How to get the most from APAC’s booming ecommerce opportunities

For those looking at career opportunities in Asia’s booming ecommerce sector, keeping up to date is key as the industry evolves and develops with regional specific nuances.

APAC’s ecommerce sector is booming. According to eMarketer, in 2015, retail ecommerce accounted for 10.2% of all retail sales in Asia-Pacific and is projected to rise to 20.4% by 2019. That compares to 7.4% worldwide in 2015, projected to reach 12.8% in 2019.


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Much of this growth is being driven by China, India and Indonesia. In 2015 India’s ecommerce market grew 129.5% and in Indonesia, 65.6%.

China on the other hand, held more than 40% of the world’s retail ecommerce sales in 2015 by 2018 it is expected to exceed 50%, and by 2019 it will hit 55.1%.

Monica Peart, director of forecasting, eMarketer, says the rapid growth in the APAC region is being driven by faster Internet service and greater mobile uptake. Local players are increasingly vying for market share by improving their logistics and mobile platforms, she adds.

Southeast Asia

It is generally understood that ecommerce in Southeast Asia still has a long way to go in terms of achieving its true growth potential.

A recent Bain and Company report finds that just one in four of the region’s consumers over the age of 16 (400 million) has ever made an online purchase.

Bain&Co_Ecommerce_SEAsia_Graphic 2_600Although the industry remains in its infancy, regional ecommerce experts predict the region will become the world’s third largest ecommerce market behind China and India within the next five years. (Yes, even surpassing the United States.)

Sheji Ho, chief marketing officer, aCommerce told ClickZ Asia in November that online penetration for ecommerce in Southeast Asia will rise from its current 1%, to China levels of 10%-12% within the next five years.


China’s massive, yet complex and deeply intertwined ecommerce ecosystem is now bigger than that of Europe or the US and is expected to be worth $1.1 trillion by 2020.

In April, China’s largest ecommerce player, Alibaba, took a US$1 billion controlling stake in Lazada, the largest online department store in Southeast Asia. Lazada sells a wide range of products in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and has aggressively grown its market share in these countries in the past few years. By extending its ecommerce capabilities and know how to the region, Alibaba’s acquisition is expected to give the region a much needed shakeup.

The magic formula

So what is the magic behind Asia’s rapid ecommerce growth and why is it increasingly catching the eyes and ears of the world? The region’s uptake of mobile is one aspect.

In these video interviews, we asked regional experts about where they think the opportunities and challenges are for ecommerce growth in Asia.

What should my ecommerce strategy for Asia look like?

Martin Ross, digital marketing coach and trainer, Division Bell Group, is a highly experienced digital marketing trainer based in Singapore. He says there are two sides to the coin when weighing up ecommerce investments in the region.

There are still a large number of traditional companies who don’t think they need to be embarking on a new ecommerce venture, while others see it as a great way to expand their business reach beyond current geographical boundaries.

Ecommerce payments for Asian markets predominantly rely on COD

Barry Lloyd, managing director, Microchannel Far East Company, says ecommerce in the region is still in its infancy in Asia, in part because the concept of online payments is still a new one.

The Thai-based Internet entrepreneur says cash on delivery (COD) remains the most common form of payment in many parts of Southeast Asia, and marketers need to consider this when planning an ecommerce strategy for Southeast Asia.

What does Asia’s maturing ecommerce sector mean for marketers?

Asian customers are increasingly adapting to buying things online, and almost every country in Asia now has its own range of dominant ecommerce platforms, says Eddie Choi, executive director, Milton Exhibits Group.

As these platforms move into various vertical markets, there is a strong indication that ecommerce across APAC is maturing.


*Alex Shaida is the director of training, AVADO Learning, APAC. To learn more about ecommerce in Asia join us at our upcoming ClickZ Live digital marketing events in Hong Kong and Shanghai in August and September. 

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