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Is your firm ready to seize ecommerce opportunities in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia
in Retail and Ecommerce

For ecommerce businesses eyeing expansion in international markets, there is a lot to be gained from tracking trends in particular regions offering opportunities for growth.

One of the most exciting parts of the world at the moment, particularly where digital and online business prospects are concerned, is Southeast Asia.

Recent research by Google noted that the region's internet economy has hit an "inflection point" this year, with ecommerce singled out as the "most dynamic sector".

If your firm is looking at Southeast Asia as a possible springboard for international expansion, it's crucial to plan your strategy carefully to prepare for the unique demands and characteristics of individual markets within this diverse region.

A $240bn economy

Previous studies from Google and Singaporean holding company Temasek – published in 2016 and 2017 – estimated that the Southeast Asian internet economy would be worth $200 billion (£155.3 billion) by 2025. In light of the "drastic market acceleration" highlighted in the e-Conomy SEA 2018 report, the projected figure has been revised upwards to around $240 billion.

Ecommerce is one of the key drivers of online business growth in the region. It accounted for just over $5.5 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) in 2015, a figure that increased to $23 billion in 2018.

In terms of GMV, Indonesia is currently Southeast Asia's largest ecommerce market, with a value of $12.2 billion. Rapid growth is expected to inflate this figure to $53 billion by 2025.

The report also predicted that Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines will all have ecommerce markets worth more than $10 billion within seven years.

Google's research echoes the findings of the PPRO High-Growth Markets Report 2018, which highlighted Indonesia as the world's fastest-growing ecommerce market. The Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia all appeared in the top ten, along with the likes of Mexico, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Establishing your presence in the region

The latest e-Conomy SEA 2018 findings showed there were more than 350 million internet users across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam in June 2018. That marks an increase of 90 million from 2015.

It was also noted that Southeast Asia's digital economy is driven by "the most engaged mobile internet users in the world", with more than 90 per cent of consumers going online primarily through their smartphones.

These figures emphasise the importance of any business hoping to gain a foothold and win customers in this part of the world having comprehensive strategies in areas such as search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing.

With multilingual SEO, your business can maximise web traffic through the creation and optimisation of content specifically tailored to engage relevant customers in particular locations. The process encompasses everything from local keyword research to the creation of properly translated page titles, URLs and meta descriptions.

When it comes to social media, any brand that fails to maintain a strong presence on the right platforms is at an instant disadvantage in a region as digitally engaged as Southeast Asia.

Providing content, engaging with local audiences and responding to feedback on social media is a vital part of building your brand and earning customer trust. However, to be truly successful, your social media content and communications must be properly translated and localised to connect with your target audiences.

By investing in these key areas and strategies, your business can take its first strides towards ecommerce success in Southeast Asia, one of the most exciting regions in the global digital economy.

Contact Language Connect for advice on using language and localisation to expand internationally.

Image: tapanuth via iStock

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