The Exponential Rise of Ecommerce in Asia
Ecommerce is disrupting brick-and-mortar stores at an incredible rate in the West, where internet penetration is as high as 95%. In Asia, where internet penetration is as low as 42% in Southern Asia (Digital 2019: Global Digital Overview), ecommerce has been far less disruptive. As internet penetration deepens and widens, the prospects are for similar disruption to retail markets in the region. However, the market may be taken by surprise.
Trends in the ecommerce marketplace could lead to an exponential rate of growth in ecommerce in Asia. In this article, we look at these trends that will not only affect brick-and-mortar retail outlets, but could also command a seismic shift of jobs to the digital world and create a boom in ecommerce jobs in Asia.
Internet Penetration in Asia Is on a High Growth Curve
According to Statista, there are currently 1.1 billion internet users in Asia. This is expected to rise to 1.45 billion in 2021 – an increase of around 340 million internet users in just two years, with internet penetration rising to 59% across the region. Smartphone penetration is expected to grow to around 44% in 2021 from around 35% in 2017.
In 2018, the Asia Pacific region provided 55% of the worldwide growth in internet users. In India alone, another 100 million people became connected. In China, there were 50 million new users reported.
Demographics Are on the Side of Ecommerce
The Asian population is huge. According to the 2014 World Population Review, there are:
- 627 million people in South East Asia
- 1,392 million people in China
- 1,262 million people in India
These numbers compare to 741 million people in the EU and 319 million in the United States. In simple numbers, the potential of the Asian market dwarves that of the EU and United States combined. However, it isn’t only the numbers of people that present such potential. It is their age.
Millennials are the dominant generation in Asia. 58% of the world’s millennials live in Asia. That’s more than one billion individuals. In the ASEAN block, 67% of people are aged under 35. They also don’t have the brand loyalty of older generations – and they love shopping online.
Social Media Is a Driver of Ecommerce
These young people are social, tech savvy, mobile and affluent. And social media plays a big role in shopping habits. Social media is often the first port of call for people seeking product reviews, before they make a buying decision. It is through social media that millennials discover their identity and affirm their social status.
Social media penetration in much of Asia mirrors that of Western users. In Western Europe, Northern Europe and Northern America, social media penetration runs at 53%, 67% and 70% respectively. In Western Asia, South Eastern Asia and Eastern Asia, social media penetration is 54%, 61% and 60% respectively.
Deeper penetration will be compelled by adoption of smartphones, especially as they become more affordable. According to Business Insider, consumers in South Eastern Asia spend an average of 3.6 hours each day on mobile internet devices. By 2020, TechCrunch estimates that there will be 480 million internet users in South Eastern Asia alone, and that 90% of these will access the internet by mobile.
Brands Will Seek to Expand Their Social Media Presence
With greater social media penetration, brands are likely to miss out on the growing ecommerce market in Asia if they don’t adopt social media marketing strategies.Millennials will seek out genuine social content and personalised experiences, preferring visual and video content. They buy into the sharing economy.
In social media in Asia, Facebook is the major player, followed by Instagram, Twitter, and Line. Ecommerce companies are likely to build presence across these social media platforms, and others. They will need to adopt agile strategies that engage users in the ways they wish to be engaged, providing personalised content. It is also likely that major brands will seek to monetize their social media strategies by enabling connection to shopping portals.
As Deborah Liu, VP Facebook Marketplace told Forbes:
“Brands will miss out if they don’t have a social media presence. The best way to get feedback from consumers is by having a direct conversation.”
Brands Will Connect To Their Customers Directly
The way that brands are selling to consumers has changed. Instead of the customer journey being led by a brand sales process, it is now being led by a consumer buying mentality. Brands no longer sell to consumers – they help them make their buying decisions.
Customer experience is key to the customer journey. To engage consumers at multiple entry points along the buying journey, brands are also likely to employ direct-to-consumer tactics. Such tactics will help to gain access to big data and valuable market insights to help brands market more effectively.
