Voice of the Industry

Ecommerce in Southeast Asia: crushing complexity, cashing in, and lifting boats

Thursday 17 December 2020 08:02 CET | Editor: Simona Negru | Voice of the industry

Tristan Chiappini, PPRO’s VP, Head of Partnerships APAC, paints a comprehensive picture of the main ecommerce developments in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asian ecommerce is worth USD 100 billion today, but that number will triple in size by 2025. Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic and the resulting lockdown have turbocharged digital payments growth in what was already a rapidly expanding ecommerce market. 

A rising tide lifts all boats right? If you are reading this with dollar signs in your eyes, wait one moment. Yes, this is a booming market with rich rewards for entrants – entrants who get things right. Southeast Asia is a diverse area, with consumer behaviour and payment cultures that vary widely from other regions, and even from country to country. 

Any merchant or PSP that assumes it can transplant practices from another region onto Southeast Asia is in for a shock. 

So, what are the trends shaping the Southeast Asian ecommerce market? What must new entrants into the market do to succeed and ensure they see a ‘lift’ in the sales? Let’s dive in. 

A year of upheaval for consumer loyalty

Understandably, the pandemic has massively accelerated the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to ecommerce. In Indonesia, 55% of shoppers say that they buy more online now than they did at the start of the pandemic. 

In Malaysia, online sales in some categories have grown by 800% in 2020, while almost 70% of Filipinos have switched to online shopping, for at least some of their groceries, since COVID-19 hit the country in January. Similar patterns are true across the region. And these changes in consumer buying patterns are sticky, which means that they are here to stay. This also means that the loyalty which stores have built with their consumers over years, and in some cases decades, is being challenged like never before. This is despite the Southeast Asian economy having contracted by 3.8% this year. That is less of a contraction than what other parts of the world are experiencing. Nevertheless, the ecommerce sector is undergoing rapid growth whilst the economy is shrinking. Unfortunately, in this case a rising tide may not lift ALL boats equally.

The implications of this become clear when you consider that in Singapore, for instance, over 80% of consumers have switched to cheaper grocery brands during the pandemic. Merchants are faced with the task of wooing discerning consumers, in a competitive market, at a time when perceptions of value for money are more important than ever. 

The global ‘alternative’ is Southeast Asia’s norm

Another important thing to note about the Southeast Asian ecommerce market is that payment preferences are hyper localised. In most of the countries in PPRO’s latest report (with Singapore as the notable exception) consumers pay for fewer than 30% of online purchases using a credit card. The rest they pay for with ‘alternative’ or local payment methods, such as bank-transfer apps, e-wallets, and even cash-based payment services. 

To win consumers’ trust, merchants must offer payment methods that those consumers know and trust. Failure to do so leads to needlessly increased cart abandonment rates; 25% of shoppers will simply abandon a purchase if they get to the checkout and discover that their preferred payment method is not available. Merchants that offer the locally preferred payment methods at the checkout will see their Southeast Asia boat rise faster than others.

How to enter and increase sales in Southeast Asia

The key to the successful navigation of the Southeast Asian highly competitive ecommerce waters is localisation. And it is more than just language; merchants must offer the right prices, the right promotions, and the local payment methods known and trusted by consumers. 

One of the best ways for newcomers to achieve success in the market is to work with an expert in-market partner. The right partner will have the local knowledge to offer guidance on consumer preferences and trends. But they will also be able to provide legal, technical, and commercial advice and support to help payment providers and merchants access this fast-growing market. As Steve Jobs said, ‘Great things in business are never done by one person’ – partnerships are key.

To find out more about ecommerce in Southeast Asia, click here.

Inside our new report we cover:

  • Ecommerce growth accelerated by the pandemic;

  • The 5 markets you need to enter now;

  • Popular local payment methods.

About Tristan Chiappini

Tristan Chiappini is VP, Head of Partnerships, APAC at PPRO, a specialist for local payment methods (LPMs) and value-added services, with offices worldwide. He joined the company in 2016 as Head of Account Management and is now taking over the responsibility for PPRO ́s business in the APAC region. Tristan has over 10 years of experience in the payments industry and with his excellent understanding of the Asian market, he will support PPRO´s approach to globalise the company and to create the world´s leading global platform for local payments.

About PPRO

PPRO enables integrated electronic payment processing on a global scale spanning the entire payments value chain from acquiring through processing, collection, and settlement. PPRO acts as a B2B payments hub, connecting PSPs and other merchant aggregators, such as acquirers and processors, with local payment methods.

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Keywords: Tristan Chiappini, PPRO, ecommerce, Southeast Asia, coronavirus, lockdown, COVID-19, pandemic, merchants, PSPs, consumer loyalty, brick-and-mortar, online shopping, local payment methods, e-wallets
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Countries: South East Asia
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce