top of page

3 top trends to impact e-commerce startups in ASEAN in 2021

Here are three data-driven predictions from the researcher team at the e-commerce technology company Seal Commerce Asia

By now it’s safe to say COVID-19 has been the strongest force pushing for digitalisation in retail that we’ve seen in a long time. Within weeks, everything suddenly moved online.

iPrice Group and App Annie reported back in September that usage of Android shopping apps in ASEAN grew by 39% within three months. Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines saw growth of up to 55%

Efforts of e-commerce companies to advocate for online shopping in Southeast Asia paid off overnight.

What’s next then? Now that ASEAN consumers have installed their shopping apps, and opened their digital accounts, where is the market heading towards and what exciting developments can we expect from ASEAN e-commerce in 2021 and beyond?

Here are three data-driven predictions from the researcher team at the e-commerce technology company Seal Commerce Asia.

The era of B2B

Southeast Asia has been the playground of B2C e-commerce giants for a while, but starting from 2020, it is looking more and more like a dreamland for B2B and B2B2C -commerce as well.

Amid social distancing measurements, suppliers have moved their sales operations online and rapidly redefined their supply chains and fulfilment. On the other hand, B2B buyers, especially the mom-and-pop shop owners, who account for 70-85% of the FMCG retail market in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, suddenly became much more comfortable with utilising technology.

These factors combined open up a previously closed door for B2B eCommerce in the region. Forrester forecasts that B2B e-commerce in the region will grow at 12.1% per annum, with B2B online marketplaces at the core of changing buyer behaviour.

That’s why in 2020, many Southeast Asian B2B e-commerce platforms have sprung up and begun to attract investors.

Telio, which is claimed to be the first Vietnamese B2B eCommerce platform, raised USD $25 million in a Series A round. While in Indonesia, GudangAda secured two consecutive rounds of financing, with a total amount of 30 to 40 million US dollars.

Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup announced the launch of VinShop offering store owners a digital platform where they can order directly from suppliers and vendors.

Zilingo raised a Series D round worth US$226 million to go after the opportunity to digitise the fashion supply chain in Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Other already-established players in digital payment and B2C e-commerce also seem eager to expand their reach to mom-and-pop shops. All of this is to say, B2B e-commerce looks likely to be the next frontier and the new heated competition of eCommerce in Southeast Asia.

However, the development might not be all smooth sailing

B2B e-commerce marketplaces typically promise three supposed benefits: refilling stocks fast and effortlessly, finding and ordering from multiple suppliers easily, and finance.

Although these offers look great on paper, they might not be so attractive to the mom-and-pop store owners in practice. The power to pick and choose their own suppliers and make bargains is hard to give up.

Therefore, determining product market fit will be the primary goal for most ASEAN B2B eCommerce companies in 2021. Would the answer be continuous and heavy discounts as with B2C eCommerce, or would it be the promise of more customers through a B2B2C model? Only time will tell.

Social commerce and digital payments finally take over

In Quarter 2, according to iPrice Group and App Annie, the total number of sessions on shopping apps on Android phones in Southeast Asia has reached 65.1 billion, its highest ever.

For some such as Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, the number of visits to Android shopping applications jumped over 40% within just three months, an impressive statistic that surpassed all expectations.

These increases in app usage are creating huge opportunities for social commerce and digital payment in e-commerce.

These features have been key strategies of the industry since at least 2019. Every big e-commerce player in the region was looking for ways to reduce cash-on-delivery payments and implement social features to their apps, but not until 2020 with the pandemic that things were sped up significantly.

The Singapore government recently accelerated the adoption of cashless payment methods with incentives for businesses, like subsidising digital transformation costs.

In Indonesia, 55% of Indonesian consumers claiming they are buying online now more than ever, and digital wallet startups such as GoPay, Ovo, and Ant Financial-backed Dana are becoming more common across the country.

In Vietnam, digital payment startup VNPay achieved the unicorn status in late 2020, while their competitor MoMo acquired 10 million new users, doubling their user base within 2020.

Meanwhile, e-ommerce giant Shopee noted a 40x increase in the number of live streams from brands and sellers in Singapore. Shopee Live also received 120 million views in Indonesia for its live streaming event in April.

Expect to see social commerce and digital payment play a central role in the Southeast Asian tech startup scene in 2021 when it changes the way consumers in the region approach shopping in general.

Cross-border e-commerce to benefit from the pandemic

Seal Commerce Asia’s own Shopify in Asia report shows that in 2020, number of new stores opened by Asian sellers on Shopify is 112% higher than that in 2019. Sellers from Asia also account for 11% of all new stores in 2020, up from 9% a year before.

Among the top five Asian countries with the highest number of new Shopify stores in 2020, three are in Southeast Asia, namely Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Just like most things e-commerce, Shopify experienced unprecedented growth in 2020: the number of new stores created grew 71% in Q2 compared to Q1, with a record number of merchants added to the platform in Q3.

With the pandemic situation not looking much better in Europe and North America at the beginning of 2021, this exponential growth rate seems likely to continue.

This means selling cross-border (either through Shopify, Amazon, or their own platforms) into the West will continue to be huge for Southeast Asian businesses.

But beyond that, one fact that is surprisingly underreported in the media is what this means for a slew of e-commerce-enabling startups in the region.

Take a look at the Shopify app store, which supplies sellers around the world with third-party apps for their online businesses, you will be surprised to find out how many of the top-ranking apps are coming from startups in Vietnam, Singapore, or other ASEAN countries.

There are enablers in store building such as Gempages, EcomSolid, or Pagefly, in marketing services such as Beeketing and LitExtension, and in logistics technology such as Parcel Perform.

By end of March 2020, over 80% of Shopify merchants had used a third-party app to help run day-to-day operations.

And 2021 promises to bring things to an even higher level for them

54 views0 comments


bottom of page