Liana is enjoying a latte at a nearby cafe on a Sunday afternoon. She is browsing through Zilingo, an online marketplace her fashion-forward friends recommended, and chanced upon an item she liked: a printed long-sleeved maxi dress that matched well with her plain silk hijab.
She makes her purchase and opts to pay via cash on delivery. The checkout page said that the item is expected to arrive in one to two weeks. On her way home the next Friday, she receives a text from the courier saying that the shipment is making its way towards her doorstep and she grows excited.
By the time she reaches her home, the doorbell rings to signal the arrival of a delivery man holding onto her parcel. She hands her payment to the courier and runs to her room to try on her new dress with a hijab to match.
They look good on her, and she loves it.
People like Liana are part of the majority-Muslim demographic found in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Indonesia alone, they have collectively spent US$ 218.8 billion across the Islamic economy in 2017. This market segment may be worth catering to if you are thinking about expanding your e-commerce business into Indonesia, but first, it helps to know who they are and what they are looking for.
Muslim millennials like Liana are career-driven working professionals, like 52% of her Indonesian Muslim peers. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see Muslim women wearing their religious identity proudly by donning headscarves and wearing modest fashion pieces.
What surprises market analysts is the fact that, according to Varkey’s study in 2017, 93% of young Indonesians believe that religion is important to happiness, far outreaching the global average of 45.3%. With the Muslim clothing market in Indonesia estimated to be worth $13.5 billion, the Islamic lifestyle is one that is increasingly celebrated in the country.
Even though their religion forms a large part of their identity, the Muslim youths are still finding ingenious ways to embrace their conservative values while making way for trends in globalisation too. One such notable trend is the Hijabers community, who emphasise that Muslims could be virtuous while having fun.
Where previously modest fashion received few options beyond loose over-garments and plain headscarves, Muslim millennials are now able to choose flattering and stylish clothes that gives them the ability to embrace fashion-forwardness. Meanwhile, Muslim women could still use hijabs and other coverings to assert their connection to Islam and its teaching to be modest. This trend isn’t without its criticisms though, where more religious members would put down the Hijabers for not being religious enough.
Thankfully, the modern Muslim trend doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, with more women like Diajeng Lestari pioneering their own fashion brands and defining Hijaber fashion in their own terms.
This movement empowers digitally savvy Muslim youths to make their own choices, which means there will be more sellers and influencers going into the e-commerce space to buy and sell goods that speak to their fashion-forwardness.
In our example, Liana came across the printed maxi dress from a merchant who sells Japanese brands online. Since the dress cannot be easily found in malls in Indonesia, it made sense for Liana to shop for the dress online rather than make her way through the Jakarta traffic jam where there’s a chance she won’t find what she’s looking for.
Liana’s behaviour is part of a larger trend. In a country where 45.3% of its population have smartphones in 2018, the young Muslim population flocks to e-commerce sites to do their shopping. Reasons like convenience and product availability drive Muslim millennials to shop online.
On one hand, a survey by Deloitte revealed that 31% of Indonesians chose to shop online for the convenience and practicality it provides. If the Indonesian customer was living in a big city like Jakarta, they are more likely to cite convenience as a major reason to shop online too.
On the other hand, there has been a strong preference for foreign brands such as Japanese ones among Indonesian Muslims, and e-commerce platforms are giving way for these brands to be bought and sold to Indonesians easily. J Walter Thompson reports that 48% of Indonesian millennial women describe Japanese brands as excellent with 29% preferring European brands, followed by 26% preferring Korean brands.
If you’d like to find out more, you can see our article about what’s driving Indonesian buyers to shop online.
In light of this, various international retailers have picked up on the trend and entered the market by localising their products. For example, Uniqlo introduced a modest fashion line by UK-born designer Hana Tajima, and Fukusa launched a line of hijab using silk kimono fabric for the Indonesian market in 2016.
Interestingly, this also bodes well for Indonesian merchants looking to conduct cross-border e-commerce. There is vast potential for Indonesian players to enter an overseas market like Japan. Because there is an overlap between Japan’s traditional culture to cover the skin and the Muslim’s preference for modest fashion, there is a good reason for the optimism of Indonesian Muslim fashion exporters’ success in Japan. As evidenced in 2017, the Tokyo Modest Fashion Show was held concurrently alongside the third Halal Expo Japan to a resounding success.
As an e-commerce merchant, you could take your cue from these businesses and try catering to customers from this group too.
With that in mind, you might think that your business has to cater to the Muslim millennials by following their religious values, practices, and sharia law regulations, but as the JWT study shows, it’s not necessarily the case.
For instance, if you sell apparel that covers up the knees, wrists, navels, and necklines, it fulfils the requirements to dress modestly whilst also providing a trendy look for Muslim youths. If you are selling perishable goods like food, health, and beauty products, however, you will need to cater to this market by getting a halal certification from The Indonesian Council of Ulama.
Since Muslim millennials are also conscious consumers, they will relate to values that tie closely to the Islamic ethos along with other concerns like environmentalism and where the products come from. If your e-commerce brand can convey that either through your content and through your supply chain source and process, you can win over these consumers and benefit from their loyalty to brands.
With that said, it helps to err on the side of caution when branding your products for Muslim youths. In a study by Ogilvy and Mather, Nike’s unintentional use of Arabic calligraphy that spelled “Allah” has sparked a reaction that it is still felt by consumers 15 years later. Thus, it is best to have a more neutral brand image to cater to a wider target audience as well.
The Muslim millennials are a growing segment in Indonesia’s e-commerce market which you could consider targeting for your next e-commerce store expansion. By catering to people like Liana and ensuring a smooth cross-border experience, your brand will stand out from its ability to localise and be inclusive.
In today’s climate, it is more important than ever to establish trust with your consumers to truly differentiate yourself from competitors.
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