2013 was a year of booming e-commerce in Thailand. Thanks to more 3G coverage, the 131 percent mobile penetration rate, and about 52 million internet users in the country, more people than ever shopped online. In fact, the Thai E-Commerce Association expects that e-shopping and online businesses will have grown by 30 percent this year, up from THB 119.64 billion ($3.65 billion) spent in 2012.
In Thailand, this boom was boosted by newer kinds of e-commerce, things that have evolved from more established channels such as general e-stores and consumer-to-consumer selling via forums. Here are four emerging social e-commerce trends we’ve seen in Thailand in 2013.
Now that Thailand has 24 million Facebook users, it’s only natural that people are taking advantage of the crowded social network for things other than sharing. This trend is ‘Facebook commerce’, or f-commerce for short. In Thailand, f-commerce sellers often focus on women’s products, ranging from accessories to clothes, skincare products to make-up. However, merely creating a page to sell something is so 2012; in 2013, merchants actually started using promoted posts and other types of Facebook advertising. This made the business a lot more social.
This new trend – across Asia as a whole, not just Thailand – was also a chance for startups to offer services to these sellers. And so we saw things like Page365, Instapps, and Bentoweb emerge as services dedicated to building solutions for Facebook vendors in this region. Those all offers an analytics dashboard for sellers to monitor their customers’ behavior, product requests, purchases, and view how items are being shared socially within Facebook.
In some cases, these Facebook stores in Thailand are making over $100,000 per month in revenue.
In heartening news for Mark Zuckerberg, Thai people love Instagram as much as Facebook. There are about 1.4 million Instagram users in Thailand right now. This year, the most Instagrammed location in the world is a shopping mall in Bangkok.
With the success of Instagram, people embraced the photo sharing app and made it into a popular marketplace. Basically, instead of posting personal photos, some Thai people turn Instagram accounts into shops selling everything from clothes to vitamins.
Of course, using Instagram as a marketplace is a global thing. But merchants in Thailand aren’t doing it in the normal way – like using hashtags to promote items – and are instead slipping links into the comments of photos posted by celebrity Instagrammers. In Thai, it’s called “fag-ran”. Yes, it’s spammy. So it’s common to see celebrities pleading “Please don’t fag-ran” on their Instagram profiles.
What’s lacking in Thailand, though, is the tools that manage these transactions. Something similar to Statigram. That’s something for regional startups to work on.
Mobile commerce is an undeniable trend across the region – but 2013 is when we saw it explode in Thailand. The m-commerce king right now is Line, the popular messaging app. Line is the platform that most regional companies choose for online sales promos. This might due to the fact that Line has 230 million registered users, of whom 18 million are in Thailand. That makes the country the second biggest Line user-base after Japan.
Big brands such as online e-store Rakuten Tarad.com have used Line for social commerce projects this year, and global names like make-up brand Maybelline joined in as well. Line itself joined in the m-commerce fun this year too. We can expect to see more brands joining this bandwagon next year.
“Find one thing that you’re passionate about and go for it.” That’s a motto that many startups stick to. It has proved to be good advice for some specialist e-stores this year.
In 2013, quite a few interesting new startups were born to tackle niche e-commerce areas. One good example is Pomelo Fashion which focuses on street chic fashion, bringing trends from NYC, Korea, and Japan to a Thai audience. Another is 500Trends, an e-commerce site that’s a combination of Instagram, Pinterest, and Amazon and that only sells items that are up-voted. Also this year we checked out WhatsNew, a startup that wants to be the Quidsi of Thailand, spawning numerous new specialist e-stores.
There are a lot of causes for optimism in 2014. This year we also saw huge interest in events like the CyberWeek sales blitz in Thailand, and strong growth for e-commerce related companies providing useful services to the industry, such as aCommerce and TrustedCompany. They’re working on solving some of the remaining issues that held back e-commerce in Thailand this year, such as poor uptake of e-payments, and a lack of trust in online sellers.
(Image credit: Supplychainshaman)
(Editing by Steven Millward)