The e-commerce market in Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing and most promising with its projection to grow to $11 billion in 2025. According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, the forecast is that the total e-commerce market in Thailand in 2017 will be worth approximately $741 million or growing 12.4% compared to the previous year. The driving factors come from increased Internet and mobile phone use as well as improved logistics and e-payment systems. This creates heightened convenience and consumer confidence to shop online. In addition, the quality and reliability of online shopping services have been improved significantly, and the acceptance of e-commerce has increased in the country.
Further, the Thai government focuses on its “Thailand 4.0” policy, which includes allocating a budget for the specific purpose of constructing a broadband network for all villages across the country. Having a nationwide broadband network will help bridge the digital divide and promote modern economic development through the e-commerce channel. Moreover, the government has a vision of creating the next generation of digital application platforms to accommodate and promote online activities including e-marketplace, e-payments, and e-government. Eventually, the goal is for villagers to start doing e-commerce businesses for their local products and services.
Current Market Trends and Domestic eCommerce (B2C)
E-commerce platforms in Thailand are divided into three categories; business-to-business transactions, business-to-consumer transactions, and business-to-government transactions. Among the three groups of transactions, business-to-business transactions are the largest share and account for 55 percent, followed by business-to-consumer transactions at 29 percent and business-to-government transactions at 16 percent respectively.
According to the global marketing research firm Nielsen, forecasts are that Thailand’s online retail e-commerce market, excluding online travel, will reach $3 billion by 2020, increasing from $1 billion in 2015.
The e-commerce market in Thailand is currently second largest in Southeast Asia and expected to grow 22% annually till 2020. With support from the Thai government, a “Digital Thailand” initiative started in 2016 has brought about a wave of opportunities for businesses across different industries to digitize their operations and services, especially for SMEs seeking to undergo digital transformation. As a result, cross-border market opportunities offer growth rates of approximately 25%, well above those found in most traditional retail markets. Cross-border B2C eCommerce is estimated to grow to $1 trillion in 2020.
B2B eCommerce in Thailand is also growing rapidly due to Internet development and mobile transformation. According to the Electronic Transaction Development Agency, the sectors using e-commerce platforms to increase their productivity include the food and service sector with 31%, followed by manufacturing at 16%, and retail and wholesale at 15%, respectively. Interestingly, demand for e-commerce services is coming not only from Bangkok but also from the other provinces, such as Nonthaburi and Chonburi.
Thailand’s online retail commerce is driven by several factors including increased smart phone penetration and intense competition among e-commerce operators. The government’s PromptPay service, which falls under the national e-payment scheme, is the key driver to stimulate e-commerce activities.
Over the last couple of years, many courier service companies started launching their e-commerce platform in Thailand, bringing domestic end-to-end delivery to the market. Consequently, delivery costs for e-commerce products have sharply declined from $1.3 per piece in 2015 to $0.5 per piece in 2016 due to the fierce competition among logistics service providers.
Top 10 e-commerce websites in the Thailand
Nearly two months after announcing it had begun the process of selling off its majoritystake in Thailand’s Tarad.com, Japanese e-commerce platform Rakuten officially announced at this April 2016 it had found a suitor in Porar Web Application Co.Ltd. Founded in 1999 by Pawoot Pongvitayapanu (who goes by ‘Pom’), Tarad.com has about 260,000 merchants, 3.5 million products and more than 3 million users. It also offers e-Marketplace and advertising tools for its clients.
Thailand’s oldest e-commerce site, Tarad.com resembles an eBay or Rakuten website, at least from the perspective of the individual customer. Anybody can list clothing, electronics, household goods, used and otherwise, to sell to fellow consumers in C2C (customer-to-customer) trade. Sellers, or merchants, that make enough products themselves or have access to a steady supply of, say, dresses or handbags or toys graduate to B2C (business-to-customer) status and conduct sales under their own shingles on Tarad. Retailers big and small have outposts as well.
E-COMMERCE player LnwShop has expanded its service offerings in the sector, and expects to support 620,000 online shops by the end of this 2017 year. Managing director Nuttawit Polwattanasuk said LnwShop would add three services for online stores aimed at boosting the productivity of the ventures while stimulating the e-commerce market. Under the latest initiatives, LnwShop has set up a cross-border e-commerce platform, a service it calls Be Brand and short messaging system (SMS) services.
For the cross-border e-commerce platform, the company is cooperating with business partners such as the 11street online marketplace. Shop owners will be able to provide their products via another website, such as 11street, after an update procedure on the company’s LnwMall. The products will then display automatically on both LnwMall and 11street. The shop owners can also check their stock in real time.
