Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
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Even before the pandemic, Thai retailers were making good progress on digital transformation.  Many retailers created online channels for their customers to complete transactions while using data analytics to better understand customer needs.  Starting from the beginning of 2020, the enforcement of social distancing, lockdowns, and other pandemic-related measures caused spikes in online shopping businesses, especially in business-to-consumer (B2C) sales and business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce. 

The driving factors behind this growth are increased internet and mobile phone use, as well as improved logistics and e-payment systems, which heightened convenience and consumer confidence to shop online.  According to the E-Commerce Association - Thailand, the e-commerce market value is estimated to reach $26.5 billion in 2023 compared to $23.4 billion in 2022.  The market value is projected to reach $32 billion in 2025.  Mobile devices account for more than 80 percent of total online sales in Thailand, with mobile wallets account for 23 percent of all transactions. Thailand’s total mobile wallet adoption is expected to reach 63 percent by 2025.

Thailand is a well-developed e-commerce market with over half of the population already using e-commerce platforms regularly.  According to the Consumer Report Thailand 2023, fashion items including clothes and footwear account for 60 percent of the total market, followed by personal care at 43.2 percent, and food & beverage at 34.6 percent respectively.

Domestic E-commerce (B2C)

eCommerce platforms in Thailand are divided into three categories: business-to-business (B2B) transactions, business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions, and business-to-government (B2G) transactions.  Among the three groups of transactions, B2C transactions are the largest and account for 50 percent, followed by B2B transactions at 27 percent and B2G transactions at 23 percent.

Domestic B2B E-commerce

B2B e-commerce in Thailand is also growing rapidly due to Internet development and mobile transformation.  According to the Electronic Transaction Development Agency, the sectors using e-commerce platforms to increase their productivity include the food and service sector with 31 percent, followed by manufacturing at 16 percent, and retail and wholesale at 15 percent.  Interestingly, demand for e-commerce services is coming not only from Bangkok but also from the other provinces, such as Nonthaburi and Chonburi.

Digital Platform Decree

Thailand‘s Royal Decree on Digital Platforms was published in the Government Gazette in December, 2022.  The decree includes a 240-day grace period and will be fully enacted in August 2023.  The decree authorizes the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) to annually request and collect information from digital platform operators (with revenue or users above the stated threshold) providing services in Thailand.

A platform provider located outside Thailand is subjected to the Decree if services are provided to consumers residing in Thailand.  Such platform operators must designate a local contact in Thailand to send the required information and coordinate with ETDA.  According to EDTA, the decree is intended to increase transparency for the local business community, address consumer complaints, and to provide EDTA with critical information such as the value of transactions, gross income, and number of platform subscribers.

The local authority possesses the power to suspend operations of non-compliant platform operators within 90 days or a period as prescribed by the authority.  The violating platform is subject to a criminal penalty of imprisonment and/or fines.

Consumer Behavior

According to Statista, Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-largest digital economy after Indonesia.  There are around 43.5 million consumers in Thailand’s e-commerce market, with a gross merchandise value of $19 billion. Younger Thais (aged 17-36) make up 62 percent of the market, while Thais aged 37-50 account for 33 percent of the market, and Thais aged 51-71 account for 5 percent.  

30 percent of Thailand’s e-commerce market is cross-border.  Almost 50 percent of online shoppers have made cross-border e-commerce purchases.  Top w-commerce sites are Shopee, Lazada, Central, Hompro, Jib, and Kaidee, all of which are seller platforms with advanced logistics and delivery infrastructure.

Local Service Providers

Thailand’s diverse mix of international and local e-commerce stores illustrates Thai consumers’ preference for variety while shopping online.  Lazada and Shopee, competing fiercely to become the most popular Thai e-commerce platforms are investing heavily on advertising and marketing campaigns.  Jib and Power Buy are known as Thailand’s IT and electronic equipment marketplaces with competitive pricing and reliable after-sales services.  JD Central, a joint venture between China’s and Thailand’s Central Group was the third largest e-commerce platform in Thailand before shuttering operations in March 2023.

E-commerce Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important concern for business owners.  Trademark registration in Thailand is determined on a first-to-file, first-in-right basis.  New entrants should consider obtaining trademark protection before introducing products or services into the Thai market.

