social added: “Influencers have a growing impact on purchase decisions, with top categories being clothing, shoes, food & drinks, and cosmetics. Expect more brand collaborations and an acceleration of the trend for influencers to build their own virtual shops.”

How are people paying for these online shopping sprees?

It turns out that South-east Asian consumers are also turning to their trusty smartphones to transact with their banks.

While just 41 per cent of netizens worldwide access banking services on a mobile device, the rate shot up to 74 per cent in world leader Thailand - with Malaysia the next biggest mobile-banking Asean market at 66 per cent, and Singapore close behind at 64 per cent.

Besides traditional banking, mobile wallets have caught on too: Thailand, where 47 per cent of Internet users transact with their phone, was fifth worldwide for mobile payment, while Malaysia and the Philippines were in seventh and eighth place and Vietnam rounded out the top 10.

Also, commuters in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top fans of ride-hailing apps, with around half of Internet users tapping these services monthly, a survey has found. 

These commuters - who among the 2.21 billion Internet users in the Asia-Pacific - brought their countries head and shoulders above the global ride-hailing average of 30 per cent.

Roger Graham, Hootsuite’s Asia head, said in a statement: “Asia is one of the world’s fastest-growing regions for Internet and mobile usage, and with that comes a huge appetite for technological adoption, foreign investment and digital innovation. Brands and companies are recognising this opportunity and demonstrating a strong sense of urgency to integrate digital and social media into their business.”