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This is part of our broader series on Philippines’ eCommerce scene. To find out more, check out our Philippines eCommerce Insights and International Shipping Guide!
eCommerce in the Philippines may not be as mature as in Malaysia and Indonesia, but it actually has more potential than meets the eye. Some estimates show that online purchases make up a mere one percent of all sales1 in the country; Zalora places the figure at two percent2. Despite this, Google predicts3 that the Philippines’ Internet economy for consumer goods will grow from US$3 billion in 2019 to US$12 billion by 2025.
A big part of this is eCommerce revenue, which is expected to grow at an annual rate of 7.9 per cent4—resulting in a market volume of US$1.4 billion by 2024. This is fueled by the Philippines’ large population of 104.9 million, second only in size to Indonesia within ASEAN.
Of these, around 71 percent are Internet users—and they are increasingly embracing eCommerce. In a Q2 and Q3 2018 survey by Global Web Index, cited in Hootsuite’s We Are Social 20195 report, 70 per cent of respondents in the Philippines said they had purchased a product or service online in the past month.
For eCommerce merchants, the Philippines represents a huge potential market. It’s important, however, to understand both the commercial and cultural factors that drive Philippine online consumers.
Q4, especially the months of November and December, is the busiest shopping period in the country, as shown by decades of data on household consumption expenditure6. This is the time when most employees receive their 13th-month pay, a paycheck typically equivalent to a month’s worth of salary.
Aside from the festive year-end season, Filipinos also make more purchases in the summer months7 of March, April, and May.
Of the country’s top 10 most visited websites5, one eCommerce platform made the list—Lazada. According to iPrice Group8, Lazada Philippines receives 32.82 million web visits a month, twice as many as that of its closest competitor, Shopee. However, Shopee is the top downloaded eCommerce app on both Android and iOS devices.
The leading consumer product category for online shopping, according to Hootsuite8, is Electronics & Physical Media totalling US$234 million in sales, while Fashion & Beauty product spend reached $203 million. If we count non-consumer goods, Travel is the leading product category, accounting for US$3.5 billion in eCommerce spending in 2019.
Want to catch the Philippine market during their top online sales periods? Come have a chat with us to find out how you can ship your eCommerce sales into the Philippines with our end-to-end cross-border shipping services.
The Online Revolution campaign is an adaptation of Lazada’s 11.11 sale9 extending all the way to 12.12. While the biggest deals are offered on 11.11 and 12.12, this event is a month-long sale.
Regarding 11.11, Lazada reported10 that, within the first hour alone, one million products had already been sold in 2019. Lazada and Shopee were also among the most discussed topics on social media. In 2018, Lazada put up 20 million product discounts11 on 11.11—equivalent to one-fourth of all products listed on the website. These deals included items sold for ₱1 only. On 12.12, they ran a Christmas deal special, with a section dedicated to gift items and gift baskets.
As for 12.12, Lazada Philippines reported12that 6.6 millions items were sold in just the first 24 hours in 2019. In a December 2018 survey by Picodi, a provider of eCommerce discounts, 91 percent of respondents said they intended to participate in the 12.12 sale13. Gift-buying, whether for themselves or for others, was the main purpose of 65 percent of these shoppers. Top product categories were clothes, electronics, cosmetics, groceries, and footwear.
Christmas is a major deal in the Philippines and is undoubtedly the country’s biggest holiday. A Facebook Holiday Study14 revealed that Filipinos tend to spend an average of ₱17,000 during Christmas. Forty percent of mobile-first shoppers, however, will spend more than that amount.
The country is said to have one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world15, with malls playing Christmas songs and advertisers, including Shopee and Lazada, beginning to tease promos as early as September.
The actual shopping, however, takes place in November and December. When local news publication Rappler surveyed their readers, they found that 55 percent identified December as the heaviest shopping month16, while 24 percent chose November.
As an eCommerce merchant, that means you need not worry about missing the boat if you only begin your promotions in November. Unless, that is, your competitors have begun much earlier, or you want to beat the marketing noise by being one of the first on the scene.
Another factor that has spurred eCommerce participation during the Christmas season is vehicle traffic, which has become increasingly heavy in recent years.
The summer months of March, April, and May comprise another peak shopping season in the Philippines. This is the time when students in most schools go on summer break. This is also a peak period for domestic travel17, especially during the long holiday during Holy Week.