Nuttawit said the company’s e-commerce platform supported more than 500,000 shops and had transactions of over Bt1.6 billion last year. “The online payment system will have an important role in driving e-commerce in Thailand in the next few years,” he said.
Nuttawit said the company’s goal of supporting more than 620,000 online shops by the end of this year represents growth of around 20 per cent. The company targets online transactions of around Bt1.8 billion, an increase of about 15 per cent from last year.
Since the alliance of Southeast Asian countries a few years ago, the huge domestic demands in these emerging markets has caught the attention from all over the world. One of the biggest benefactors recently has been the e-commerce industry and one of the largest countries in the region is Thailand.
Nowaday, Lazada Thailand sent five of its top performing sellers to Alibaba’s campus in Hangzhou. They joined a delegation of 34 Lazada sellers. Led by Lazada Group, the visit took place from 23 to 25 February 2017 and include a rare opportunity to hear from Jing Jie, Vice President of Strategic Partnership Development, Alibaba Group and Aimone Ripa di Meana, Chief Marketplace Officer, Lazada Group to gain insights on the eCommerce landscape development and best-practices of online selling. The delegates had the chance to visit and network with other successful sellers such as Semir from Alibaba’s Tmall platform as well as attended two training sessions on “Operations and Assortment Planning for Singles Day” and “Online Customer Management” conducted by Taobao University.
In addition to sending top five sellers to Alibaba Campus in Hangzhou, Lazada, as the brand holding by Alibaba Group, is committed to train over 30,000 SMEs following Thailand 4.0 model and collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce by organizing training workshop for SMEs at the New Economy Academy (NEA) starting from 2nd February 2017 onwards until the end of this year. This training workshop aims to cover practical trainings on how to sell products and services on an eCommerce platform. Lazada also offers sellers a comprehensive suite of tools and solutions to make their online business a success. The seller centre for instance gives sellers a comprehensive overview of their business with Lazada. It is also a mobile platform for sellers to manage their business on-the-go. Sellers also receive a weekly performance report from Lazada with details on areas they can improve for better sales.
With the arrival of Facebook and other modern social-media platforms, pantip.com, the 23-year-old Thai community website, may look a bit old but it has remained very relevant to Thai consumers and businesses.
Norasit Sitivechvichit, digital business director of Dentsu 360, told the “SME Biz Asia” conference last week a survey had found that the top factors leading Thais to make an online purchase were the need for the business to have an online store, especially on Facebook; offers such as discounts and coupons; and positive reviews on its products or services.
“Nowadays, Thai consumers, whatever they are looking to buy, will search [consumer] reviews on Pantip first,” he said. Norasit said he recommended that small and medium-sized enterprises with limited budgets use Facebook because it is the most comprehensive platform, offering a wide range of services. These include Facebook for Business, a platform for commercial enterprises, Facebook Ads, offering many useful tools, and Facebook Insight, which offers analytics useful for marketers.
But he said SMEs that have “no budget” at all had to work hard on writing reviews of their products or services, and actively participated in community websites, especially pantip.com. “Thailand is lucky to have Pantip,” he said, noting that businesses can use it to help drive organic ranking on websites, Facebook and search engines. He said Thai consumers had utmost trust in what they read on pantip.com, which sometimes could significantly affect sales of some companies.
Classifieds and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) marketplaces were the first ‘ecommerce’ businesses to operate and remain an important part of the online journey in Thailand. Three of the most popular C2C marketplaces – WeLoveShopping, Tarad, Pramool – were created around the millennium and are run by local companies. However, newer market entrants like Shopee, supported by Southeast Asia’s largest gaming company Garena, are on their heels. Weloveshopping brings the resources of Thailand’s True Corp, a regional leader in telecommunications.
Ascend Group is a privately owned e-commerce company headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand as a spin-off of True Corporation. It marked its $150-million expansion by launching their affiliates in the Philippines and Indonesia, Vietnam, and also hard to reach economies like Myanmar and Cambodia.Established as the consumer to consumer platform to cater to resellers and small merchants, WeLoveShopping houses more than 320,000 stores in Thailand. It began as the flagship e-commerce platform of Ascend Group. Since 2015, it now boasts a staggering 300,000 site visitors every day and marks its market dominance as the largest e-commerce marketplace in Thailand, with full seller visibility. WeStore and YouStore are its main components for catering to large and small merchants and dealerships. WeLoveShopping has been marked as one of the top 12 e-commerce websites in the region
Epic Stuff is Thailand’s ultimate one-stop shopping site for electronic gadgets, unique gifts, fun pop-culture, cool art, posters, clothing and games for men and women. EPIC STUFF has been launched to provide “unique products” for residents of the greater Bangkok with promised fast, 3-hour delivery.
