Taiwan - Commercial Guide
ECommerce

Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and , reputable, prominent B2B websites.

Last published date: 2020-09-24

Overview

The e-commerce market in Taiwan has grown rapidly over the past few years.  In 2018, the market size was $38.92 billion with a five-year average growth rate of 7%.  (Source: Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan, Taiwan & eMarketer) In 2019, Taiwan had the highest proportion of e-commerce shoppers in Asia at 65.2%, with the average online consumer spending around $866 in 2018.  (Source: Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute) As Taiwan’s e-commerce market continues to develop, an increasing number of younger shoppers choose to shop at online retailers.  Digital media and entertainment, apparel and footwear, and consumer electronics remain the top three most purchased products from online retailers.  The demand for quick delivery has led to an increase in sales of basic household necessities on online platforms.  The evolution of e-commerce consumer expectations has led to new opportunities for e-commerce retailers and service providers.

Internet Penetration Rate

In 2019, the internet penetration rate in Taiwan stood at 93% of the population.  98% of Taiwan’s internet users use a mobile phone to connect to the internet, 59% use a desktop or laptop, and 51% use a tablet.   (Source: Taiwan Network Information Center)

Current Market Trends

The Taiwan e-commerce market features a wide variety of products and services, such as:

  • Apparel
  • Beauty and skincare products
  • Computers and accessories
  • Eyewear
  • Groceries
  • Food delivery
  • Household goods
  • Digital entertainment and videogames
  • Baby-care products
  • Shoes, bags, and brand name goods
  • Travel packages, hotels, and flights
  • Taiwan’s E-Commerce Regulations

The Taiwan authorities actively use legislation to facilitate and regulate the growing e-commerce industry.  The 2001 Electronic Signatures Act was modeled on the United Nations’ standards for e-commerce and recognizes electronic signatures and records by approved certification authorities.  The 2005 Consumer Protection Act allows consumers to return unsatisfactory goods within a week of purchase.    In 2016, new amendments were added to the Value-Added Tax (VAT) regulations that affected foreign e-commerce providers operating in Taiwan.  Foreign providers with Taiwan revenues exceeding NT$480,000 (US$15,412) were required to register with local tax authorities, file bi-monthly VAT returns, and pay a 5% VAT through approved tax agents.  This amendment aimed to transfer the burden of paying the VAT tax from consumers to businesses, and to close VAT tax loopholes for digital platforms.  As of January 1, 2019, new VAT rules require foreign e-commerce suppliers to issue “cloud government uniform invoices” (cloud GUIs) to their domestic customers.  Foreign e-commerce suppliers that violate the invoice rules will face penalties for non-compliance.

Additional amendments target large importers of foreign goods,  namely “daigou” individuals who run personal intermediary businesses that buy and resell foreign goods.  As of July 1, 2017, consumers who import products more than twice per month, or six times in six months, are required to pay additional taxes.  In addition, after January 1, 2018, the previous tax-exempt import threshold of NT$3,000 ($96.33) was reduced to NT$2,000 ($64.22).  Import orders that exceed the threshold are required to pay an import VAT tax of 5%.

Taiwan’s e-commerce market has a comprehensive policy infrastructure, with a strong supply chain and financial credit system.  The main market players are suppliers, brand owners, and e-commerce platforms such as PChome and Momo.  Banks and other financial institutions coordinate with local distributors, such as delivery companies and the postal service, to facilitate their transactions.  Recent changes in Taiwan’s e-commerce ecosystem include incorporating social media promotion, financial service and transaction options, and integrating big data and artificial intelligence applications to bridge e-commerce platforms with traditional retail outlets.

Domestic e-Commerce (B2C)

Taiwan’s e-merchants are generally small-scale operations, 82% of which conduct business using preexisting e-commerce shopping platforms rather than maintaining their own websites, which keeps business costs low.  These online platforms include PChome, Yahoo!, Kimo, Momo, and Rakuten.

With the growth of mobile apps as an e-commerce platform, it is expected that mobile shopping will eventually become the primary way Taiwanese consumers purchase goods online.  For example, in 2018, the mobile retailing company Shopee had more than 12 million downloads.  By investing heavily in its mobile app, Shopee positioned its mobile retailing to effectively cater to Taiwan’s online shoppers.  Shopee also used aggressive financial marketing tactics, such as zero payment processing fees and free shipping when it first launched its mobile app.

Cross-Border e-Commerce

The Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute (MIC) found that Taiwan’s 2018 cross-border e-commerce rose by 5.4 % from the year earlier to $561.  The most popular overseas online purchases included clothing, daily necessities, 3C products, designer bags and shoes, and home appliance.  Taiwan consumers purchased goods through cross-border e-commerce from the following countries:

  • China (73%)
  • Japan (40%)
  • United States (23%)

Language barriers and shipping costs are major factors that affect Taiwan’s cross-border e-commerce.  Additional barriers to cross-border sales are customs, warehousing, and tax regulations.

