With a growth rate of 20.6% in 2022, the southeastern Asian (SEA) region is forecast to see the fastest growing ecommerce retail growth in the world. Sales of Southeast Asia ecommerce companies are expected to reach $89.67 billion and to cross the $100 billion mark in 2023.
There are more active consumers in the region than in the US and Japan combined if we look at Singapore. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The explosive growth that we are currently seeing in the region means that there is considerable upheaval in the sector as well as a number of rapidly rising stars in ecommerce in southeast Asia 2022.
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Growth Forecast to Continue
Whilst the % of growth can be expected to reduce in coming years as the baseline becomes higher, the region still has considerable potential.
Only 4 countries worldwide will have faster % growth than SEA in total and 2 of those are within the region. There are 5 markets from the area in the Top 10, making it worth having a closer look at.
Who are the main players in ecommerce in southeast Asia 2022?
Unlike China, the region doesn’t have any kind of “local firewall” forcing an own ecosystem to develop, however the regional players are still strong. Don’t assume that Amazon is always the best choice for your ecommerce outside of China. Look at the graphic below to see where the traffic is!
I’m willing to bet that you’ve not heard of most of those southeast Asia ecommerce companies unless you are already selling in the region. Let’s take a brief look at the most important ones to see how they might be fitted into your Asian strategy.
Active in: IN, VN, PH, TH, MY, SG as well as many other markets worldwide
Average Monthly visits: 470 mln
Estimated yearly GMV: 60 bln USD
Shopee is presently the largest online platform in South East Asia (SEA) and offered purely 3rd party sales. (There was no business model where they buy the products themselves until the introduction of Shopee Supermarket). The parent company Sea belongs 25% to China’s Tencent.
From the start, Shopee has taken a mobile first approach. The platform started out as a C2C marketplace but has since evolved to include B2C in a hybrid format.
One feature which offers security for both sellers & buyers is the Shopee Guarantee – this is an escrow payments structure where the buyer’s money is held in trust until after the product has been delivered, offering security for both sides.
Shopee also offers sellers a wide variety of marketing options to make the products more attractive to potential customers. these include coupons, promotions, bundles and free shipping campaigns. The platform is known for excellent customer service, offering rich chat features and language specific support around the clock, allowing brands to build loyalty.
There are 2 fulfillment options for the Shopee Mart as an overseas brand:
- Fulfillment by Shopee, which is by invitation only for selected brands and official distributors (you need to have high sales volumes, but it includes free shipping and returns, picking & packing, storage)
- 3rd party fulfillment – there are a number of 3rd party fulfillment specialist companies who help smaller brands to sell on platforms such as Shopee.
Who can sell on Shopee?
To be a seller on Shopee, you need to have the following:
- a GST (general sales tax) ID number
- a mobile phone number to register your business with
- a shipping address
- provide a signature.
If you meet these criteria, you can go ahead and start selling on Shopee.
Transaction fee (for receipt of payments): 2%
Commission: generally 5% for Shopee Mall, but is capped for some high value items
There may also be a service fee for certain programmes such as the Free Shipping programme where your clients always receive free delivery.
Active in: SG, PH, TH, ID, VN, MY
Average Monthly visits: 140 mln
Estimated yearly GMV: 40 bln USD
For almost 10 years Lazada was the no 1 in the region, until Shopee took over the top spot during the pandemic. The GMV mentioned above is more of an estimation than the other numbers mentioned in this post, as Alibaba doesn’t report Lazada separately.
Since Alibaba took over the controlling stake in 2016, the product offering has been brought in line with that of Tmall in China, so you have Lazada Global, Lazada Mall etc.
The platform offers a huge range of products on a B2C basis & like Tmall has strict requirements that sellers need to meet. These revolve around brand rights as well as proving that products are genuine.
The LazGlobal store is a crossborder e-commerce option making it simpler for foreign companies to sell via the platform & tap into their huge audience across the region.
There are certain limits on which products can be sold via the crossborder business model, especially when it comes to food & beverages or health care supplements.
This business model is fulfilled via the Lazada warehouses in Hong Kong, which is a practical solution for the sellers, however slower for delivery times than if selling on the domestic mall.
Who can sell on Lazada?
To be a seller on Lazada, you need to:
- Have an email id and phone number to register your business with
- Have a business license
- Have prior shopping experience on other e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, or more.
- Have a Payoneer card or p-card that is registered as an enterprise.
If you meet these criteria, you can go ahead and start selling on Lazada.
Compared to selling on Tmall, Lazada is relatively cheap for brands as there is no deposit or running fee, but it’s more expensive than Shopee.
Depending on the product, commissions range between 4-8%, plus 2% for Payoneer.
As you may be familiar with from Tmall, there are also Lazada Partners, however an LP (unlike a great TP) won’t break the bank. Prices start at around $500 for the set up and then $200 monthly ongoing.
Active in: ID
HQ: Jakarta, ID
Average Monthly visits: 150 mln
Estimated yearly GMV: 14 bln USD
Tokopedia offers free C2C marketplace services for dealers and private persons as well as having an official store model for brands to do B2C sales. It feels a bit like taobao in the past and isn’t open to foreign buyers right now.