Subscription models may be employed, providing a personalised account for consumers and a method to promote customer loyalty for brands. Once the subscription period is finished, the brand loyalty built often leads to purchases of brand products being completed elsewhere online.
Brands Will Encourage Customers to Comment on Review Platforms
Across all their online sales platforms, brands are more likely to encourage customers to leave reviews on independent review sites. This is likely to see brands developing techniques and tools to enable reviews to be left easily, with convenience high on the list of considerations.
This trend links back to the way that millennials first search for product reviews and recommendations online. For many, this is the first step along their buyer’s journey, and often made on social media channels. By generating social media content that directs consumers to independent review sites, brands will be helping consumers to discover authentic recommendations for their products.
Utilising independent review platforms will enable brands to increase engagement, increase online reviews, and improve ratings.
Chatbots are also likely to become more relevant to the customer journey, and to gain insight into customer wishes and needs. Such data will need to be collected and collated, and analysed to produce meaningful insights that help to direct product design and marketing strategies.
Greater Regulation of Ecommerce will Encourage Online Shopping
To date, there has been little regulatory ‘interference’ in Asia’s ecommerce market. As ecommerce grows, it is inevitable that the levels of regulation will increase. This is likely to include more rigorous taxation of product sales, and will help to level the playing field between countries and regions, and for international entrants to the market.
is needed to enable greater cross-border transactions, though care will need to
be taken to ensure that ecommerce is not driven in numbers to unregulated
platforms. Greater international competition for online consumers could push
ecommerce product prices down and increase sales volumes further.
Greater regulation of ecommerce across the region should also serve to increase consumer confidence in the online market.Whatever regulation is applied, and whenever it is applied, brands will need to adapt their marketing and sales strategies to remain in line with evolving laws.
Spending On Advertising Will Boom
As the potential of ecommerce flourishes in the region, brands will increase their spending on marketing and advertising to tap into and take advantage of this growth. Estimates from Statista forecasts that advertising spend in the Asia Pacific region will rise from US$196 billion in 2017 to US$275 billion by 2020. eMarketer’s estimates and forecasts for 2016 to 2021 puts extra gloss on forecasts for South Eastern Asia (specifically covering Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore):
- Digital advertising is set to be the main driver of advertising spending
- Digital ad spend will increase by 22%
- Mobile ad spend will increase by 77%
- Mobile ad spend will account for at least 60% of digital ad spend by 2021
To access the market’s full potential, marketing teams will need to be innovative and digital savvy. They will need to understand the motivations of millennials, and this will require in-depth analysis of big data.
How Big Is The Potential Ecommerce Market In Asia?
The ecommerce sector is set for spectacular growth in Asia. According to Statista, in 2019:
- The number of users grew by 6.9% from 2018 to 2.08 billion
- Ecommerce revenues totalled US$970 billion, up by 13.3% year-on-year
- Current penetration rate in ecommerce is 47.9% and will rise to 56.42% by 2023
- By 2023, there will be 2.53 billion users in Asia
- Average revenue per user will rise from US$466 in 2019 to $567 in 2023
If these forecasts are borne out, we can expect ecommerce revenues to increase by 48% to US$1.43 trillion by 2023.
Digital Skills Will be Key To Access Growth In Ecommerce In Asia
The potential growth trajectory of the ecommerce market in Asia is steep. To access this potential and reap the rewards of stellar growth, brands will need to invest heavily in the digital skills required to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded market.
The skills that will be in demand in this sector include:
- Big Data
- Business Analysts
- Customer Insight and Research
- Marketing and Customer Analytics
- Social Media Analytics and Insight
- Web Analytics
In addition, brands will need platform specialists and technicians to develop, build and maintain evolving hardware and software.
Ecommerce may be disruptive to brick-and-mortar retail, but we expect a jobs boom across the spectrum of digital and technical skills to result in this rapidly-growing sector.Get in touch with the Digital Team at Prime Insight to learn more about the opportunities in the ecommerce sector in Asia.