The Philippines offers tremendous potential for eCommerce and omnichannel merchants, boasting one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in all of Asia and one of the world’s highest Internet usage rates. According to an analysis by Santander Trade, the combination of rapid urbanization and an emerging market of young shoppers (the country’s average age is 24.3 years) points to long-term economic growth and increased consumption.
This bullish economy has also been a driving factor of eCommerce revenue. A Google and Temasek report shows that the Philippines’ Internet economy, valued at US$5 billion in 2018, is predicted to quadruple to US$21 billion by 2025.
If you’re looking to gain a foothold in the Philippines, one reason to be excited about the country’s online retail industry lies in the market share of eCommerce players. Data by iPrice shows that a majority of eCommerce traffic in the Philippines goes to Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora—foreign online marketplaces where merchants can sell goods cross-border.
eBay held the top four spot on iPrice’s list of most visited eCommerce sites per month last year. Interestingly, it has since been dethroned by Argomall, a home-grown website selling consumer electronics. Still, eBay receives 896,900 monthly web visits and is open to both C2C and B2C cross-border sellers.
If you’re one of the many online merchants looking to enter the Philippine eCommerce market, it’s a good idea to start with the most popular product categories among Filipino online shoppers:
Research by Nielsen shows that Gadgets & Electronics are the top eCommerce product category in the Philippines, accounting for 33 per cent of online purchases. This is consistent with data from Statista, which shows that Electronics & Media is the country’s largest eCommerce market segment with a market volume of US$270 million in 2019. It also explains the rise of Argomall, an eCommerce platform that specialises in selling electronics like smartphones and tablets, on iPrice’s eCommerce website visit rankings.
Given how Filipinos spend an average of 4 hours and 12 minutes per day on social media—according to Hootsuite and We Are Social’s Digital in 2019 report—it should come as no surprise that they’re also prolific users of tech, specifically, mobile gadgets. The country’s mobile phone penetration rate stands at 116 per cent.
In fact, two of the top three bestselling products on Lazada within 12 hours of launching its 11.11 shopping festival in 2018 were smartphones: the Xiaomi Redmi S2 and the Pocophone F1.
Filipinos also vote with their wallets when shopping for tech, with many favouring less expensive brands. Chinese brands Xiaomi and Huawei, with their array of mid-range devicessold at discounted prices during 11.11, edged out household brand names with higher price points, such as Samsung and Apple.
A separate report by International Data Corporation (IDC) Philippines also revealed that the top smartphone vendors for the first half of 2018 were smaller brands specialising in mid-range devices: Cherry Mobile (a Philippine electronics and mobile phone brand), Vivo, Oppo, and Huawei. These brands offer phones with features previously exclusive to flagship devices, such as bezel-less displays, powerful processors, and long battery life.
Samsung also made the list, with IDC noting that the company also offers lower-priced smartphones such as the Galaxy J and A Series on top of their premium Galaxy S and Galaxy Note products.
If consumer electronics is your primary vertical, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the devices that aren’t widely available in the Philippines. While mid-range devices offering value for money are driving smartphone growth in the Philippines, people are turning online to shop for these devices due to the lack of official retailers in the Philippines.
For example, Xiaomi opened their first physical store in the Philippines only in 2018. But this store is located in the capital, leaving consumers outside of Metro Manila with no choice but to purchase products on platforms like Lazada and Shopee. And even on these sites, the demand for devices is so high that hyped-up midrange devices like the Pocophone F1 sold out in five minutes. This presents a window of opportunity for you to cater to underserved consumers hungry for gadgets.
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Fashion is another huge market in the Philippines, with a projected revenue of US$229 million in 2019. This is consistent with Nielsen’s findings that shoes and apparel are the second leading product category in the country, with a market share of 28 per cent.
A closer look at the search queries Filipinos use to look for products online shows that fashion-related keywords like “Shoes,” “Nike,” “Adidas,” and “Dress” are among the top 10 shopping queries.