Holy Week tends to take place in March or April, depending on the Catholic liturgical calendar. This year, it will run from April 14 to April 20. With Catholics making up more than 86 percent18 of the Philippine population, Holy Week is widely celebrated in the country through fasting, solemn processions, and religious rituals. Being a public holiday that takes place in the summer, though, it’s also considered an opportunity for Filipinos to travel to beach destinations and to the countryside.
During Holy Week and the summer months, Filipino online shoppers are most interested in apparel and home appliances, according to iPrice Group19. Online merchants selling summer clothing, swimwear, and fashionable sunglasses and accessories can take advantage of this season by ramping up their marketing and promotion efforts.
Summer shopping generally peaks around Labor Day, when retailers take advantage of the last few days left before parents have to shell out money to pay their children’s tuition fees during the school enrollment period. Labor Day, which takes place on May 1, is also a public holiday in the Philippines. Lazada, for example, holds a Labor Day sale together with partners, such as banks20.
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Although Thanksgiving is barely celebrated by locals, eCommerce giants like Lazada have brought the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to Philippine online shoppers. Taking place right after Thanksgiving—which is held on the fourth Thursday of November—Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer shoppers discounts.
These aren’t major shopping events, though, given their lack of cultural significance and their timing between Online Revolution and Christmas. But they still draw large volumes, as they typically take place on the weekend after the month-end payday. It’s also an opportunity for those who missed the Online Revolution to get their hands on good deals.
Globally, Shopee achieved a record performance during 9.9 201921, with a peak sales volume of 187 thousand orders in a minute.
In 2018, the three top-selling items22 in the Philippines during 9.9—a type of lipstick, a whitening soap bar, and an ultra SD card—were in the Health & Personal Care and Mobiles & Accessories categories. Home & Living also performed well.
Lazada’s Birthday Sale23 takes place usually from March 21st onwards, but it took place from April 25 to April 27 in 2018. Unfortunately, this event sometimes falls on what speakers of the Tagalog language call ‘petsa de peligro24’, a term that translates to ‘day of danger’. This is because it comes just right before their monthly payday at the end of the month.
Don’t be quick to dismiss this event, though. Keep in mind that Lazada is the country’s biggest eCommerce platform. In 2017, search interest for Lazada increased during the birthday sale weekend25. Also, Lazada Birthday Sale also falls right in the midst of summer, which is one of the Philippines’ peak shopping seasons. Online merchants who sell popular summer product categories, such as clothing and home appliances, can push promotions during this event.
To help you recap all of the hottest sales periods in the Philippines, here’s a handy infographic:
Consider getting onboard cashback and rewards platforms like ShopBack26 and Zap27. These incentives don’t have to be large amounts. Cashback offers on ShopBack, for example, tend to be small in value but can add up if buyers make more purchases.
Offer bundles to improve product discoverability by including less popular items with a purchase top-selling products. The best bundles consist of items in the same product category—for example, cosmetics.
Online merchants can sell coupon codes or voucher codes that give consumers access to product discounts. By selling these codes well in advance of a sale, you can more easily predict product demand. This will help you deal better with the perils of eCommerce delivery during the festive season.
Offer promotions during payday time. In the Philippines, most workers receive their salaries twice a month, on the 15th and 30th or 31st.
Keep in mind that salaries may sometimes come a day or two early. For instance, if the last day of the month falls on a Sunday, employees may receive their salaries two days earlier, on Friday.
Out of the 76 million Internet users in the Philippines, almost all use social media5. So it’s no surprise that most merchants in the country prefer social media as an eCommerce platform28. By running promos through social media—especially the two most popular networks, Facebook and YouTube—online merchants can target and reach Filpino online consumers.
Simple promos include discounts for those who ‘like’ your Facebook page or a freebie for the winner of an online quiz.
The Philippines shares many things in common with other Southeast Asian countries, such as its Malay and Indonesian heritage, local groups with Chinese descent, and a vibrant Muslim community in its south. However, its long history of Spanish and American colonisation has also given it some cultural nuances that it may not share with most of its neighbours.
If you’re an online merchant in Southeast Asia, don’t be daunted by a market that you might not know or understand well. The key is to do research and to test out the response to your product. A flexible logistics setup, such as the use of cross-border shipping, will allow you to sell your goods in the Philippines without the commitment of opening a warehouse there.
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