Shoppers’ enthusiasm for e-commerce grows in Southeast Asia, but barriers remain

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/8 22:28:39

With China about to be gripped by its annual online shopping frenzy on Saturday, some observers may wonder if the same scenario will play out in Southeast Asia, where is now an attractive destination for investment from Chinese e-commerce giants.

The Singles' Day shopping festival, taking place each year on November 11, may offer a clue. In Vietnam, Chinese e-commerce portal Taobao cannot be directly used for shopping, but many people there reportedly buy on Taobao with the help of daigou, an army of informal traveling shopping agents who buy and ship goods to local customers.

As Singles' Day approaches, posters for the shopping festival have been posted on daigou sites to attract customers, according to media reports. More and more young Vietnamese are likely to buy fashion items online.

The nation has 92 million people, with e-commerce users forecast to reach 42 million by 2021, according to Dublin-based eShopWorld. Mobile use in Vietnam has significantly increased Internet penetration, giving the country the potential to replicate China's e-commerce success.

Southeast Asia is witnessing a boom in online shopping, slowly but surely becoming a lively participant in the global e-commerce market, which is why the region has drawn the attention of Chinese e-commerce giants.

Earlier this month, Alibaba launched an electronic trading platform in Malaysia aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises that want to carry out international trade.

Also at about the same time, the company began pre-sales activities in the country for its Double 11 global shopping festival.

But it's unclear how far the e-commerce boom will go in the region. Online shopping habits in Southeast Asia are different from those in China. For instance, many transactions in Vietnam are settled in cash. The low percentage of mobile payments may create a bottleneck for the development of e-commerce, along with inconvenient methods for returning goods.

Also, Vietnam needs to continue expanding its broadband Internet infrastructure, which is the backbone of e-commerce and related businesses.

What's more, conditions in Southeast Asia have long been complex and uneven due to the diversity of markets.

Market fragmentation can be especially problematic for the development of e-commerce because domestic demand in each country in the region is limited. All this means that more efforts are needed to promote regional economic integration to boost cross-border trade and logistics.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


blog comments powered by Disqus