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Who Are the Philippines' Online Shoppers?

Katrina B. & Benedict L

Philippines’ eCommerce Shoppers at a Glance

An illustration of a Filipino online shopper

The Philippine retail industry continues to expand with each passing year, growing by 5.9 per cent in 20181, buoyed by rising spending power. Focus Economics2 also mentioned that the Philippines’ economy gained ground in Q4 2019 after revving up in Q3, driven by robust government expenditure. Unsurprisingly, increasing consumer spending has also impacted the world of online retail.

The Philippine Internet economy is expected to quadruple from US$5 billion in 2018 to US$21 billion by 2025. A few factors driving this growth include:

  • Still being noted to be one of Southeast Asia’s fastest expanding economies3 despite slowing down to an eight-year low in 2019. Part of its 2019 Q4 GDP recovery was driven by increased consumer spending.
  • The country has a growing middle class that’s predicted to outspend Italy’s middle class by 2030.4
  • Remittances from overseas Filipinos to their loved ones in the Philippines continue to break records year after year5, reaching US$32.21 billion in 2018. In 20196, this figure hit US$ 22 billion in the first eight months
  • The country has a young, tech-savvy population (the average age is 24.3 years)7 that’s hungry for products and services.
  • Filipinos are among the world’s heaviest Internet users8, spending an average of 10 hours and two minutes9 using the Internet every day.
  • PayPal, reported by the Manila Times10, predicts that the Philippines’ eCommerce market will grow to US3.5 billion by 2020, fueled by mobile shopping and growing awareness in online shopping.

 

If you’re an eCommerce seller seeking cross-border retail opportunities in the Philippines, this is all obviously exciting news. But the question is: who exactly will you be selling to?

eCommerce consumers in the Philippines at a glance

Philippines Online Shopper infographic statistics overview 2019 - 70% internet penetration, median age of online shoppers 18 - 30 in the Philippines, shoppers have mid-range income and are tech-savvy and love social media.

Research by We Are Social and Hootsuite9 reveals that 71 per cent (76 million) of the country’s total population of 107.3 million people are active Internet users. Of that number, 70 per cent have purchased a product or service online in the past month.

Some key factors include:

  • The majority of Filipinos who shop online are between the ages of 18 to 3111—members of Gen Z and Millennials who are tech-savvy and prolific social media users.
  • More women (12 per cent) shop online than men (8 per cent) do9, even if fewer women have credit cards.
  • Most Filipino online shoppers have middle-range incomes.12

Meanwhile, a report by PayPal, reported by the Manila Times10, predicts that the Philippines’ eCommerce market will grow to US3.5 billion by 2020, fueled by mobile shopping and growing awareness in online shopping.

 

Looking to meet these Filipino online shoppers’ demand for consumer goods? Janio has international shipping services that cover your logistics needs from end-to-end. Have a chat with us to find out how we can help you!

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Why Filipinos shop online

In 2015, an eCommerce study by Visa13 found that Filipino consumers shopped online for the following reasons:

  • Convenience of not having to go to and line up at brick-and-mortar stores (58 per cent)
  • Better prices compared to brick-and-mortar shops (47 per cent)
  • Exclusive/better deals (46 per cent)

 

Philippines Online Shoppers Infographic Why they shop online - convenience, good prices and great deals, product availability and variety

This focus on pricing might make it difficult for you to compete with local, more affordable products, but if you can improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of your cross-border or international shipping, it may be possible to offer competitive deals on international products thanks to the savings generated.

Finally, a separate Nielsen report14 found that another reason eCommerce consumers in the Philippines shop online is to get access to products not found locally. For example, if you are selling beauty and personal care products, take note of the rising demand for Korean beauty products in the Philippines, with 71% of Filipino respondents to a Statista survey15 reporting that at least 25% of their cosmetic products used are South Korean brands.

What are Filipino online shoppers buying?

Nielsen’s Bricks to Clicks report14 shows that online shoppers in the Philippines tend to gravitate towards consumer electronics and gadgets, clothing and footwear, as well as beauty and personal care products. If you’d like to get more insights on this, check out our article on Philippines’ popular eCommerce product categories.

This is consistent with We Are Social and Hootsuite’s findings of the top product categories among Filipino online shoppers. A closer look at the shopping queries Filipinos use shows that five out of the top 10 keywords were electronics brands Samsung, iPhone, Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei.

