Riding the Digital Wave: Capturing Southeast Asia’s digital consumer in the Discovery Generation

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Learn more about the spending behaviour and preferences of Southeast Asia’s online shoppers, and the opportunities and challenges brands face in reaching them.

As economies and internet penetration across Southeast Asia grow, a new type of consumer has emerged: Digital consumers who purchase goods or services online at least once a year. Their numbers have grown from just 22% of the population (90 million) in 2015 to 58% (250 million) in 2018, and are further expected to grow to 310 million by 2025. This market has now become the new battleground for companies looking to expand their business in this diverse region. Brands who want to be successful in Southeast Asia must understand not just the market opportunity, but also who these digital consumers are, how they behave and how they can adapt their business model.

To help businesses gain a deeper understanding of the market opportunity and digital consumer in Southeast Asia, Facebook collaborated with Bain & Company to study the spending behaviour of consumers across the region.

The study, conducted in June 2019, involved 12,965 respondents from the six Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand. The respondents provided answers about where they spend their money online, how much they spend, factors that influence them to purchase, and their consumer journey. Additionally, senior executives from more than 30 companies across a diverse range of industries weighed in on the opportunities they see, the challenges they confront and their approach to digital commerce business in Southeast Asia.

Discover the market opportunity

Considering the level of growth and rapid adoption, Southeast Asia has a lot of potential – and it has yet to be tapped.

As the digital revolution sweeps across the region and more people connect to the internet, consumers are rapidly adopting digital platforms and products.

More digital consumers have given online spending a boost and signalled the rise of the next wave of growth, powered by Southeast Asia’s emerging middle class.

Digital spending is the new battleground. Consumers digital spend is rapidly evolving and brands need to keep up.

Demystify the digital consumer: Meet the discovery generation

This generation is made up of digital consumers whose purchasing habits are largely driven by inspiration and openness to digital discovery.

Their purchase decisions are largely influenced by what they observe, especially via social media such as Instagram or even other channels such as television or billboards. Why are they called the Discovery Generation?

 

Define your brand’s future

The rules of the game have changed. Companies used to compete heavily on offline factors such as the number of physical locations or size of stores, or engage consumers through billboards, TV or print exposure. Now, as Southeast Asia pivots towards digital consumption and online engagement through social media, companies need a multi-channel strategy that combines the best of offline and online.

Some insights that might be helpful for brands include:


The rise of the Discovery Generation presents a huge opportunity. But navigating this landscape remains a challenge, especially for large brands. To learn more about Southeast Asia’s Discovery Generation and digital consumers, download the full report.

Hear from the companies we spoke with

“We want Love, Bonito’s physical stores to be something different, unique and a bit more fun, where customers come in and it’s just a slightly different experience from your usual store visits. For us, this is about being channel-less. It is not just ecommerce versus an offline store.”
Dione Song, Chief Commercial Officer – Love, Bonito

“A very important theme would be ‘experiential ecommerce’. What that means is the shopping behaviour has changed from just browsing and knowing exactly what [consumers] want … to one where it’s similar to the way people go to malls.”
Santitarn Sathirathai, Group Chief Economist – Sea

“We don’t focus on the big cities alone. Sendo is also very big in the Tier 2, Tier 3 cities. The bulk of our growth are coming from new buyers and the first-time buyers coming online.”
Linh Trần Hải, Chief Executive Officer – Sendo

“The advent of social media and influencer marketing has created an industry and environment where the consumer has unprecedented access when it comes to discovery of products … Every week it seems fashion is changing, and it’s all happening on Instagram.”
Marita Abraham, Chief Marketing Officer – ZILINGO

“Consumers are savvy, digital has allowed them to be much more knowledgeable and that has stimulated a lot of curiosity.”
Inés Caldeira, Managing Director – L’Oréal

It all started with discovery. It all started with engagement. The elements of online ecommerce is very much at the centre of Gojek as a platform, and it’s about speed, selection and personalisation.”
Jonathan Barki, VP, Head of Corporate Strategy – Gojek

“The concept of personalising to you through our loyalty programme has been the key success.”
Alia Gogi, Managing Director, Southeast Asia – Sephora

“When people shop online, there are two behaviours. First, they already know what they are looking for. The other one is discoverability.”
Kevin Mintaraga, Vice President – Tokopedia

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