eCommerce potential of Southeast Asia

E-commerce in Southeast Asia is widely expected to be a significant industry in the coming years, with data estimating around 3.8 million new internet users who are coming online each month in the region.

Not only that, a Google study found Southeast Asia's internet economy outpacing expectations by 35%, having reached 50 billion USD in 2017, with estimates predicting the grow extending to 200 billion USD by 2025.

With currently over 330 million internet users, Southeast Asia is poised to become the fastest growing internet market worldwide between 2015 and 2020.

Here are some of the factors driving the e-commerce growth spur in Southeast Asia:

  1. Burgeoning young population

  2. Rising disposable income

  3. Great availability of payment systems

  4. Lack of available organised retail

Let's take a look at six potential signs pointing towards an e-commerce boom in the Southeast Asia region.

Mobile-first economy

Southeast Asia has the highest figure in the world when it comes to time spent browsing the internet through the mobile phones; An average Southeast Asian spends around 3.6 hours per day glued to their mobile phones!

Mobile commerce in the region has grown by 19% on average and as of 2018 captures 72% of overall web traffic. As seen from the graph, of the six significant regions (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand), Indonesia has the highest share of mobile traffic at 87%.

In Southeast Asia, desktop traffic for m-commerce (mobile commerce) has less than 30% of web traffic. This signifies the importance of a user-friendly mobile platform for e-commerce sellers.

Online Shopaholics

Findings show that Southeast Asians spend double the time Americans spend shopping online, on average about 140 minutes every month.

Online shoppers in almost all of the region are likely to shop during working hours. This is evident as the number of orders is highest between 9 A.M to 5 P.M. Whereas, in Singapore, the peak hour for online shopping is after 10:00 P.M.

Another interesting finding is that Southeast Asians tend to make purchases on weekdays rather on weekends. Despite, mobile traffic being the highest on weekends, it seems that consumers are more likely browsing and surveying e-commerce sites during the weekends, to then only make a purchasing decision on weekdays as you noticed from the conversion graph above.

Investments pouring in

Currently, the amount of investments flowing into Southeast Asia's e-commerce startups is on par with investments in India.

In 2017, the amount e-commerce startups raked in tripled the 2.5 billion USD amount in 2016, at 7.86 billion USD; A staggering growth rate since 2013.

High conversion rate

"Conversion rate" is defined as the percentage of users who take the desired action. Conversion rate commonly reflects both the quality of a company’s marketing activities and website’s effectiveness. Higher conversion rates frequently lead to higher profitability for an e-commerce business.

The industry standard for conversion rate is typically at 30%. Surprisingly, Vietnam is higher than average, beating every other Southeast Asia region, even Singapore who came in second.

Correlation of GDP to basket size

"Basket size" is described as the measurement of the average total amount spent on every purchase made by shoppers over a designated period. This metric also directly impacts the profitability of an e-commerce business.

As expected, given Singapore's higher GDP per capita (USD 90,530), the basket size of a Singaporean shopper is on average USD 91 that's triple the value of remaining major Southeast Asian countries, which have an average basket size of USD 23.

The popularity of alternative payment methods

Given the low credit card penetration rate in Southeast Asia region excluding Singapore, a proliferation of payment solutions are being offered across the region by e-commerce businesses.

Here are some of the findings:

  1. 80% of e-commerce businesses in Philippines and Vietnam offer cash on delivery.

  2. Bank transfer is widespread in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

  3. Purchases via offline points are being offered by almost 50% of e-commerce businesses in Thailand and Vietnam.

  4. In Indonesia and Vietnam, instalment payments are increasingly becoming popular.


It's always hard to take the first step, but given the amount of data numerous studies have yielded, businesses who have yet to sell cross-border in the Southeast Asia region should make the first leap of faith.

Here, at Etailer Gateway, we provide retailers, manufacturers and brand owners with end-to-end eCommerce solutions to expand their business in Southeast Asia via online marketplaces and platforms. Get in touch with us today.