The platform is known for flamboyant marketing activities showcasing pop stars.
It’s estimated that Tokopedia has around 30% of the Indonesian ecommerce market.
Investors include Alibaba, Google & Softbank, and in May 2021 the company merged with ride-hailing unicorn Gojek to form the Go-To Group.
Whilst brands are able to have official stores on Tokopedia, you need to consider in advance that margins are generally low in Indonesia.
Active in: ID
HQ: Jakarta, ID
Average Monthly visits: 27 mln
Estimated yearly GMV: 8 bln USD
Bukalapak is number 3 in the Indonesian market, behind Shopee and Tokopedia.
The platform had its initial success with selling folding bicycles, but is now offering a full range of products. The platform differentiates itself by facilitating online to offline ecommerce by partnering with many smaller offline retail stores.
In 2021, the platform raised a record breaking $1.5 billion in their IPO but 6 months later had lost 66% of their value. This was driven not only by a lack of profits, but also by the CEO leaving to transition to the public sector.
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Active in: ID
HQ: Jakarta, ID
Average Monthly visits: 16 mln
Blibli is yet another Indonesian site, who will soon reach unicorn status. Whilst they like to focus on Indonesian brands, it’s also possible to have an official brand store on the platform if you have an entity or partner within Indonesia.
Blibli were the first ecommerce site in Indonesia to integrate video streaming.
They pride themselves on their 2 day delivery guarantee (not an easy feat in a market as fragmented & widespread as Indonesia, where last mile logistics can be a real challenge). This is made possible by having their own in-house logistics team.
Active in: SG, PH, MY, ID
Average Monthly visits: 21 mln
Carousell started out as a marketplace to sell used electronics, but has now evolved to sell a range of products and with both C2C and B2C business models. It has a bit of an ebay feel to it, so certainly isn’t suitable for all types of business.
Active in: VN
HQ: Ho Chi Minh City, VN
Average Monthly visits: 18 mln
As the Vietnamese ecommerce market is the 2nd largest in Southeast Asia (after Indonesia) it’s hardly surprising that there are some strong homegrown players. The market is forecast to triple in size in the next 5-7 years.
Tiki has grown from being a bookstore to the multiproduct platform it is today and focuses on a younger demographic.
The largest investor in Tiki is Alibaba.
Tiki doesn’t offer a cross-border ecommerce model, so in order to sell here, you will need either a local partner who can sell here or your own local entity.
Active in: VN
HQ: Ho Chi Minh City, VN
Average Monthly visits: 5 mln
Mainly working with a C2C model, Sendo focuses on more rural areas. Apparently a merger with Tiki was planned for 2020, but this has been postponed at least until now due to the pandemic. Sendo is probably not so interesting from a Western business perspective until the merger with Tiki goes through (assuming it goes ahead) when the access to more provincial traffic could become interesting.
Active in: ID, PH, MY, SG (also Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia & New Zealand)
Average Monthly visits: 7 mln
Zalora is part of Global Fashion Group and is a leading fashion retailer and marketplace in the region. Since 2020 the platform also ventured into beauty and lifestyle. They feature the work of around 500 international and local designers, making them an interesting opportunity for brands in the space who are looking for the right sales platform.
Southeast Asia Ecommerce Companies are set for huge growth
Whilst some of the platforms listed here require you to have either a local partner or your own entity, some also offer CBEC options. I’ve talked regularly about the advantages of doing Crossborder Ecommerce in China, however for many smaller companies, southeastern Asia might prove a less daunting option whether you go for CBEC or trading via a local partner. The region is forecast to grow strongly in the coming years, even if not at the rates seen in the last 2 years as the sales channel matures. This alone is a great reason to look at selling here.
However, compared to China the region (or part of it) has several reasons that it is perhaps more attractive:
- seller interfaces & documentation are often in English, especially if you start out via Singapore, the Philippines or Malaysia
- less competition than China – right now, the marketplaces are simply less noisy than say Tmall or JD, making it easier to get your brand messaging heard
- It is cheaper to cooperate with both in terms of the commissions which are required and also the necessary marketing spend
One advantage of selling via the marketplaces rather than direct sales from your own website (other than the obvious question of traffic for smaller brands) is that the Southeast Asia ecommerce companies have their payments tailored to local practices. So for example, cash on delivery is still popular, although there has been a swing towards ewallets during the pandemic.
So what are you waiting for? The region is dynamic and growing fast, so the longer you wait, the higher the levels of competition will be.
Not sure what your strategy or approach should be? Reach out for a call.
If you are working in Southeast Asia, you might find these posts also interesting:
- Your Gateway to SE Asia: a Guide to Exporting Food and Beverages to Malaysia
- 6 Food and Beverage Industry Trends in Vietnam 2022 to watch out for
- Top Southeast Asian Ecommerce Companies
- Digitalisation of Supply Chains 2022: Trends in South East Asia
- Business Etiquette in Vietnam
- Exporters Guide to the Food & Beverage Industry in the Philippines
- Trends in the Food and Beverage Industry in the Philippines
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