For companies seeking a patent registration for its business method in the e-commerce market, please note the Thai Patent Act currently does not grant patents to computer programs and business methods.  However, under certain conditions, computer programs, including technologies used to protect the program’s or company’s information from unauthorized access or reproduction, may be protected automatically under the Thai copyright protection system.  In addition, a company’s trade secrets, such as processes, strategies, instruments, or databases, may be protected by the Trade Secret Act (2002).  Companies are encouraged to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Thai intellectual property laws.

In addition to protecting IP rights, companies must run their business in compliance with the Computer Crime Act (Amended 2016).  The law prohibits input of forged or false computer data or content that is likely to cause damage to others or to the public, including sending data or email that disturbs the recipient without a means to opt-out.  Service providers such as social media platforms and access providers may also be required to delete or otherwise prevent access to such content following a government notification, or face liability for that content.  In December 2022, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) enacted a New Notice and Takedown Notification, which empowered the relevant authority to block or take down a website that contains illegal content or content against public order without a court order.  In addition, the law requires service providers to store traffic data for a period of no less than 90 days from the date of input into a computer system and up to two years in special cases.

Furthermore, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) came into force in June 2022.  The law prescribes several obligations for both overseas and local eCommerce businesses to gather and use personal data.  Companies should make necessary efforts to comply with the PDPA to avoid penalties.

Online Payment

Traditionally, Thailand’s payment landscape relied on cash.  Since 2017, Thailand aimed to be a cashless society and promoted a national e-payment scheme.  As a result of the cashless project, both public and private sectors have encouraged businesses and consumers to move away from cash and toward e-payment systems including digital wallets, credit and debit cards, QR code payments, and bank transfers.  According to the Statista report, total transaction value in the digital payment sector is estimated to reach $33 billion in 2023 and grow to $55 billion by 2027.

Mobile E-commerce

According to Statistat, Thailand’s eCommerce market is already the dominant sales channel in the country, with a projected transaction value of $31 billion in 2023.  The transaction value is expected to grow annually by 13.33 percent and reach $51 billion by 2027.

Thai smartphone users are keen e-shoppers, with 71 percent shopping online at least twice a month.  Some 90 percent of smartphone users plan to shop online in the future.  Apps are the most-used method to shop online, comprising 65 percent of all transactions.  Offering in-app purchasing will therefore be crucial for merchants to reach the majority of Thailand’s online consumers.

Digital Marketing and Social Media

According to the Digital 2023’s report on Thailand, at the start of 2023, Thailand has around 61.21 million internet users equal to 85.3 percent of the total population.  Thailand also had 101.2 million mobile connections, and 52.25 million social media users.  Thai respondents use the internet in the following ways:

  • 64.9 percent seek information.
  • 8.1 percent update news and events.
  • 54.8% watching the videos.
  • TV shows and movies.
  • 54.4% finding new ideas or inspirations.
  • 48.0 % connection with friends and family.
  • 45.1% gaming.
  • 40.7% searching products and brands.
  • 33.6% business related research.
  • The top search engine is Google.

The most used social media platforms in Thailand are Facebook, Line, Facebook Messenger, Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and YouTube. 

Thailand has:

  • 48.10 million Facebook users.
  • 45 million Line users.
  • 43.90 million YouTube users.
  • 40.28 million TikTok users.
  • 35.05 million Facebook Messenger users.
  • 17.35 million Instagram users.
  • 14.60 million Twitter users.
  • 4.10 million LinkedIn users.
  • 525,000 Snapchat users.

During the pandemic, many retailers turned to online payment services.  Online payments previously primarily used in shopping malls and restaurants have increased in popularity, and even street carts vendors offer online payment options such as by scanning a QR code.  The use of online banking is further encouraged through the Thai Government’s payment of state aid to people through the “Paotang App” e-payment system.

Thai people use internet and social media apps to research products before making purchases.  39.23 million Thai consumers purchase consumer goods via the internet.  Electronics, personal and household care, food and beverages and online booking for travel and tourism are the strongest online shopping categories.  The online shopping sector had a total value of $19.26 billion in 2022.  The top three sources of brand discovery are from search engines, advertise banner, and products comparison websites.