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.
The value of Thai e-commerce grew 14% in 2018, reaching $102.13 million, and growth is expected to hit 20% this year, according to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA). Thai e-commerce growth was the highest in ASEAN due to changes in consumer behavior.
The driving factors arise from increased Internet and mobile phone use as well as improved logistics and e-payment systems. This creates heightened convenience and consumer confidence to shop online. In addition, the quality and reliability of online shopping services have improved significantly, and the acceptance of eCommerce has increased throughout the country.
Further, the Thai government is implementing a “Thailand 4.0” policy, which includes allocating a budget for the specific purpose of constructing a broadband network for all villages across the country. Having a nationwide broadband network will help bridge the digital divide and promote modern economic development through the eCommerce channel. Moreover, the government has a vision of creating the next generation of digital application platforms to accommodate and promote online activities, including e-marketplace, e-payments, and e-government. Eventually, the goal is for villagers to start doing eCommerce businesses for their local products and services.
Current Market Trends and Domestic eCommerce (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, B2B transactions are the largest and account for 55%, followed by B2C transactions at 29% and B2G transactions at 16% respectively.
The eCommerce market in Thailand is currently the second largest in Southeast Asia and is expected to grow around 22% annually until 2020. With support from the Thai government, a “Digital Thailand” initiative started in 2016 has brought about a wave of opportunities for businesses across different industries to digitize their operations and services, especially for SMEs seeking to undergo digital transformation. As a result, cross-border market opportunities offer growth rates of approximately 25%, which is well above those found in most traditional retail markets. Cross-border B2C eCommerce is estimated to grow to $1 trillion in 2020.
B2B eCommerce in Thailand is also growing rapidly due to Internet development and mobile transformation. According to the Electronic Transaction Development Agency, the sectors using eCommerce platforms to increase their productivity include the food and service sector with 31%, followed by manufacturing at 16%, and retail and wholesale at 15%. Interestingly, demand for eCommerce services is coming not only from Bangkok but also from the other provinces, such as Nonthaburi and Chonburi.
Thailand’s online retail commerce is driven by several factors. including increased smart phone penetration and intense competition among eCommerce operators. The government’s PromptPay service, which falls under the national e-payment scheme, is the key
driver to stimulate eCommerce activities.
Over the last couple of years, many courier service companies started launching their eCommerce platforms in Thailand, bringing domestic end-to-end delivery to the market. Consequently, delivery costs for eCommerce products have sharply declined from $1.3 per piece in 2015 to $0.5 per piece in 2016 due to the fierce competition among logistic service providers.
eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights
Apart from other specific laws and regulations that require compliance by eCommerce businesses, intellectual property protection is another concern business owners should be aware of. Trademark registration in Thailand is determined on a first-to-file, first-in-right basis. New entrants should consider how to obtain trademark protection before introducing products or services to the Thai market.
For a company seeking patent registration of its business method in the eCommerce market, please note the Thai Patent Act currently does not grant patents to any computer programs nor to any type of business method. However, under certain conditions, computer programs, including technologies used to protect the company’s information from unauthorized access or reproduction, are able to be protected automatically under the Thai copyright protection system. In addition, a company’s trade secrets, such as processes, strategies, instruments or databases, could be protected by the Trade Secret Act (2002). Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Thai intellectual property law.
Besides protecting intellectual property 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 will also be required to delete or otherwise prevent the availability of such content following government notification, or they will be subject to punishment for that content. At the request of relevant authorities, a court is able to order service providers to block or take down a website that contains illegal content or content which is considered to be against public order.
In addition, the law requires service providers to store traffic data for a period of no less than 90 days from the date on which the data is input into a computer system and up to 2 years in special cases.
Popular eCommerce Sites
Thailand’s mix of international and local eCommerce stores is indicative of Thai consumers preference for variety when it comes to online shopping. Global players such as Amazon, eBay, and Agoda continue to remain popular, while WeLoveShopping and Pantipmarket, local C2C marketplaces and online communities, have proven to be strong contenders that cater to local tastes.
Growth of eCommerce can boost the use of e-Payment because it can make purchases of goods faster and more convenient. Thailand’s online and mobile banking market could reach maturity within six years. This is largely driven by the national e-payment system and the significant growth in mobile broadband penetration. By 2021, over 85% of the population will go online via mobile phone, an increase of 31% from 2018.
With a heavy promotion of the national e-payment scheme, both government and private sectors have been encouraging stores and consumers to move away from cash and move towards e-Payment. According to the Thailand e-Payment Trade Association, cash transactions are expected to fall from 90% to 50% within the next few years.
Mobile commerce will continue to see strong growth in the coming years, especially among millennials who are comfortable using their smartphones to shop. Thailand is a regional leader in mobile commerce, as 52% of online transactions take place via mobile devices (only South Korea is higher with 58%).
According to the Thailand Marketing Research Society, 71% of smartphone users in Thailand shop online an average of twice a month, while 90% intend to shop online in the future. Thailand’s smartphone penetration increased from 30% in 2015 to 37% in 2018.
Digital Marketing and Social Media
Social e-commerce is highly influential among digital consumers, with more than 80% of digital consumers using social media options to search for products or connections with sellers. Thailand also leads the world in social e-commerce, according to the survey findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2016. In addition, 92% of online shoppers in Thailand use Facebook to research new products before making purchases.
Additionally, the national e-payment system will have a huge impact on social media commerce in Thailand. Thai shoppers are already high on the list of consumers who purchase directly through social media, according to the same PwC survey, which found that 51% of online consumers in Thailand have made purchases via social media.
According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, Thailand currently has around 51 million Internet users, 48 million Facebook users, 41 million LINE users, 13 million Instagram users, and 9 million Twitter users.
Thailand’s online retail market is expected to reach $10-15 billion by 2020, a significant increase from $2 billion in 2015. As for major holiday shopping, Thai people mainly shop online at the end of the year.