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Southeast Asia has all the ingredients for a promising ecommerce market—rising internet and mobile penetration, a growing middle class with greater discretionary spending, and an increasing supply of digital platforms. Still, many challenges continue to hamper ecommerce growth in the region, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Ad Fraud in the US: How More Sophisticated Methods Are Hurting Mobile, Video and Performance Measurement” (eMarketer PRO customers only).
Retail sales in the six largest economies in Southeast Asia—Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—will total $786.45 billion this year, representing 3.6% of worldwide sales. Indonesia, the most populated country in Southeast Asia, will also have the largest retail market, with $245.86 billion in sales. Thailand and Vietnam will follow, at roughly $190 billion and $161 billion, respectively.
Retail potential in Southeast Asia is determined in large part by population size and purchasing power. Collectively, these six nations benefit from having a population of over 561 million people as of 2016, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau. And that number will continue to expand, growing to nearly 583 million people in 2020, adding about 21.7 million new consumers over the next four years.
Robust economic growth in these markets is giving way to rising incomes and expanding middle classes. Data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that total GDP rose from $1.824 trillion in 2010 to $2.462 trillion in 2016. These figures, which account for inflation, are forecast to rise even further, topping $3.346 trillion by 2020.
Southeast Asia is also experiencing a boom in urbanization, which will also help drive further retail expansion across the region. Generally, retail players focus on urban areas because they have the greatest opportunity (i.e., large population sizes) and favorable conditions for development—such as developed transportation systems, supply chains and technology. Several of the most densely populated cities in Southeast Asia are also the ones growing quickly in population size and retail infrastructure.
Additionally, rapid ecommerce growth continues to increase in Southeast Asia. eMarketer estimates that the digital retail market—including retail products ordered online via mobile—will reach $14.04 billion in 2016, up from $10.50 billion in 2015, an increase of 33.6% year over year.
Nonetheless, ecommerce’s contribution to retail sales in Southeast Asia is still relatively small. In the six countries tracked by eMarketer, digital retail sales will make up 1.8% of total retail sales in 2016, with the lowest ecommerce share in the Philippines (0.9%) and the highest in Singapore (4.5%). These figures stand in sharp contrast to the more developed ecommerce markets in China and South Korea, where digital retail will represent 18.4% and 12.1%, respectively.
Southeast Asia is on the cusp of an ecommerce boom, as fast-growing mobile and internet usage propels consumer spending. There are over 262 million internet users residing in these six markets. And many of these consumers are mobile-first internet users, or people who primarily access the web through their mobile phones. eMarketer estimates that about 177 million people—or 67.5% of internet users—will own and use a smartphone in 2016.
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