The store (www.epicstuff.co.th) said in a press statement that online shoppers will find products unique for the website and the store will deliver goods to Bangkok residents on the same day of the order. The store said its products range from new tech gadgets to items for all and at every price-range. The products include common, big-brand and original goods. To ensure quick delivery, Epic Stuff stocks all its products in its own Bangkok warehouse. Only items in stock are made available to customers, ensuring that quick delivery is always possible, the statement said.
“We wanted to offer Bangkok residents something really different. The products in our catalogue are really unique,” owner Johannes Bergstrom says of the new online store. “We realized that the biggest obstacle to shopping online is the long wait to have purchases delivered. We are committed to super-fast same-day delivery, making shopping online from the comfort of your own home, as much fun (maybe even more fun) than going out shopping. And it is way more convenient.” Bergstrom said the online store has invested Bt20 million and it expects to get 30 per cent return by the end of the year. “Our online store website is state-of-the-art, in both English and Thai language. Every item is clearly described, with lots of photos and videos, so you can be sure your selection will be exactly what you want,” Bergstrom said.
SK Planet has launched 11street in Thailand, becoming Korea’s first business to open an online marketplace in the Southeast Asian country. Thailand is the fourth overseas market where the SK Telecom unit has opened its online mall. The platform debuted in Turkey in 2013 as n11, in Indonesia in 2014 as elevenia, and in Malaysia in 2015 as 11street.
Based on its accumulated experience running 11st in Korea, 11Street Thailand will offer millions of trendy high-quality products at competitive prices. The firm will also provide a 360-degree view of products for consumers to check the goods through their mobile devices. In addition, SK Planet will offer offices and photo studios in Bangkok to support 9,000 local sellers. Through such efforts, the outfit aims to beat its competitors, such as Lazada, iTrueMart and WeLove Shopping.
“11Street will be a leading e-commerce firm that promotes the Korean wave in retail industry,” 11Street Thailand CEO Jeon Hong-cheol said. “We expect our entrance to Thailand will stimulate Korean manufacturers and ICT firms to make their presence felt in Southeast Asian markets.” The size of the e-commerce market in Thailand which is populated by 68 million people is projected to more than double from $1.5 billion in 2016 to $4 billion in 2020. Plus, mobile shopping will likely occupy 45 percent of the country’s e-commerce market in 2020.
The King Power International Group is Thailand’s leading travel retail group, based in Bangkok. The current chairman and CEO is Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. King Power’s “...cash cow is the proprietary concession of Thailand’s duty-free business.” The company is the largest duty-free retailer in the country. Its duty free shopping mall in Bangkok’s central business district covers over 12,000 m2and it has branches at Suvarnabhumi Airport and Thailand’s other major airports. In 2015, King Power launched an online site selling duty-free and duty-paid items.
If you’re a lover of hand-made product, then you need to check “Blisby.com“. Blisby.com is similar to Etsy but localized for Thai people. It was established by Phuvadol Thongtavorn who was born and raised in California. Before starting Blisby, he worked for Yahoo!, Sony and NFL.com for 15 years.
Phuvadol said, “Blisby.com is a marketplace platform designed specifically for unique arts and crafts. The road has been a 7 days and 7 nights labor of love to launch Blisby.com. But I could not make this happen without my wonderful team. We are a small team, but we are dedicated to our Blisby community. My team is made up of programmers and editors who are also artists and crafters. We are customer-focused. We listen to our customers, and this makes a huge difference. Response has been great. Last month, our 3rd month, we hit 600,000 page views and 150,000 unique visitors.“
According to Thongthavorn, Thailand’s culture is steeped with beautiful traditional arts and crafts and Blisby was created as a place where the old and the new ideas meet. “I thought if I could build this online community and tools that the users need, I can step aside and the community will nurture itself,” he said.
Ascend Corporation has officially launched its own online marketplace, Wemall on June 6 2016, reports Bangkok Post. Wemall is an $8.5 million (300 million THB) investment by the corporation and is positioned as Thailand’s first ‘online brand marketplace’.
Wemall has replaced Ascend Corporation’s iTruemart.com and now has over 100 brands participating with the company’s platform, providing approximately 60,000 product items after launching for one trial month. Wemall’s goal is to have 3,000 brands in its marketplace by 2017, selling products ranging from beauty, fashion and electronic gadgets. Ascend Corporation plans to expand regionally in ASEAN using Wemall as a business role model for other countries. Nothing concrete has been announced regarding regional expansion.