Southeast Asia to see 310 million digital consumers by end-2020

SINGAPORE: Southeast Asia will be home to 310 million digital consumers by the end of this year, reaching a number previously forecast for 2025, as physical distancing measures imposed during the coronavirus pandemic accelerate the shift toward online spending, according to the latest annual Facebook Inc and Bain & Co report.

That means almost 70% of the region’s population that is 15 years old and older will go digital by end-2020, and the average online spending per person will triple from 2019 to US$429 in 2025, according to the report released on Thursday.

The study surveyed some 16,500 digital consumers in six countries including Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Southeast Asian digital consumers have grown exponentially and their consumption habits are shaping today’s new norm,” Praneeth Yendamuri, partner at Bain, said in an interview.

The study found that Southeast Asia’s online spending now accounts for 5% of the total retail market, surpassing India’s 4% rate.

Its e-commerce gross merchandise value grew 23% per year between 2018 and 2020, faster than China, India and the US during the period, it also showed.

Even as lockdown measures ease, the region’s total online retail spending is projected to reach US$53 billion this year before tripling to US$147 billion by 2025.

“What we are seeing is that Southeast Asia is now striking out on its own,” said Sandhya Devanathan, managing director of gaming for Asia Pacific at Facebook. “If the last decade was about getting people online, this decade is about inspiring consumers to stay online.”

Other insights from the study include:

  • Southeast Asian consumers are buying into more categories online, especially grocery, with 43% of respondents saying they now shop for packaged groceries via e-commerce.
  • Some 62% of consumers said social media, short videos and messaging are their most preferred online channels for discovering new brands and products.
  • E-wallets saw a surge in popularity, with 22% of consumers now saying it’s their preferred way to pay, compared with 14% in 2019.