Meanwhile, Shopee’s analysis of its shopper data reveals that Filipino shopping preferences tend to differ in different parts of the Philippines, especially when it comes to fashion.. For example, in the southern regions of the Visayas and Mindanao, Korean-inspired clothes and footwear tend to be more popular.
If you’re selling shoes and apparel, do note that aside from the big three of Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora, other fashion eCommerce players are also seeking to establish a presence in the Philippines. In March this year, Singapore-based Zilingo officially launched in the country, promising to “democratize the fashion and beauty industry.” The company is looking to expand in the Philippines and ramp up cross-border selling to introduce products from smaller brands in Southeast Asia and China.
Like many markets, Filipinos take their fashion cues from trends and influencers they see on social media. It would also be wise for you to pay attention to publications like Metro Style, Preview, and Mega—magazines that cover the hottest fashion trends worn by celebrities in the Philippines. Zalora also offers trend rankings and trend forecasts, which you can turn to as a guide on the most popular items and apparel in the country.
Beauty products were also among Lazada’s bestselling products during 11.11 in 2018. For the make-up and skincare category, brands like Maybelline, L’Oreal Paris, MAC, Benefit, Olay, Nivea, Pond’s, and Garnier generated the most sales on the site. According to Statista, the personal care market is estimated to generate 85 million in sales in 2019, this year.
However, you should also keep an eye on the demand for Korean beauty products. A report by the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database, cited by Entrepreneur, showed that South Korean exports of cosmetics to the Philippines have grown by an average of 35 per cent per year since 2010, reaching US$26.58 million in 2017.
On the other hand, Shopee revealed that men are increasingly shopping online for personal care and grooming products. Notably, products like face masks were among the most popular items purchased by male Shopee users in Q1 of 2018.
BeautyMNL, the fifth leading eCommerce site in the country and a locally owned company, stands out for specialising in makeup, haircare, and skincare. It boasts of more monthly visits than larger rival Sephora (1,121,300 vs. 173,800 in Q1 2018) and is a favourite online destination of beauty enthusiasts in the country due to its low shipping fees and quick turnaround time. Entrepreneur’s comparison of shipping times saw BeautyMNL having one of the fastest turnaround times compared to other eCommerce merchants.
For international merchants hoping to keep up, a flexible logistics program relying on cross-border shipping may be necessary to keep up with demand and maintain high levels of satisfaction over the speed of online delivery.
If there’s one thing we can surmise from the popularity of these eCommerce product categories in the Philippines, it’s that Filipinos shop online because of price, discounts, brand, and convenience. For international merchants, this could mean that lower-priced and medium-range items offer the best returns in the Philippines, at least for now. This may be an emerging eCommerce market, but all signs point towards sustained growth in the future. If you play your cards right, you may be able to secure a favourable position in the country before other merchants rush in.
As mentioned earlier, Filipinos are voracious social media users, so be sure to invest in social media marketing and advertising, particularly on Facebook, to stay top of mind in this market. For electronics, discounts and sales are a surefire way to grab attention, as seen in Lazada and Shopee’s shopping festivals. For fashion, consider partnering with local influencers on Instagram—the de facto haven for Filipino fashionistas.
Keeping in mind Filipino online shoppers’ focus on price, try to see if you can offer vouchers and promo codes for your store. See, for example, this list of Lazada voucher codes. If you have a strong following on your store’s social media pages, you can run simple contests or polls there, too, to reward your customers with prizes. And keep an eye out for the hottest sales periods in the Philippines so you can plan your product offerings and marketing campaigns ahead of time.
As an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, the Philippines presents eCommerce merchants with logistics issues. However, suburban and rural areas with fewer shopping malls comprise a potential market for online sellers, who can deliver items that are otherwise unavailable in brick-and-mortar stores.
Therefore, it’s important to find a reliable cross-border shipping partner and last-mile delivery service provider that can deliver packages nationwide, without drastically increasing the shipping fees. If you can offer Filipino online shoppers the products they’re looking plus an excellent delivery experience, you’ll be on your way to success in the Philippines’ eCommerce market in no time.
Janio Asia specialises in end-to-end cross-border shipping for your eCommerce needs! Check out our services to find out more.
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