Business-to-Business e-Commerce

Taiwan has a robust business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce environment, with two major web portals run by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA). TaiwanTrade is an e-commerce portal that allows businesses to find suppliers, manufacturers and distributors.  iDealEZ Online Marketplace is a platform that allows businesses to buy small quantities to sample items directly from suppliers.  B2B e-commerce is the most developed in the information technology, chemical, and textile industries

e-Commerce Services

Survey responses indicate that Taiwan’s shoppers value convenience, accurate information, and affordability when shopping online.  In a survey of online consumers in Taiwan, 79% of males and 77% of females cited search convenience as their main reason for shopping online.  69% of respondents trust product reviews when making a decision, and 63% choose to purchase basic products online because they believe it is cheaper than at traditional retailers.  (Source: Taiwan Network Information Center)

Distribution services in Taiwan have developed to effectively account for all types of lifestyles.  Beyond home delivery, consumers can pick up their purchases at any of Taiwan’s numerous convenience stores, which operate 24/7, which affords working consumers flexible hours to retrieve deliveries in a safe location.

For small and medium-sized businesses seeking to conduct Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce in Taiwan, online shopping platforms are convenient, attract large customer traffic flows, and offer a range of services including marketing tools and logistical resources.

Business-to-Business Websites

        Amazon

eBay

TaiwanTrade

TaiwanTrade iDealEZ

Business-to-Consumer and B2B-to-Consumer (B2B2C) Websites

books.com.tw

Friday

ibon Mart

Momoshop

PChome

Ruten.com

Rakuten Ichiba Taiwan

Shopee Taiwan

Taobao.com

Yahoo! Taiwan

Online-to-Offline (O2O) Websites

17Life

Gomaji

Groupon

Taiwan is currently not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but does adhere to key international agreements such as the Berne Convention and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative removed Taiwan from the Special 301 Watch List in 2009 due to Taiwan’s advances in IPR protection.  Additional details on IPR are available below in the Protecting Intellectual Property section.

Online Payment

Online shoppers in Taiwan have several payment options for their e-commerce purchases:

  • Online credit card
  • Payment at convenience stores
  • Online banking payments
  • Mobile payments

In 2019, the Marketing Intelligence and Consulting Institute (MIC) reported that 77% of consumers used credit cards as their preferred method of online payment. This was followed by convenience store pickup, at 63%.  Another popular option is ATM bank transfers, at 11%.

Mobile payment is gaining popularity as more Taiwanese consumers use cellphones.  According to a recent survey while credit cards are the most popular means of payment, about 27% of consumers have expressed a willingness to make purchases through mobile payment systems.  The top three mobile payment brands used, are LINE Pay (59%), JKo Pay (41%), and PX Pay (33%).  (Source: Marketing Intelligence and Consulting Institute).

Mobile E-Commerce

Although 85% of Taiwan’s e-commerce transactions are conducted using a desktop or laptop, and only 10% of e-commerce purchases are conducted using a mobile device, the use of mobiles is steadily rising.  In 2018, mobile shopping views increased by 8% and mobile orders by 7%.

Among the monthly visitors of mobile shopping applications, Taiwan’s online shopping consumers mainly use Shopee (43.54 million pageviews/month), followed by PChome 24H (38.45 million pageviews/month), Momoshop (36.86 million pageviews/month), and Ruten (32.47 million pageviews/month).

Digital Marketing

Social media platforms, primarily Facebook and Line, are popular online marketing tools in Taiwan.  In 2019, the Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute reported that consumers get their online shopping information from online shopping websites (55%), Google Search (40%), Facebook (24%), price comparison websites (22%), and recommendations from friends and family (17%).  Taiwan-based international public relations firms also help businesses promote their products or services online.

Initially, companies in Taiwan that purchased Facebook ads paid a 20% withholding tax.  On January 2, 2018, the Taiwan Ministry of Finance issued a tax ruling that reduced withholding taxes to 6% for foreign enterprises that provide cross-border electronic services to Taiwan customers.

Major Buying Holidays

November 11th (11/11), known as “Singles’ Day”, is an unofficial consumer holiday observed by young people in Taiwan.  On this day, young people who are not in a relationship celebrate their single status by indulging in both online and offline shopping for themselves or purchasing gifts to initiate a new relationship.

During the Fall, major department stores host annual sales events.  These sales draw large crowds, similar to Black Friday in the United States.

Some Taiwan consumers are also beginning to celebrate other international consumer holidays.  These include Christmas, Black Friday, and Mother’s Day, among others.  Suppliers offer special discounts, which leads to higher sales.

Social Media

In 2019, Taiwan had an 89% social media penetration rate.  Among social media users, YouTube (90%) was the lead social media platform, followed by Facebook (89%) and Line (84%).  (Source: GLOBALWEB INDEX)

Social media has become extremely important for marketing online products in Taiwan.  Facebook is the preferred method of digital marketing with 63% of online vendors choosing it as a marketing tool.  Facebook is a popular marketing platform due to its low promotional costs and ability to reach a broad audience.  The ease of spreading word-of-mouth recommendations to others on Facebook makes it a powerful tool for e-marketers hoping to generate traffic.