Shopee’s analysis of its shopping data16 also found that smartphones from Chinese brands like Xiaomi, Realme, and Honor are the most popular on the site due to being affordable yet feature-rich. Unlike larger brands like Samsung and Apple that have concept stores and distributors in the country’s major cities, these smaller brands have only recently officially launched in the Philippines. Honor17 and Xiaomi18, for example, only opened official stores in 2018. This is as good a sign as any for you to address this unmet need and provide direct cross-border shipping to Filipino consumers.

Fashion is another huge market in the Philippines. Research by Nielsen shows that shoes and apparel are the second leading product category in the country14, with a market share of 28 per cent.

Shopee’s findings offer a more specific insight that you may find useful: Filipinos are eager to buy Korean-styled clothing and footwear, especially in cities and towns outside the country’s capital. Given that the growth of hallyu, or Korean Wave, in the Philippines is among the biggest in Southeast Asia (according to a Manila Bulletin report19, citing data from the Korea Foundation’s global hallyu status report), this should come as no surprise. If you want to hedge your risk with a low-risk product vertical, betting on the demand for Korean-influenced fashion products in the Philippines is a safe move.

 

If you’d like to find out more about how we can solve your SEA e-commerce cross-border delivery needs, come and have a conversation with us!

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What influences Filipino shoppers?

As mentioned earlier, young Filipinos make up the majority of online shoppers in the Philippines. Research by DAN Philippines and eConsultancy, cited by the Philippine Star newspaper20, shows that these consumers demand value for money and great shopping experiences.

But while Filipinos are price conscious, this doesn’t mean they’re conservative spenders. In fact, the average basket value in online shopping in the Philippines is the second highest21 (US$56) in Southeast Asia. Sales and promotions are a particularly huge draw for Filipino online shoppers, with shopping festivals like Singles Day generating record profits for the two major marketplaces in the country, Lazada22 and Shopee.23

However, Filipinos also take their time when arriving at purchase decisions. In fact, Filipinos perform six to seven searches before arriving at a purchase decision, Entrepreneur reports24, citing data from Google and Kantar TNS. In fact, 90 per cent Internet users in the Philippines searched for a product or service online to buy. Most of these research activities take place on social media, where the average Filipino spends around four hours each day.

This has several implications. For one, this means Filipinos may have a longer buyer’s journey. For the end of year holiday shopping season, consider marketing your products on social media as early as September—this is when most consumers in the Philippines are already thinking about Christmas25, and with it, their shopping lists.

For product categories like beauty, fashion, and personal care, Filipinos look to style mavens and social media influencers for cues on what products are effective, safe to use, and in style. Consider running an audit of social media influencers in the country to put yourself in the shoes of these consumers and understand why styles and products they are likely to purchase from you.

Another factor that influences the online shopping habits of Filipinos is the desire to pay in cash. According to the Philippine Central Bank, 99 per cent of all transactions are cash- and paper-based, hence why it’s on a campaign to increase cashless transactions to 20 per cent over the next few years. You need to consider offering COD as an option if you want to reach out to this market. To do this, look for an eCommerce logistics service provider who offers last mile delivery and COD services.

Where Filipinos shop online in the Philippines

iPrice’s Map of eCommerce26 shows that the top online shopping sites in the country are dominated by foreign online marketplaces that are open to cross-border sellers. As of Q3 2019, these are Lazada, Shopee, Zalora, Argomall, and eBay, all of which manage transactions between shoppers and third-party sellers.

Image source: iPrice

 

We Are Social and Hootsuite found that “Lazada” was the only keyword referring to a specific site in the top 10 list of online shopping search queries. During the 2018 11.11 sale, Lazada was also the most talked about eCommerce site on Philippine social media27, accounting for 61.2 per cent of mentions vs. Shopee’s 35.4 per cent share. The sheer amount of chatter generated by these shopping festivals and other eCommerce shopping events on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, should encourage you to ride on these trending conversations by promoting your own discounted eCommerce offerings on social media.

Lazada and Shopee are kings in the Philippines, so if you’re looking to break into this market, consider setting up shop on both sites. Overall top-selling product categories during Lazada’s 11.11 sale28 were mobile phones from brands like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Samsung; fast moving consumer goods like diapers and milk powder; as well as beauty products. This was consistent with Shopee’s 11.11 bestsellers.23

The popularity of shopping festivals on both eCommerce platforms opens doors for different promotions you can try, from “buy one take one” offers to freebies and free shipping.

