Southeast Asia (“SEA”) is poised to serve as one of the most rewarding hubs for eCommerce businesses looking to grow their sales. The SEA B2C eCommerce market surpassed S$8.17 billion in sales in Q4 2017 and recorded a tremendous quarter-on-quarter growth of 28.5%. Cross-border eCommerce in SEA is also booming with 55% of all eCommerce in Singapore and 40% of all eCommerce in Malaysia coming from overseas sellers.
In this lucrative market, there lies an exciting opportunity for online merchants. Women in SEA, with a growing affinity for branded foreign items, have the potential to become one of the largest drivers of cross-border eCommerce spending in the coming years. They have managed to establish themselves as eminent figures of society and have increasingly started incorporating international brands in their purchasing decisions. The ASEAN woman truly presents a unique and matchless opportunity for online sellers looking to deliver to a wider audience and expand their business across borders.
The rise of women in Southeast Asia has been nothing short of revolutionary. For instance, women in Thailand are now not only the primary decision makers for household purchases, but are also getting more educated and digitally savvy. Similarly, in Malaysia, 72% of women prefer accessing the internet first when looking for any kind of information, whether it is to solve a problem or make a purchase.
With greater usage of the internet, these Southeast Asian women are also shifting away from physical stores and shopping more on eCommerce websites. In a survey conducted by ‘The Economist’, 49% of the women from Asia said that they preferred shopping online than in-stores. This shift is occurring as eCommerce offers more variety, greater access to foreign branded products and convenience as compared to shopping offline.
Southeast Asian women’s preference for eCommerce and branded international products has provided global brands an opportunity to move into the regional market. eCommerce sites carrying foreign brands are gaining popularity among the women of Southeast Asia as they offer a wider range of products often of better quality and at competitive prices compared to local brands.
According to Nielsen, the demand for global brands is increasing as consumers are increasingly conscious of product quality, and this is playing a larger role in purchase decisions. The demand for international products in the categories of clothing, footwear, fashion accessories, groceries, and baby products is rising.
For example, in Thailand, consumers have the greatest preference for western brands across all income brackets when it comes to categories of personal hygiene & household cleaning products. Likewise in Malaysia, statistics show that almost 90% of locals prefer foreign brands for baby products. Also, the low demand for the local goods in the feminine care and skin care category opens up a gap for international brands in the Malaysian market. As women are key decision makers in these categories which are gaining traction in the SEA cross-border market, online sellers should target them to increase their sales.
Enterprising companies are tailoring their approach to meet the needs of this growing market. Take for instance Zilingo, a marketplace for fashion sellers and companies that ships to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. With more than 10,000 sellers and 2 million products on its online platform, Zilingo has seen massive success in the SEA eCommerce market despite being less than three years old.
Since its incorporation in 2015, the company has managed to raise over US$82 million with revenues growing by more than 10 times in a year since April 2017. The company, which mainly sells international and regional fashion and lifestyle products adored by the female population of Southeast Asia, has managed to establish a formidable presence in the region, with more than 70% of its current customers being women.
The SEA market is a wonderland for companies looking to establish an international presence. The rise of digitally savvy women presents a remarkable opportunity for any online seller in the fashion and lifestyle industry as it serves as the perfect opportunity for diving into cross border shipping.
Beyond leveraging on online channels to reach consumers, companies need to ensure that they have the necessary shipping capabilities to deliver their products on time and in one piece. Working with a shipping partner that has the relevant logistics capabilities in this market will help businesses to reach out to the Southeast Asian female consumer and grow their business phenomenally.
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