We keep saying that COVID-19 has irrevocably transformed online business. Now, a survey of 17,000 consumers by Facebook and Bain & Company has brought in absolute numbers to show how true that is, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia (SEA). Let’s look at some of these findings:
- 78% of SEA consumers are digital consumers, totaling 350 million people.
- Digital shopping in SEA countries shows a 1.6x growth rate, outstripping China.
- The number of new digital consumers across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—in just one year—equals the UK’s whole population.
- The contribution of online retail in key categories is predicted to end the year at 9%, almost doubling 2020’s 5% result.
- 35% more consumers mainly shopped online in 2021, compared to 2020, with the most notable spike in grocery direct delivery services.
- Digital consumers shop across an average of nearly eight different platforms, up by 52%, or more than half again, compared to 2020.
- Online channels now play four times the role of offline channels in brand discovery and evaluation, mainly social media videos.
- 51% of consumers switched from their most-purchased brands within the past three months, citing reasons that included price, quality, availability, and faster delivery.
- 80% of SEA consumers are willing to pay a premium of up to 10% for brands that display ESG (environmental, social, and governance) responsibility.
- 40% of consumers intend to spend more on digital services after the pandemic.
Of course, what people say they will do, if and when things normalize, post-COVID, may or may not come to pass. But in Southeast Asia, at least, it’s probable that doors opened by the pandemic may never be shut again, notably in the case of ordering online for delivery—due to infrastructure issues throughout the region, waiting for delivery is more convenient and sometimes even more efficient than going out to get what you want in person.
These figures tell us that SEA is a rapidly-growing—and already a vast—market that companies can hardly afford to ignore. Opportunities abound, and the horizon appears limitless, so it’s high time to set sail and explore the bounties of this teeming business vista.