Asia is a part of the world where internet connectivity is high and smartphones are increasingly common. To give you an example, We Are Social reports that there are 8.37 million mobile subscriptions in Singapore for a country that counts 5.83 million souls. E-commerce is also rapidly expanding and surveys show that 73% of the population purchased a product or service online in 2018 in Singapore and trends are similar in the region.

If more and more people in South East Asia are turning to e-commerce every year for their shopping, this means that there is a lot of potential for entrepreneurs to get involve since the demand is high and that forecasts are positive regarding the market growth.

Market trends in South East Asia

In the region, the access to the Internet, the large mobile penetration, the growing number of e-shops shaped the bright future of e-commerce and the Global Digital Report by We Are Social strengthen this trend:

  • In Singapore, 4 million people purchased goods online in 2018 (+5.3% compared to 2017) and e-commerce sales reach US$ 4.11 million (+35% compared to 2017).
  • In Thailand, 37.5 million people purchased online (+6.5%) and e-commerce sales reach US$ 3.757 billion (+23%).
  • In Indonesia, 107 million people purchased goods online (+5.9%) and e-commerce sales reach US$ 9.5 billion (+23%).
  • In Malaysia, 19.8 million people purchased goods online (+2.1%) and e-commerce sales reach US$ 3.1 billion (+31%).

Each of the Southeast Asian nations has its own characteristics that contribute to the nature of its e-commerce industry. For example, Singapore is a very modern nation with a highly sophisticated infrastructure and 100% of Singaporeans live in urban centers, whereas the next closest nation in the region is Malaysia on only 76%.

Another influential factor is the amount of time that people spend online, and Thailand comes top in the region with an average of 5 hours and 13 minutes spent online per person every day. This gives brands more opportunities to advertise their products online.

Connected children in Thailand

Singapore has the highest level of credit card ownership in the region which makes it easier for Singaporeans to make purchases online if they wish to. 

Every nation has its own preferences, however, and here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular stores in the region. 

  • Singapore: In 1st place is Lazada, followed closely by Qoo10, a store that focuses mainly on fashion, and home & family products. 
  • Thailand: Here again, Lazada comes 1st, followed by Shopee, which is a store selling a very diverse range of goods.
  • Indonesia: The number one site in Indonesia is Tokopedia, a store that is around 50% larger than its closest rival in terms of traffic, and the runner up is Shopee.
  • Malaysia: Shopee comes 1st, followed by Lazada.

Launching your own online store

Upon seeing the clear potential in the growth of e-commerce in the region, many people will want to get involved. You might think that you will need to be an established company already in order to take advantage but that is not necessarily the case. If you are reasonably computer literate, are willing to invest the time, and you are a fast learner, there is no reason why you can’t build your own store.

Having your own store is now really quite easy thanks to e-commerce store builders like Shopify. Building your own website might sound daunting at first, but Shopify and similar platforms are designed to be easy to use even for people with few technical skills.

Some of the advantages include:

  • Web hosting and domain name ready.
  • Easy to use interface and friendly way to add content and products.
  • Comprehensive marketing tools to follow the turnover and statistics.
  • SEO apps to make sure your pages match search engines criteria.
  • Shop managements tools to look after the cart, sales ad fraud analysis.
  • Good customer support in case you have issues setting-up your store.
  • Social media integration to engage your audience.

Buy products to sell

The cost of buying in stock is often prohibitive for a lot of people that want to start a store, but even that problem is overcome when dealing with e-commerce stores since some can directly be connected with dropshippers. This means that when products are ordered, the product will be sent directly to the customer from the manufacturer.

This is beneficial for you in two ways:

  • Cost: You don’t have to pay for anything upfront. The customer pays you first and then you pay the manufacturer, keeping the difference in price as profit. 
  • Storage: Because you don’t have to buy the goods first, you don’t have to worry about keeping them anywhere. This means you get to save on the costs of storage space and other associated costs.
  • Security: Not only do you not have to pay for goods first, but you also benefit by not facing the risk from theft. This can save you from losing money through theft and/or through insurance costs. 

Anybody opening an e-commerce store in the region also has access to Mainland China, which is one of the planet’s manufacturing powerhouses. Stores can contact manufacturers directly or, for a more convenient option, they can source product from AliExpress, which is an enormous online market. This market has an enormous range of products directly from manufacturers and from resellers. To use it, apps like Oberlo allow store owners to select products from AliExpress and add them to their own store.

A lot of people are under the impression that opening a professional e-commerce store will take a lot of expertise and money but this is not necessarily the case. Store builders mean that even people that are not experts can create a professional-looking store themselves, even when on a limited budget. It is an industry that is only set to grow, so don’t waste any more time if you want to get involved.