Looking for more insights like these on eCommerce in the Philippines? Find out more in our latest eCommerce Guide to the Philippines!

Tap into the motivations and needs of Filipino online shoppers

The pattern of price, convenience, and bargains is something that comes up in report after report on the habits and motivations of online shoppers in the Philippines. If you’re looking to capture a slice of the Philippine eCommerce market, consider the following strategies.

 

  • Explore your options for suppliers to reduce your prices without hurting margins. It’s also important to do research on local pricing for certain products. Compare brick-and-mortar and eCommerce prices on goods to find out where your pricing strategy can be most effective.
  • Keep in mind that Filipinos tend to gravitate towards fashion trends, led by bloggers and influencers.29 If you aren’t sure which styles will click in the country, pay attention to what lifestyle and fashion bloggers are saying. Take a look at the comments section, too, to understand the audiences’ responses.
  • Even though products like Korean cosmetics are popular, customs duties and taxes can drive up their prices in the Philippines. Try to research similar products from ASEAN member-nations, as tariffs may be lower.
  • That said, it’s good to familiarize yourself with trade developments that reduce barriers to cross-border eCommerce, as well as with free-trade agreements30 between the Philippines and other countries. This can give you ideas for products that might be less expensive to sell cross-border.
  • Consider offering free shipping on purchases above a certain peso value to sweeten the pot for the Philippines’ predominantly young eCommerce shoppers. When Lazada ceased offering free shipping for deliveries within Metro Manila in late 2018—a move for which it was heavily criticized—it decided instead to allow sellers to set a minimum spending amount in order to offer reduced shipping rates.

 

Breaking into a new market can be difficult. But with research, strategic marketing, and the right suppliers and shipping partners, you can make sure that you satisfy the needs and preferences of eCommerce consumers in the Philippines.

 

If you’d like to find out more about how we can solve your SEA eCommerce cross-border delivery needs, come and have a conversation with us!

Ship with Us

 

Interested in e-commerce in the Philippines? Find more of our articles below:

    References

    1. Phillipines Retailers Association
    2. Focus Economics: Retail Sales in Philippines
    3. Straits Times: Philippines 2019 GDP growth hits 8-year low on weak farm output, budget delay
    4. We Forum: The Philippines’ growing middle class is on track to outspend Italy’s by 2030
    5. Philstar Global: Remittances from overseas Filipinos hit all-time high in 2018
    6. Bangko Sentral Ng Phillipines: Personal Remittances Reach US$22 Billion in the First Eight Months of 2019
    7. Worldometer: Phillipines Population 
    8. CNN Phillipines: PH takes top spot as heaviest internet users worldwide — report
    9. DigitalReportal: Digital 2019 Phillipines
    10. Manila Times: Online spending to hit P185B by 2020
    11. Business World: Filipinos still prefer in-store shopping over online sites
    12. Rappler: Fun Facts on Shopping in PH
    13. Visa: Convenience, price, and deals drive growth of local e-commerce industry
    14. Nielsen: Connectivity Makes E-Commerce Click
    15. Statista: Share of Korean beauty products in the skincare routine among consumers in the Philippines in 2019
    16. Manila Standard – Online shopping trends of Filipinos ahead of Shopee 5.5 Double Double Sale
    17. Unbox PH – Honor Opens First Official Brand Store at SM North EDSA
    18. Gsmarena: Xiaomi opens first Mi Store in Philippines
    19. Manila Bulletin – Hallyu growth biggest in PH among ASEAN countries
    20. Philstar: Filipino Centennials: A new breed of shoppers
    21. Manila Standard: Filipino consumers described as critical online shoppers
    22. Business World: Lazada PHL sees record sales from 11.11 event
    23. Manila Standard: Shopee posts record sales on 11.11
    24. Entrepreneur: Filipino Consumers make up to 7 searches before purchasing
    25. Rappler: Why does Christmas in the Philippines start in September?
    26. IPrice: The Map of E-Commerce Philippines
    27. InterAkyson: 3 shopping destinations dominate online Filipinos’ buzz on Singles Day
    28. Business World: Lazada PHL reveals best-selling brands during 11:11 sale
    29. Manilla Bulletin: Filipinos actually love their bloggers
    30. International Trade Administration: Philippines Commercial Guide
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